Moments For The Culture – Thank You For A Life Well Lived – Colin Powell

by Richard Lallite

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” – Thornton Wilder

Secretary Colin Powell has left a remarkable legacy that has lifted our culture and exemplified the best that we can aspire to be as Black Men and more broadly as human beings.

Amidst the many losses that the Covid Pandemic has inflicted on our community, I remember hearing the news about the passing of Colin Powell and being conscious of a particular type of sorrow but mostly an admiration and thankfulness for a life that was lived in such a way that it has left an indelible and lasting imprint on our culture. It is an imprint that is particularly poignant to Black Men. I say this because regardless of Colin Powell’s impressive resume, regardless of his political affiliation, and regardless of his missteps, Secretary Powell has left a remarkable legacy that has lifted our culture and exemplified the best that we can aspire to be as Black Men and more broadly as human beings.

Colin Powell, A Son of the African Diaspora, Son of Harlem, and a Son of The Bronx

Colin Luther Powell was born in April of 1937 in Harlem; a son of Jamaican immigrants Luther and Maud Powell, he was raised in the South Bronx. He was a product of the New York City Public School system. After graduating from Morris High School in 1954, he attended City College and joined the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps.

This is what you would read in any bio about Colin Powell, but what does it tell you about the MAN? What was it like to be born in New York City and how did that foundation propel him toward what he would become. Being a first generation Black American, he undoubtedly faced the limitations and legalized barriers that afflicted all of Black America at the time and to this day. If we examine his unique diasporic background, we can find the seeds of the strength he manifested throughout his life.

The Harlem Renaissance had been in full swing throughout the 1920’s and 30’s, and West Indian immigrants comprised approximately one quarter of Harlem’s population at that time. To quote Matthew Wills in his article Black Caribbeans in the Harlem Renaissance, referencing Jamaican born writer Wilfrid A. Domingo, “West Indians were better prepared to challenge racial barriers in the United States” because they came from countries in which “Blacks had experienced no legalized segregation and limitations upon opportunity.” The brutality of American racism, so very different from that of imperial Britain and France, shocked them into action.” In the 1930’s, Harlem and Black America in general were influenced by “Garveyism” and its “ideological mixture of Black Pride, diaspora consciousness, and defiance of white racism”.

As a son of West Indian immigrants myself, I know well the emphasis on education, self-reliance and cultural pride instilled by my parents. So, it does not seem strange to me that the success of Colin Powell had definitive roots in this upbringing. Many of his colleagues spoke of his great pride in his West Indian origins and his Black upbringing. There is a saying that you know a tree by the fruit that it bears. I would add that no tree can bear fruit without strong roots. Colin Luther Powell obviously was strongly rooted. The fruits he gave to the world were a full measure of Honor, Service and Dedication.

“Don’t ever think I fell for you or fell over you, I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. – Toni Morisson

With all of the many stellar accomplishments that one can attribute to Colin Powell, I think I am most impressed by his six decade long marriage to Alma Powell. They were married in Birmingham, Alabama in 1962, just before he was sent to Vietnam. It is impossible to imagine his greatness without also acknowledging hers in the same breath. Military spouses serve right along with the soldiers they are married to. She not only raised their children and supported his career but has been a formidable force in the world in her own right and by his side. They served side by side as highly respected advocates for children through the America’s Promise Alliance. Colin Powell served as the Founding Chairman of America’s Promise and Alma Powell now serves as Chair.

In an article on CNN.com (Colin Powell’s love story started with an accidental date — and lasted six decades), Faith Karimi wrote, “Throughout his journey as a trailblazing soldier and diplomat, Powell did not walk alone. He had a partner in more ways than one.

HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-5
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-6

“Greatness Occurs when your children love you, when your critics respect you and when you have peace of mind” – Quincy Jones

One of the most moving aspects of the “Home Going” Service of Colin Powell was the moving tributes from his family and close friends and the attendance of dignitaries from both sides of the political spectrum.

Colin Powell did not live a life free of missteps, but he possessed a decency and humility that allowed him to own his mistakes. It is that decency and humility that earned him the respect of his colleagues, world leaders, and president’s from both political parties. It is that decency and humility that we, as a culture, can learn from. We can be decent and fair to one another and be humble enough to acknowledge our own faults and aspire to do better and make amends.

As Black Men, and as human beings, the greatest generational legacy we can leave to those who come behind us is to leave love in our footsteps. No greater evidence of that can be found than in the lives of our children. One of the most poignant moments from Colin Powell’s service happened when his son, Michael Powell, shared his memories of how just holding his father’s hand and feeling the squeeze of his father’s love was all he needed to persevere.

“We walk through this life holding hands with the ones we love. They guide us. They pull us out of harm’s way. They touch and caress us with love and kindness…“– Michael Powell

Let us as sons, fathers, uncles, brothers and friends take this as a lesson and understand that it is within our power to be that kind of man, not to just those individuals we love but also to the communities we live in and serve.

Colin Luther Powell did indeed live a life worthy of accolades, but not just in the sense of his military and professional accomplishments; most importantly he lived a life that reminds us that LOVE WINS.

HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-7
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-8
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-9
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-10

Michael Powell's Eulogy of His Father, Colin Powell

Watch This UNCF Tribute To Colin Powell

Narrated by our own G. Keith Alexander

GKA-and-Colin-Powell-photo-Ernie-Panicciolii-3
Photo by Ernie Panicciolii

HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Slider-2

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” – Thornton Wilder

Secretary Powell has left a remarkable legacy that has lifted our culture and exemplified the best that we can aspire to be as Black Men and more broadly as human beings.

