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The Incredible Life of Daniel Smith, Living Son of a Slave

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Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith

*As one of the few living children of a slave, 88-year-old Daniel Smith has a unique perspective on race relations in America.

Smith’s father, Abram “A.B.” Smith, was born into slavery in 1863 and was 70 years old when he had Daniel, his sixth child, in 1932. Smith, who grew up hearing stories from his father about America’s most shameful period, would go on to build a remarkable life and witness momentous events in the ongoing struggle for racial equality.

Smith draws a direct comparison between the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the racial justice protests of today.

Daniel Smith, 87, poses for a portrait at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

“When the [Ku Klux Klan] bombed the church [in Birmingham, Alabama], that finally got the ministers and the clergy to join Martin Luther King,” he said. “They finally came. Today, Black Lives Matter — after George Floyd was killed, it galvanized everyone. Everyone watched someone die on TV.”

Smith was born and raised in Winsted, Connecticut, a small town with a population of 10,000 that included only about 20 African Americans at the time of his birth. Smith grew up with four older sisters and one older brother, and his family of eight made up nearly half of the town’s Black population.

Daniel Smith’s high school yearbook entry. (Courtesy: Daniel Smith)

Though Daniel Smith was just 6 years old when A.B. Smith died, he still has vivid memories of his father. “My father was a real gentleman. He was always a good provider on his salary of $16 a week. When he went to work, I was still in bed. When he came home, I was in bed,” Smith said. “We would have these big Sunday dinners —a step down from Thanksgiving dinner.”

Smith recalls hearing firsthand accounts of slavery during his youth, primarily from his father.

Daniel Smith, 87, poses for a portrait with photos of his parents at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

“I used to get out of bed, sneak into my parents’ room, and put my head at the bottom of the bed, listening to their conversations. My father used to tell stories about the whipping posts, the hanging tree,” he said. “On Sundays, we would go to church, and you would hear people talking about similar things, but they had worse stories.”

Smith was the only African American at his high school, but he had a good experience there.

“I was very popular primarily because I was the only Black, and I was a novelty,” Smith said. “I had no problems with the girls, but they couldn’t publicly acknowledge any type of relationship with me.”

Daniel Smith, 87, poses for a portrait at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

After graduating from high school, Smith served in the U.S. military as an operating room technician and a scrub nurse in the Korean War. He was also sent for certification as a Red Cross water safety instructor and worked as a lifeguard at one of the three concrete swimming pools in Korea during the summers.

Daniel Smith poses in uniform at Camp Pickett in Nottoway County, Virginia, on an unknown date in 1952. (Courtesy: Daniel Smith)

When his military service ended, Smith came home to Winsted, which suffered a hurricane-induced flood in 1955. Smith remembers seeing water rushing down the main street, taking cars and houses with it, and humbly recalls saving a drowning man during the flood. Pulitzer Prize winner John Hersey documented the event for the New Yorker.

“They identified me as Danny Smith, the Negro hero of the town,” Smith said.

When Smith ran for student council president at Springfield College in Massachusetts, his winning campaign slogan was “Vote for Dan, the man with a tan.” He continued his pursuit of higher education at the Tuskegee Institute School of Veterinary Medicine. But after the Klan killed four young Black girls in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Smith felt compelled to leave school and join the civil rights movement.

Soon Smith and a white friend, Barry Fritz, found themselves in a crowd at the March on Washington, where they saw Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis speak at close range.

“I was reluctant to go at first because I didn’t want to get beat up. I thought there was going to be a big rise. I’m not a coward, but I’m not a fool,” Smith said.

But, he added, the risk was worth it: “The march was just unbelievable, especially when Martin Luther King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. You couldn’t find a dry eye. I was crying.”

Later that summer, Smith moved to Hayneville, Alabama, where he experienced many of the kinds of injustices that he said made Alabama “a hotbed for the civil rights movement.”

In 1965, he accepted a position as executive director of the Lowndes Christian Movement for Human Rights organization and began directing a program to teach migrant seasonal farmworkers how to read and write. He could not get electricity or a telephone line set up in the church building he worked out of without a white sponsor. After a judge by the name of Judge Hammon helped him, 24 of Hammon’s Black Angus cows were poisoned. Smith said there is “no doubt in my mind” that this was a message from the Klan.

Daniel Smith, 87, examines plants in his garden at his home in Washington, D.C. on September 29, 2020. (Randy Marso/Zenger)

Smith’s anti-poverty program was not popular with the whites in Alabama or with then-Gov. George Wallace, a conservative who infamously supported “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” Smith recalls being confronted by an intimidating lieutenant of Wallace’s who told Smith that Wallace considered him “an outside agitator from Connecticut.”

Shortly after, Smith’s church building was burned down.

Smith was undaunted, however, and continued to run the program from a trailer on the charred property.

 

“Oddly enough, I had anticipated that there would be some destruction to my building,” he said. “I had carefully made a copy of all my records and kept them at home.”

One night after work, Smith was driving the 40-mile commute from Hayneville to Tuskegee on an unlit highway when a car of white men rear ended his car.

“They came around the side of my car and said, ‘Pull over, black coon!’ And I thought, ‘Not me, not me,’” Smith said. “I sped as fast as I could and made it to the gas station. That’s why I’m here today.”

Smith moved to Washington, D.C. in 1968, where he developed neighborhood health centers. He got hired to direct a $60 million program at the National Institutes of Health in 1972 but faced “all kinds of discrimination and battles with the government.”

