Friday, May 13, 2011
To Brother George
Omi's Note: As a youngblood, I vowed never to go to a funeral or a wake. I thought that with Brother George's passing, I would break that rule then I thought about it again. Heading down south to his service would have forced me to cancel several engagements that were planned. Some of these engagements involved children in our community. I think that Brother George would have stood up and fussed about me doing that. So I decided to do what I do best, and write...
Brother George would correct us if we introduced him as Mr. George. That was how he was. In his store, “The Self Improvement and Education Center” on 35th and Newport Avenue in Norfolk, Virginia, he was the mayor. He treated everyone that came through those doors as family. Although the sign read that he closed at 7pm, one could walk in at 7:32 pm and Brother George would act as if he just opened. He was always behind that counter ready to help. His store was always open for late night building sessions.
So many people walked through those doors. While there, I got to meet the greatest and the brightest of people involved in the upliftment of our community. There was always a lively debate going on. Brother George stood watch to make sure none of us got out of line. If we did, he would immediately throw us out. What I love most about Brother George was that he listened to all, however he would not stand for anyone disrespecting or threatening anyone, so all ideas and opinions were allowed. One did not have to be afraid to speak his or her mind. Brother George also disliked rumors. If someone was talking about someone else in the community, he would kindly ask that person to stop and remind that person that the other was not there to defend himself. Brother George was fair and impartial.
Looking back, the only thing Brother George did that was a definite no no was to talk about Louis Farrakhan. “Brother Danny, don't go there, Brother. Don't talk about the minister.”
“My store is always open to the community,” he would say, “people and organizations will come and go, but my store will be here.” And I believed him.
Brother George let me run two study groups, one book club, and several meetings at his store. He was accommodating and helpful. His customer service was impeccable. When he received a shipment of Supreme Bean Pie's, he would call me up and save some pies for me.
It was not until his passing that I realized that I have known Brother George since 1996. He has seen me go from a young hot head arm chair revolutionary to a married community man with several children. When I needed advice, he was always there to give. If I just needed someone to listen to me rant, Brother George was that person. I valued his advice and he never steered me wrong. If he had an issue with something I said, he would softly and patiently point it out. A good portion of my ideological evolution came through speaking with Brother George.
Brother George was old school. In being old school, he was very private. I learned through others or in personal conversations with him that he was retired military and a retired long shore man. His wife traveled the world to help folks in countries on the periphery. He enjoyed telling me stories of his wife's travels. Speaking with his relatives, one would see that Brother George the giant was also a loving family man. There were times I would catch his wife scolding him like any wife would. I used to laugh at this since I could never picture him doing that. I realized that Brother George was like any man who has been married a long time: we are led by our noses by our wives.
Brother George doted over my children as if they were his own grandchildren. He often commended me for being a husband and a father. When I had issues he encouraged me to work them out with my wife.
“Brother Danny, you know what you need to do,” he would say patiently.
The most funniest memory I have of Brother George is when Brother Jay and Brother Fanon of ODU put together a play called “The Trial of Christopher Columbus.” I was slated to play Columbus' defense lawyer. Brother George who was the dutiful store proprietor was asked to be in the play. He refused but he allowed Jay and Fanon to video tape his scene in his store! Brother George came to the play and sat in the front. We cheered and could not believe he was outside of his store. He watched his scene and quietly walked out.
“I have to man that store.”
No one believes me when I tell that story.
Upon learning of his passing, I realized that I had no pictures of Brother George. I learned that only two of my children remember him. It made me see that as much as Brother George as someone who was there for me, I was not always there for him. I see that as much as I saw him as that older uncle, I was a horrible nephew. While I am proud to say that I am one of the few who knew his family, I didn't know much about Brother George's personal life. I asked so much from him but never took the time to learn about him or see if I needed to give.
I love Brother George and always will. His memory will only bring laughter to our home. He will be missed. I can safely say that they don't build them like Brother George. Although I have known him for close to 15 years, I still find it difficult to say Brother George instead of Mr. George.
I think this is the only time you will hear me say, Hail to the Chief!