by Jackie Wright
I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY! I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY! I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY! I’m telling you, I’m telling you, I’m telling you …
Woke up in the Fourth Watch of the night, Nov. 13, 2018, a couple of days after Veterans Day, thinking about what Anh Lê, a freelance writer in San Francisco, had asked me about my Father, Sp5 Wyley Wright Jr., of the 114th Aviation Company of the U.S. Army, whose last mission in Viet Nam was March 9, 1964, as an Honor Guard for then Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara.
I LOVE THAT MAN, My Dad! The room lit up when he walked in with his Black self! There was no doubting, no possibility of passing. He was one of those “blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice” Black men. In my eyes, Wyley Wright was a beautiful “Blue Black” as they used to say back in the day. I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY! Growing up in a time when there was no chant of “Black is Beautiful,” Wyley Wright Jr. knew the truth in his heart and he taught me that truth before I ever heard that shout from my generation.
When Wyley Wright held me, I was safe. He gave me such a feeling of safety and freedom in the world that I’ve found myself a little too unguarded most of my life. “Guard your heart with all diligence” didn’t register. My father equipped me with such a mother lode of the sense of freedom and safety, I couldn’t quite understand Mother’s warning, “Just because someone feels they have a right in your life doesn’t mean they have a right.” “Who goes there, friend or foe?”
I couldn’t understand the concept of someone “lying like a rug “ that my great grandma, my Dad’s grandma, Moma Nora, used to talk about. She hated liars! That simple metaphor of a rug lying on the floor meaning it was innate and that was all that person did, just lie, totally got by me until decades later. My father hated lies, too and in one variation of the spelling of his name, the message is Why Lie? One of the last messages he gave to me was “Why lie?” He taught me that the weak lie and lies, though they seem strong in the moment, end in futility and waste.
My Black Daddy gave me such a feeling of safety, I had no idea how evil racism was or that it even accounted for anything in life. This from a child of the ‘60s who grew up in the Deep South, as my father was in Viet Nam. He was in the jungles of Viet Nam when the rest of the family all gathered around the TV in the comfort of home in Phenix City, Alabama, to hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963.
I can still feel the press of my head against his muscular outer right thigh as I grabbed tightly around his leg when childish fears would creep in. To keep his blood circulation from stopping, he’d lift me up to his chest and he’d look me in the eye and say, “Jackie, you have nothing to be afraid of,” and for the most part, I’ve gone through life unafraid, ready to take on the battles of the day as my father reminded me to “fear no evil.” My Black Daddy gave that to me.
It’s such a rushing feeling and the thought rolling over and over in my mind, I LOVE MY DADDY. I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY. Not loved, which I could have said because he died in Viet Nam when I was 10 years old, the oldest of four siblings. Joe, Stanley and Phyllis were 8 years old, 5 years old, and 6 months old respectively. This feeling of ocean waves of the constant flow of thoughts of loving my Daddy has been washing over me so this morning until I had to stop and “write the vision on the wall,” Habakkuk 2.
Anh’s questions opened a floodgate of feelings, I guess because growing up we really did not talk about my father, who served in two wars and was a fallen hero in the last, nor our Mother, Ouida F. Wright, who was the “love of his life” and a beautiful, dutiful wife, making sure the castle he made safe was beautiful with the right atmosphere. It was just right for a warrior who not only faced the enemies of his country, but also the enemies among his countrymen and some of his own people who looked just like him.
Not talking about the loss of a loved one is a great mistake that military families continue to make.
My Black Daddy had such an inner strength and self-possession that he always made everyone, no matter his or her color, feel welcome around him. On one of our road trips to Jacksonville, Florida, from Fort Benning, Georgia, when I was about 4 years old, I can remember my Dad stopping along an early morning darkened Georgia road to pick up a White soldier who was hitchhiking. He was trying to make it home and my father stopped to help. The soldier in need was greeted with that warm golden smile of my Dad. “Wright” as Mother called him, never looked down on anyone and always made people feel special like they were royalty. He was always acting out “we are a royal priesthood” and saw nobility in everyone.
From what I saw, Wyley Wright was a soldier’s soldier, one of those men who seemed to hold court no matter where they are, the barbershop, walking down the street, church, the club, you name it. Now how do I know about the club, well there were stories and a few pictures of the NCO Club I saw that my father, an emerging photographer took.
There always seemed to be a party around him. I can see my father in my brothers Joe and Stanley, who celebrate life and sobriety every year going on close to a decade at the Columbus, Georgia, Cedar Hills Recreation Center, which is no more; but they set up camp with what is left of the picnic tables and host a party with Baker, Spencer, Carver and Jordan (not so much) high school graduates, folks that used to be in the WOKS talent shows, on basketball and football teams, in bands, top of their class and on and on. Folks that grew up to be in the Army, Navy, Air force, Marines, who grew up to be doctors, nurses and lawyers or raised them; folks who worked for the international AFLAC Co., and those who fell by the wayside, are made to feel comfortable enough to come out to the “Home Boys and Home Girls” Reunion. Yep, in the DNA.