After retiring in 1994, he began to volunteer at the Korean War Veterans Memorial and serve as head usher of the Washington National Cathedral. As head usher, Smith escorted sitting presidents for three decades, from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush.

In his age of retirement, Smith has high hopes for the newest generation of activists.

“They have done a tremendous job of putting the problems that America has in your face,” he said. “I support them with money and with voice.”

Daniel Smith and Loretta Fay Neumann pose at their wedding in an unknown location on an unknown date. (Courtesy: Daniel Smith)

Smith resides in D.C. with his wife, Loretta Neumann, and has two children from a previous marriage. He wed Neumann at the National Cathedral in 2006, under the same arches where he walked alongside presidents.

Smith is currently writing his life memoirs.

(Edited by Emily Crockett and Natalie Gross)



The post The Incredible Life of Daniel Smith, Living Son of a Slave appeared first on Zenger News.

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Black Doctor (Shawn Smith) Launches Diabetes Meal Plan For African Americans

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Shawn Smith

Shawn Smith

Austin, TX — Dr. Shawn Smith, CEO and founder of the My Black Diabetes Meal Plan, has released the first-ever core product for reversing diabetes in African American pre-diabetics & Type 2 patients. It is called The 28 Day Plan. Designed to address the systemic challenges Black Americans face when dealing with diabetes, the program makes eating well a habit, not a chore.

The 28 Day Plan has taken the team over 560 hours of nutritional investigation to acquire and build. The core plan comes with easy to use software built around Black ‘soul food’ culture, detailed recipe and grocery lists, and a baseline of food combinations that have been used to take user A1cs (the three-month snapshot of blood sugar levels) from a 12 (high and unhealthy) to 5.2 (normal range).

Each plan is supported with a unique alkaline approach and backed by decades of peer-reviewed nutrition science shown to be the most impactful on blood glucose levels in long-term participants. With a growing community of Black diabetics also available through the platform, Black people facing diabetes learn quickly that they have a community of supporters who are going through the same experiences and are eager to grow together.

“We’re out to initiate a new type of Black activism & empowerment, one where serving our community in powerful ways is completely normal,” says Dr. Smith. “Since we know Black diabetics are 50% more likely to go blind from the disease and 2.5 times more likely to die from diabetic complications than their White counterparts, I believe one of the best forms of protest is to live life without the fear of death or the stress of a failing body. Unfortunately, you can’t do that if you’re A1cs are too high.

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Removing Type 2 diabetes and its complications from the Black community is one way we’re giving our people their freedom back… and it’s only the beginning.”

“I’m so glad you are [My Black Diabetes Meal Plan] getting involved in this fight,” said Dr. Antonio Smith (no relation to founder) of Internal Medicine Physician at Harper University Hospital- Detroit Medical Center. “Lifestyle change is one of the most overlooked ways diabetic patients are able to permanently get off medication that I’ve seen. We needed something like this.”

The 28 Day Plan is customized and personalized for each user. The free diabetic assessment and plan are now available for use directly online at MyBlackDiabetesMealPlan.com.

The purpose of My Black Diabetes Meal Plan is to eradicate Type 2 diabetes in the Black community. With painstaking research, collaborations with internal medicine physicians, and chronically high HbA1cs.

For press inquiries, contact Shawn Smith at [email protected] or 512-456-8017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shawn Smith
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Indiana High School Apologizes After Student is Listed in Yearbook Photo as ‘Black Guy’

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*The superintendent of an Indiana high school issued a video apology this week after a photo caption in the school’s 2020 yearbook listed an African American student on the boys’ basketball team as “BLACK GUY” instead of by his name.

The image from the Brown County High School yearbook went viral on social media, prompting the video message from school district Superintendent Laura Hammack on Tuesday.

“It has been brought to our attention that that yearbook has a truly incomprehensible statement included in it,” she said. “We are currently trying to better understand what that situation is all about.”

Officials launched an investigation after being made aware of the situation, and Hammack said the school district has promised the student and his family that “this awful situation” will be addressed.

“This is a clear violation of our nondiscrimination policy,” she said.

Hammack said it was unclear exactly how the caption made it through a series of revisions with the yearbook. In a joint statement released earlier Monday with high school Principal Matthew Stark, administrators acknowledged that the yearbook is put together by a group of students in the “only class at this school where all assignments and homework are published for all to see.”

To rectify the situation, Hammack said the school district is planning on republishing new yearbooks and having the school district foot the expense.

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Some Texas Longhorn Band Members Refuse to Play Alma Mater Song over Minstrel Ties (Watch)

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Texas Longhorn Alumni Band

*The University of Texas Longhorn Band will not play their traditional alma mater song “The Eyes of Texas” at Saturday’s football game against Baylor University after a survey of members revealed several students aren’t willing to play it.

The song has divided the university community in recent months over its ties to minstrel shows where performers wore blackface. According to ABC13, the Daily Texan reported that a message sent to band members by leader Scott Hanna said the survey results wouldn’t affect whether the band performs at future games. The band has yet to play at a football game this season, due to safety restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.t

Band members are “evenly divided” over playing the song, the student newspaper reported, but responses from certain instrument sections would prevent the band from playing this week. The message from Hanna said many band members wanted to have further discussions about the song, which he said he would facilitate.

Student athletes asked UT-Austin to drop the school song during this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, among other demands, threatening to forgo participation in recruiting and donor events. The university responded with plans to boost Black student enrollment and recruitment, but it kept the song and pledged to educate visitors and students on its history and context.

Below is a brief rundown of the song’s racist past.

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