“We are not makers of history. We are made by our history” Martin Luther King
Have you ever noticed how a picture, a sound, a smell, a time, or even a place can generate a flashback?
On May 14, 2022, a mass shooting occurred in Buffalo, New York. The tragic shooting took place at a Tops Friendly Markets store, a supermarket in the East Side neighborhood. Ten Black people were killed, and three other people were injured in the incident. I sat in the living room with my uncle and mother watching their facial expressions of the news broadcasters give detail of the tragic event and listening to my mother say, “Some things never change”.
As I watched her speak with her brother about the tragedy that took place, they began to discuss Mr. Nathaniel Comick their father. I slowly sat on the floor and crossed my legs because I knew I would hear about a memory they choose to keep locked away. Nathaniel Comick was born June 2, 1914, he grew up during a time when southern states and many northern cities had Jim Crow laws that discriminated against black people.
Nathaniel was not a timid man even in the face of white oppressors and Jim Crow. He worked for an assessment aircraft company in Kansas when a white co-worker began to taunt him, by throwing dead rats on him and attacking him. Nathaniel defended himself against the white man and was escorted off the company premises. News traveled fast that a black man, “a Nigger” knocked out a white man on the job and soon a Klan mob was in search of Nathaniel Comick.
The mob went from neighborhood to neighborhood searching for Nathaniel. They terrorized people in the black community describing what was in store for Nathaniel would befall them if they were harboring him. Family members hid Nathaniel inside the home until the close was clear. They eventually convinced Nathaniel to pack up the family and immediately flee the town.
I watched my mother and uncle give detail of their parents grabbing all they could pack to put into a truck to get to the train station. She said they spotted a parked truck on the side of the road waiting for them and the two men began to speed closer to catch up to their car. My uncle yelled out “Daddy was driving that truck and we could see them crackers on side of us trying to crash our car”. My mother stated that she was just a girl looking at the men stare into the car with rage fighting for the shotgun to shoot into their car. My mother softly said, “They started fighting over who would get the gun and shoot into our car and ended up crashing into a ditch, their own hatred was their demised”.
From what I have grasped from my mother and uncle, Nathaniel Comick was a hardworking man who was not afraid to face any man but for his family he would outrace two racist men to secure the safety of his children. As I watched my mother shake her head in disbelief of the tragedy of the Buffalo shooting, she said “I cannot believe I remembered that but at the end my father was my hero”. They began to talk about the Buffalo shooting and saying there needs to be more change.
Sitting around your elders learning from the past can teach you quite a lot about history and what we can do to prevent the past from becoming the future. I learned some flashbacks can be emotional scars of memories that can be blocked out. The more I learn the migration story of our family the more I understand who I am and where I come from and how imperative our mark needs to be made on this world in order to impact change.