Our house was the party house in Germany where friends from all over the States gathered. Our house was the one that broke out the grill for no reason and invited the neighbors over. Although, we didn’t talk much about our Dad, his and our mother’s sense of hospitality was ingrained in us – my brothers and sister more than me, but hey I love to throw a lovely party now and again. Can’t wait till I get the resources to throw a few bashes at the Top of the Mark, the Salesforce Tower Ohana Floor (for a non profit of course) or have my August birthday celebration in October on Ocean Beach when the weather is best in San Francisco.
I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY, what a wonderful feeling to embrace, remembering that I am the child of a “Favorite Son.” “We thought ‘Junior’ was a piece of Jesus,” his grandmother, my great grandmother, Moma Nora, would say. He was highly valued by his family, the only son. It was said of Azalea, my grandmother, that she had had five or more miscarriages before she carried my father to term. Wyley Wright Jr. was a survivor from conception! The rareness of my being here and that of my siblings is more pronounced with that knowledge.
I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY, who gave me the capacity to love others. “Nobody is better than you, but remember, Jackie, you’re not better than anyone else.” That went a long way on military base schools when I as the only Black child in class and the attempts were made to make me feel less than. They didn’t know I had home training and my father taught me well. I learned justice and fairness from my father, so the Trumped up world is no problem. The sadness is that it has triggered old ghosts I thought had been laid to rest for good.
I THANK MY HEAVENLY FATHER for my Earthly Father! I LOVE MY HEAVENLY FATHER FOR MY BLACK DADDY! The memories of those short years of a giant of a man in my eyes, who had a rhythm when he walked as if there were a soundtrack playing wherever he went, are alive and they woke me up this morning.
It’s sad to note that the media focuses on the images of mostly deadbeat Black dads. The good stories don’t get picked up. I just can’t believe I was that special to be one of the few to have a Black man that loved his family with all his being. Especially in the military, I saw other Black Daddies around me and they too cared for their families as best they could in a hostile environment, so when candidate Barack Obama made that Father’s Day speech in 2008 blasting Black men, I had something to say: https://obamasfathersdayaddress.blogspot.com/. My sentiments have not changed.
“Because Black men in America have an eternal and spiritual gift beyond what we can see with the natural eye, they have been marked to be taken out by the false economy and mental panacea and escape of drugs, racism, self-doubt, a lack of vision, pessimism and all the forces that line up to keep their resilient light from shining forth. When Black men in America stand up and stop taking the small shots that land them in jail, confused in relationships, devalued and distrusting, the world will change for the better.
“It’s like being on the playground. Anytime anyone or anything keeps taunting you to keep you from seeing the value you bring, you have to realize the very thing you are being taunted about has great value. Why bother with the assault and attack, if there is no value there? The trick is to get you to think you have no value. You defeat yourself.”
Why do media focus on the negative stories about Blacks, other minorities, immigrants, and the poor – the other? There is a lot of scientific evidence out there about its impact. It’s a little dated now but UCLA Professor Jerry Kang’s “Trojan Horses of Race” chronicles the impact of biased reporting. My question is why? My answer is “justification.” It gives the White society subliminal justification to kill Black children and Black men in the streets and create modern Jim Crow limitations in corporations. “These bad Black people do not deserve to live.”
The false sense of superiority created in Whites as a result of biased reporting assuages their basic primal fear, “If Blacks get ahead, they are going to take over and treat us like we treated them.” This fear is played out from playgrounds to the workplace. Having perpetrated decades of inhuman treatment of a fellow human being to make a buck, openly enjoying public hangings of Black men, sexually assaulting slaves and selling off their offspring like chattel, fear in the DNA makes for injustices large and small, open and secret. I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY, who worked his way from a laundry man at 16 years of age in the Korean War to a helicopter crew chief, because he taught me not to let the fears of others define me or create fears in me.
I LOVE MY BLACK DADDY because he loved me! What a liberating and empowering feeling that I can always use to embrace the day and the world! My father, who was the first prototype for My LOVE OF MY HEAVENLY FATHER, laid the groundwork for me to embrace the love of my Heavenly Father.
No matter how your earthly father is/was, embrace and forgive, if you have to, opening the way to GOD, our Heavenly Father, who created all the richness of this earth for us to enjoy. He created your father. He created you and everything around you, seen and unseen.
I hope you feel the lavish arms of God’s love today. Don’t let the evil of the world rob you of the truth that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and God loves you beyond death. You’re to die for! just ask Jesus Christ and John 3:16!
Jackie Wright, the founder of Wright Enterprises, a full-service public relations firm, has more than 20 years media experience and has written about her father in a self-published book, “Dead Men Tell No Tales, But Their Children Do.” Wright’s short documentary, “Love Separated in Life…Love Reunited in Honor,” received the top 2018 Gold REMI Award at the Houston International Film Festival, WorldFest. Wright wrote, produced and directed the film that was edited and co-directed by Jack LiVolsi of Jackson Street Productions in San Francisco. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.