In commemoration to Mr. Claude Royals.


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By Robert Lilly | January 1, 2009

It is a reminder to our community of the many years of outstanding, bold and enthusiastic leadership he exhibited. He was, in my sight, a man to be admired and exemplified. He embraced me at a time in my life wherein I was very fragile and when most would have walked the other way, he chose to engage me and by doing so, he changed the course of my life. {{more}} I was newly released from prison in 2000 and soon thereafter I was led to join the Black History Committee. During my tenure as a committee member I watched this man, for whom I had no prior knowledge of, lead and organize several projects. While active in this effort I heard the grumblings of some of his cohorts and witnessed the glee with which others received his victories. Keep in mind as I compose these words that I, at 30 years of age, had never experienced any person with qualities such as his. I never knew anyone who was concerned about a ‘community’; furthermore, I had only recently, while serving my 10 year federal sentence, for drug possession w/ intent to distribute, come to understand what a community meant. And that knowledge had not yet been tested. So here I was for the first time in my life engaging this thing called community under the leadership of a man who had a vision for it. I was to say the least in awe and inspired by him and the great tasks he entrusted to me. That was his gift to me. I was, for most of my youthful life, a pawn in the sick game of street hustling and a victim of my own poor decisions, however, having said that I wish not to dismiss the blighted circumstances from which I sprang, and how they impacted my choices to my detriment. I went from juvenile delinquent to gang member to prisoner to student of the struggle. Today I am still a student but now one with a mentor who has passed on to be with his maker and the ancestors. And as such I am obligated to find my own way in the world based on the example he left for me and for those of us who valued his work. Like my mentor I too have a tremendous concern for this concept called a community and the people of whom it is comprised. When I survey from whence we have come and where we are right now I am not impressed. This is my personal position, one informed by my experiences in this world that I have inherited and I am entitled to such views. I know someone right now is saying, “but we have a Black president”, well that is all well and good but on the ground the situation for the common, poor Black women, children and men essentially remains the same, especially in many blighted and decaying areas of our city of Abilene. Just drive through the Carver and Stephenson sections of the city. You will see vacant lots, boarded up buildings and if there is any development it is not being done with the best interests of that communities residents in mind. If that is not enough to convince you go to what the youngsters call, the ‘Hood’, North Ninth st., Congress, Capital, etc. and you will see what looks to me like a community and a people that have been forgotten by the city and the so-called leadership that is supposed to represent it. That to me is an affront to the legacy of Mr. Royals and despite the fact that I did not get to confer with him prior to his passing, from all that I heard at his memorial services he was very concerned with the present state of our community and so desperately wanted to know who was going to take the baton and run with it? Again, if you need more proof go to the ‘Four Way’, that is, Laguna St., Taos St., etc. The same situation can be seen there too. We are in danger of being corralled and contained in our own communities under circumstances and conditions that will continue to cause all of us despair, it is now bad and getting worse. “There is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a large segment of people in that society who feel that they have no stake in it, who feel that they have nothing to lose. People who have a stake in their society protect that society, but when they don’t have it, they unconsciously want to destroy it.” –Marcus Garvey, 1887-1940 Nationalist Leader That is where we are at today. We have a number of us who are making it to the disregard of the masses. And topping the list of those who are being forgotten are our young people. The youth are the very life blood of our future as a people. Should we continue to fail them we are failing none other than our own selves. “Black men must make a special effort to become spiritual and psychological fathers to needy black children within their extended families and community.”–Alvin Poussaint, 1934 Psychiatrist The question then becomes: what are we going to do about this situation we are in? Provided my analysis is correct, we have one logical alternative. That option is to unite, to ban together as a single, solid structure to use our strength to force the change needed to sustain our survival. Just because we have a ‘black’ president does not mean we should make the same mistake that our elders in the seventies made after we had made some political gain in the late sixties with the Civil Rights Act of 1965. We thought we had achieved the ultimate victory and so we rested and while we rested those who were disturbed by our seeming progress were planning and maneuvering to remove these gains from our grasp. The time in which we live requires us to regroup and to initiate a planning and grass-roots organizing phase. We must erect centers throughout our city where we can call the community together to discuss and solve our problems. These efforts can be directed by Black Think tanks, bodies of elders in the communities that are being organized who are concerned about our tomorrow. With our economy in dire straits, we must consider original methods for stimulating our community’s economic revival. For example, investment in Black owned businesses, micro-lending, venture capitalism, and collective purchasing and cooperation. It is time to end and discourage disunity and procrastination on the part of those who have ‘name brand’ leadership. Name brand identifies those who have a title but who offer no relevant guidance to the masses of our lost sheep. John Maxwell said, “If you call yourself a leader and look back and no one is following you, then you are just taking a walk.” My grievance is not with those who mislead and oppress as much as it is with those of us among the rank-and-file who allow them to exploit us. “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” . We were told to watch out, yet we have fallen asleep at the helm! Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best when he wrote these words about discontentment in his letter from the Birmingham jail: “There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.” I am calling on the weak, and oppressed of this community to become impatient. I wish for the youth to be impatient. I want the gang members to become impatient. This impatience, in light of your circumstances is quite logical and to be expected. It is my resolve to wage an all out frontal assault on the complacency that has gripped our community and especially, I desire to impact the thinking of this up and coming generation. We cannot afford to allow another generation to be laid waste by our apathy. We will knock on doors, block by block, we will rally, protest, harangue and cajole any and all who may be inclined to join on to this work of the resurrection of our downcast brethren and sisters. In fact, this is legacy of Mr. Claude Royals. He remained on this path until his body could physically do no more. And so like my mentor, whatever it takes to see the people raised we will do and we too will not stop until we die.