Tag Archives: Fallen soldiers of color – WW II

(Tweaked! Again! Sorry!) … Just one question for Worcester’s city council and city manager …

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There’s plenty of room on our Common for Worcester’s planned memorial to our city’s fallen African American W W II soldiers. Right here, for instance – the Franklin Street side of City Hall.        pics: R.T.

By Rosalie Tirella

… Why is Worcester’s planned memorial to our fallen African American W W II soldiers being erected at the Worcester Police Station?

Why not put the statue honoring our Black soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice right where it belongs? On the Worcester Common, along with all the other statues honoring Worcester’s fallen heroes?

There’s a slew of them on our Common –  in the middle of our soon-to-be revitalized downtown! Around and behind Worcester City Hall … they adorn the grass and trees that surround them even as we try (at least on holidays) to adorn them – lay wreaths braided with flowers or pine at their feet. We walk or drive by the stone and iron soldiers if we work in or visit the heart of our city. They make you think … put aside your work, dining, shopping obsessions for a few fleeting seconds to see something greater – a person’s life story, a city’s story, world history. The stone and iron soldiers come alive!

You can even build the new memorial to our Black WW II soldiers next to our John Power WW II monument that stands right outside our City Hall. The monument to our Black WW II heroes –  it was called the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” –  was once located in our African American Laurel-Clayton neighborhood but disappeared, along with the neighborhood!, when the interstate highway was built.  John Power is STILL with us – standing guard by Worcester City Hall (see my photo, above). So, truth be told, we will be building a new monument because we lost, destroyed, the old one! How can you “lose” a monument? What does that “loss” say about our city a few decades ago? Back then, how sacred to our city fathers were the memories of these dead African American soldiers – Black men from Laurel-Clayton, from Worcester?

Not very sacred at all.

Hell! There’s room for a tank or a couple of Jeeps to the right of the John Power statue. There John stands as the hip students walk by to get to their recently built dorms on Franklin Street …

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Soldier Power doesnt look hip at all! He looks like your average WW II grunt – ditch digger, mucking around in stinking trenches with penecillin pills, canned spam in his knap sack  –  but a KILLER too. Make no mistake! See the rifle slung over Power’s right shoulder and the long dagger in his left hand? He’s clutching the dagger ready for the fight – hand to hand combat – to the death probably. How can any city deprive a Black soldier, who fought the same fight, the honor we’ve bestowed on John Power? Power’s helmet is on askew cuz he’s in battle. He looks Irish – and a little cockey. Why can’t we humanize our dead African American soldiers this lovingly?

Why can’t Worcester’s Black community have the same thing? A touching yet tough depiction of men in war in stone?

Why stick our Black soldiers at the bottom of Bell Hill, at the Worcester police station, in the middle of a 20-way intersection, surrounded by ugly concrete (we’re talking the police station, too!) – a place where few will visit, stop to honor these men, think about them? A place where drug dealers, robbers, rapists and killers are flung?

Yes, the police station is a stone’s throw from the old Laurel-Clayton neighborhood, razed and replaced by the Plumley Village low-income public housing complex, home to many people of color – Blacks, included. Why not – I’m certain residents would be honored -put the monument there? It would be back at its real home. Placed before the entrance way to the buildings and high rise, lots of folks would stop and pay their respects.

Or is that the point? The intention (maybe subconscious) of Worcester City Leaders? To keep the monument to our fallen Black WW II Soldiers out of the public eye –  especially out of reach of the African American community?

And something else…to stop it from being a focal point, a symbol, a place for Blacks to gather, to remember, to rally, to teach … to protest. So often people come to their city or town common to express views, speech-ify … Protest! It’s been happening as long as there have been places where people chose to live together. A kind of gathering at the communal fire place! In America we’ve been doing it ever since our forefathers and mothers sailed into Plymouth Rock!

It’s happening still. All over. Especially with Black Lives Matter and, before that, Occupy Wall Street. It’s happening in Worcester. Worcester City Manager Ed Augustus has come down brutally hard on the BLM movement/rallies here, just as his predecessor City Manager I HATE ALL POOR RESIDENTS Mike O’Brien was hard with Occupy Wall Street protesters – refusing to meet with them, making sure they were off THEIR Worcester Common!

Would city leaders want a Black Lives Matter march to end at the “Colored Citizens World War II Honor Roll Memorial” on the Worcester Common? Would they want to see anyone give witness to pain, anger, racial discrimination in Worcester, “a city on the move”? Would they want a large crowd of folks agitating for change? In the middle of downtown?

Nope.

Is this what John Power died for?

*******

(P.S. Don’t let this happen, Bill Coleman and James Bonds!)

More Gordy in A.I…Honoring the Greatest Generation

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Photos by Gordon Davis

By Gordon Davis
 
On June 4, 2016, the City of Worcester added to its World War II Memorial to the veterans of that war. The main additions are two monoliths with the names of veterans killed.