Amidst the many losses that the Covid Pandemic has inflicted on our community, I remember hearing the news about the passing of Colin Powell and being conscious of a particular type of sorrow but mostly an admiration and thankfulness for a life that was lived in such a way that it has left an indelible and lasting imprint on our culture. It is an imprint that is particularly poignant to Black Men. I say this because regardless of Colin Powell’s impressive resume, regardless of his political affiliation, and regardless of his missteps, Secretary Powell has left a remarkable legacy that has lifted our culture and exemplified the best that we can aspire to be as Black Men and more broadly as human beings.

Colin Powell, A Son of the African Diaspora, Son of Harlem, and a Son of The Bronx

Colin Luther Powell was born in April of 1937 in Harlem; a son of Jamaican immigrants Luther and Maud Powell, he was raised in the South Bronx. He was a product of the New York City Public School system. After graduating from Morris High School in 1954, he attended City College and joined the Reserve Officer’s Training Corps.

This is what you would read in any bio about Colin Powell, but what does it tell you about the MAN? What was it like to be born in New York City and how did that foundation propel him toward what he would become. Being a first generation Black American, he undoubtedly faced the limitations and legalized barriers that afflicted all of Black America at the time and to this day. If we examine his unique diasporic background, we can find the seeds of the strength he manifested throughout his life.

The Harlem Renaissance had been in full swing throughout the 1920’s and 30’s, and West Indian immigrants comprised approximately one quarter of Harlem’s population at that time. To quote Matthew Wills in his article Black Caribbeans in the Harlem Renaissance, referencing Jamaican born writer Wilfrid A. Domingo, “West Indians were better prepared to challenge racial barriers in the United States” because they came from countries in which “Blacks had experienced no legalized segregation and limitations upon opportunity.” The brutality of American racism, so very different from that of imperial Britain and France, shocked them into action.” In the 1930’s, Harlem and Black America in general were influenced by “Garveyism” and its “ideological mixture of Black Pride, diaspora consciousness, and defiance of white racism”.

As a son of West Indian immigrants myself, I know well the emphasis on education, self-reliance and cultural pride instilled by my parents. So, it does not seem strange to me that the success of Colin Powell had definitive roots in this upbringing. Many of his colleagues spoke of his great pride in his West Indian origins and his Black upbringing. There is a saying that you know a tree by the fruit that it bears. I would add that no tree can bear fruit without strong roots. Colin Luther Powell obviously was strongly rooted. The fruits he gave to the world were a full measure of Honor, Service and Dedication.

“Don’t ever think I fell for you or fell over you, I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it. – Toni Morisson

With all of the many stellar accomplishments that one can attribute to Colin Powell, I think I am most impressed by his six decade long marriage to Alma Powell. They were married in Birmingham, Alabama in 1962, just before he was sent to Vietnam. It is impossible to imagine his greatness without also acknowledging hers in the same breath. Military spouses serve right along with the soldiers they are married to. She not only raised their children and supported his career but has been a formidable force in the world in her own right and by his side. They served side by side as highly respected advocates for children through the America’s Promise Alliance. Colin Powell served as the Founding Chairman of America’s Promise and Alma Powell now serves as Chair.

In an article on CNN.com (Colin Powell’s love story started with an accidental date — and lasted six decades), Faith Karimi wrote, “Throughout his journey as a trailblazing soldier and diplomat, Powell did not walk alone. He had a partner in more ways than one.

HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-5
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-6

“Greatness Occurs when your children love you, when your critics respect you and when you have peace of mind” – Quincy Jones

One of the most moving aspects of the “Home Going” Service of Colin Powell was the moving tributes from his family and close friends and the attendance of dignitaries from both sides of the political spectrum.

Colin Powell did not live a life free of missteps, but he possessed a decency and humility that allowed him to own his mistakes. It is that decency and humility that earned him the respect of his colleagues, world leaders, and president’s from both political parties. It is that decency and humility that we, as a culture, can learn from. We can be decent and fair to one another and be humble enough to acknowledge our own faults and aspire to do better and make amends.

As Black Men, and as human beings, the greatest generational legacy we can leave to those who come behind us is to leave love in our footsteps. No greater evidence of that can be found than in the lives of our children. One of the most poignant moments from Colin Powell’s service happened when his son, Michael Powell, shared his memories of how just holding his father’s hand and feeling the squeeze of his father’s love was all he needed to persevere.

“We walk through this life holding hands with the ones we love. They guide us. They pull us out of harm’s way. They touch and caress us with love and kindness…“– Michael Powell

Let us as sons, fathers, uncles, brothers and friends take this as a lesson and understand that it is within our power to be that kind of man, not to just those individuals we love but also to the communities we live in and serve.

Colin Luther Powell did indeed live a life worthy of accolades, but not just in the sense of his military and professional accomplishments; most importantly he lived a life that reminds us that LOVE WINS.

HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-7
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-8
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-9
HarlemAmerica-Moments_For_The_Culture-Colin-Luther-Powell-Image-10

Michael Powell's Eulogy of His Father, Colin Powell

Watch This UNCF Tribute To Colin Powell

Narrated by our own G. Keith Alexander

GKA-and-Colin-Powell-photo-Ernie-Panicciolii-3
Photo by Ernie Panicciolii

Watch This UNCF Tribute - Narrated by our Own G. Keith Alexander

Share This
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x