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Previously there was only a circle of military symbols in that area of the Worcester Commons.  This circle is schedule to be made into some sort of fountain.

At times it was not clear to me whether the City was  honoring the veterans or whether the City brought together the veterans as props for this public works project. It was clear that City Manager Ed Augustus has taken some credit for the project and that other City officials had a nice photo opp.
 
It was immediately clear that the veterans were thankful for the event. They were so happy that many went out of their way to shake people’s hands and to chat.

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All World War II veterans are at least in their 80s. Most like my Dad have passed on. Some are disabled.

Albert B. Southwick, a writer for a local newspaper, gave the key note speech, He is a World War II. He touched on  the dangers of Fascism and how the brave fighters defeated it. However he used the word “ evil” instead of “fascist”/Mr. Southwick being a historian, it was a disappointment that he did not mention the struggle by his generation to overcome the Great Depression created by an irrational capitalist system. The struggle against the impoverishment of the Great Generation by the Great Depression was as dire as the fight against Fascism. Two of my aunts died then in infancy. I suppose that it is not Politically Correct to say those things.

There were some war machines on display. I think these things are out of place when honoring the dead or the living for that matter.

I spoke to one World War II veteran about the “Sherman” tank being used as a prop for photos. He responded that he had seen it. I could tell from his response that he did not want to talk about it. It might have been because the Sherman tank was a death trap. It could not stop the German Panther tank.

There is a thin line between honoring veterans and glorifying war.

I did not notice one Black or dark skinned veteran in the March of Veterans from Front Streer to the seating area. 

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I did notice two Black men in the audience I know as veterans, although not from World War II. 

Of course the obvious questions arose: Was there any efforts made to include so called veterans of color? The struggle for the restoration of the Honor Roll for Veterans of Color has included at least one VFW post with Black Veterans.

When the song “Proud to be an American” played before the National Anthem I cringed. Although well intentioned. The line “at least I know I am free” is a form of slavery denial. I suppose zero Black Vets and the controversial song are a reflection of a lack of diversity in the organization of the event, a sort of color blind disparate impact occurrence.

People of that era, veterans, genocide survivors, survivors of the Great Depression, partisans and displaced people all should be honored. 

Gordy parked in Yum Yums! … Worcester’s Lost Colored Soldiers Honor Roll

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James Bonds is spearheading the effort!

By Gordon Davis

The Worester City Council voted Tuesday night to restore or replace the Honor Roll of Colored Soldiers from Worcester who served in World War II. The vote was 11-0.

In 1943, when the Honor Roll was erected, the United States Armed forces were segregated. The so called “colored” soldiers (dark-skinned soldiers) were organized into separate units from the white soldiers.  Latino soldiers were assigned units based on how light or dark their skin color was. Asian soldiers also were in separate units.

The Worcester Honor Roll was located in the Laurel Clayton section of Worcester, a neighborhood that was home to a large Black population. The neighborhood was displaced first by the building of Interstate 290 and later by the building of Plumley Village.
 
The people who lived in the Laurel Clayton neighborhood still keep in touch with each other. They used to have reunions, but the get-togethers occur less often, as the residents have aged.

Interstate 290 destroyed many neighborhoods in Worcester – including the large Jewish neighborhood around Water Street.

The restoration of the Honor Roll of Colored soldiers is important to the Black community of Worester, as the soldiers not only fought for their country against Fascism, but for their race in the constant struggle to prove equality and to gain acceptance.

Still, today the Honor Roll is a symbol of this struggle for justice and equality.

Idella Hazard, a Worcester resident whose family goes back to at least the Civil War, said at the City Council meeting that the City has accommodated the Italian community in the Shrewsbury Street area by preserving and moving – several times – the statue of Christopher Columbus. Ms. Hazard implied that not to restore the Honor Roll would be disparate treatment of Worcester’s Black community.
 
The VFW of mostly Black veterans led the process to get the Honor Roll restored. Mr. James Bonds, the VFW leader, spoke for the group at the Worcester City Council meeting. Mr. Bonds said it was an important issue for him and the Post.  Members who have long-time roots in the city like Jack Toney and others were a force.

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Community activist and Worcester booster Bill Coleman played an important role in putting the issue on the city council’s radar!

Mr. Bill Coleman played a major part as well in the publicity he gained for the restoration. The story appeared in more than 30 newspapers and on NPR.

The restoration will cost about $20,000. It was suggested that it be placed at Worcester City Hall. I would like it to be erected next to the bronze GI statute on the Franklin Street side of City Hall. Placement there would give both memorials additional meaning.

This is important to Worcester’s Black community. I know it is important to City Councilor King. It may be important to other Worcester city councilors, as well.  Maybe the 11 to 0 council vote is a sign of less racism from city government – maybe not.

But I am happy that the memorial is being given a new life.