Samuel Hosea Tolliver, Jr.
We all have a vision, and that vision can be realized.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York 1967, ten days before what’s known by the populist as the “Summer of Love at 4:10 p.m. on a beautiful spring day. From the memories of my seniors and that of most African Americans, it may better be referred to as,"The Long, Hot Summer". The countless amounts of race riots during the summer of 67 were the worst events throughout the cities across the US in our country’s history namely in Detroit and Newark. The racial discrimination and deaths of so many lives solely on the fact of color in skin. The worst part of it all was that we as a people were barely acknowledged by the government as an equal. A fact that was given to all man before he could speak or have the power to judge. A right given to every born creation.
Born in Columbia, South Carolina and moving to New York City as a young man, My father Samuel Tolliver Sr. was a stone cold huslter. A hustler of a different kind. He supported us the best way he knew how. That is during the period of him being an active part of our lives. By collecting cans and bottles, salvaging rare metals such as copper and aluminum, cleaning up store fronts or yards, or pretty much any type of work that would put a dollar in his pocket. Everything has its pole of opposites and the ying to my yang was my dad’s outrageous drinking problem. A problem that mom and I tried to weather until she just got sick and tired.
My mom Carolyn Nelson Bey-Tolliver was born and raised in the East New York part of Brooklyn, Brownsville. From being a child she had various physical and mental health issues. Becoming a young adult in an highly abusive relationship and having a child, brought her twice as much physical and mental abuse. Living solely off the morals and values bestowed upon her by her parents. Arlene, her mother, whom passed on one year before my birth, and her father Hosea. He was a construction worker and property owner. She absolutely adored her father. A year after my birth and around the assasination of Pastor Martin Luther King Jr., my grandfather was gunned down. Shot in the back by a case of mistaken identity. To my understanding all my grandfathers assets somehow were controlled by his sister, leaving my mother, his only child, with nothing. Faced with utilizing public assistance to find a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs, I still wonder why I lived in the projects in my younger years. Out of it all my mother only asked for his flag, from being in the service, and was denied.
Thankfully, I lived a sheltered childhood life. My mom,being the strong woman that she is, took the losses and still managed to raise me to the best of her ability, (and very well may I add). 315 Livonia Avenue, an apartment comlex named, “Tilden”, dead center in the belly of the beast. Brownsville has been known to be a drug/crime war zone that requires multiple officers on foot, patroling the area around the clock. Mom made sure the maddness was locked out of our home along with keeping us locked in, SAFELY. The inside /outside key lock, the chain lock, the dead bolt lock and the slide bar style locking sytem she had installed is what we lived behind for countless of years. I refer to that part of my life as the adventures of 7A.
Starting public school allowed me to see outside more. I could remember clearly the day when the school’s Guidance Counselor made the suggestion to my mom, in a cry to help us become more socially sound, to join the P.T.A., (Parents Teachers Association). This in turn helped mom select a few friends we would visit from time to time just to help us get out a little more. At seven, in the second grade, mom and I did volunteer work at the community center handing out cheese/food packages and free lunches in the summer. We would frequent the libraury. In the fifth grade I took up on sports, but wasn’t good enough for the schools teams. Not good in the social way. She began taking me to BRC, (Brownsville Recreation Center). They had everything from basketball to table and board games. Everyone came there after school just to have fun. From time to time I volunteered to stay back and help tidy up for the night. PAL (Police Atheletic League), was also part of the center contributing camp in the summer and various outings throughout the city.
I remember my very first piece of change. I was about Twelve years old. I got a job working in Associates, one of the neighborhood’s competeing major grocery stores. My mom let me work there because it was right down the block and the assistant manager and her were cool. Working there packing grocery bags after school and on the weekend gave me a sense of responsibility early on in life. Similar to Key Foods, they had their own money. Blue nickels, Green dimes, and red quarters. Change given back from the food stamp paper money used back in the days. A system derived to cut-down on food stamp fraud.
After about a year and a half of doing that I started going to the supermarkets out in Canarsie, an upper class area that brought bigger and faster tips by helping people with their parcels to their vechicles. At fourteen, I had an actual list of customers, documented by time, date and day of weak. Customers that only wanted me at request simply from the trust and service they received. One paticular woman and dear friend of mine, named rose, waited 15 minutes, outside of the store, ten yards away from her car, refusing others help until I got there, just so I could ride home with her and place the groceries in the kitchen. One of my many twenty dollar hits. In the winter I would shovel snow by account as well. Moslty the same customers from the stores private homes along with their added on friends and neighbors. Needless to say, in the years they all grew to be great tippers. There were days I made up to two hundred dollars. Back in the early eighties that was a lot of greenback for a young kid.
Junior High School is when the torment started to become unbearable. It use to be the way mom dressed me, but after making my own money, I was able to buy myself some descent clothes. You see, it was not me everyone use to pick on me for, it was my mom. Her weird demenour. I started playing hooky to make more money because all my competitors were in school. I thought I had some control of my life and it felt wonderful. The bumps and bruises in my mind seemed to dissappear while I was on my grind. Then their came Sandy Weathers. My first true love. Her and her family were the home away from home that showed me what unity and family stood for.
On July 5th , at 12:45, My mom refused to let me in the house because I had went to a cookout with my girlfriend and her family instead of going to the ground breaking ceromony of the Statue of Liberty with her the day before. It was late and I was hungry. I made the worst mistake of my life that day. I snatched money from someone’s hand at the train station and ran. Something I watched people I grew to know do all the time. Being my first time and inexperienced of the life, I ran in a circle right back into the police’s hands. I had to do a year on Rikers Island where I retrieved my GED. Most of my time there I was part of a tutor program named, “Rikers Island Academy”. After released, I moved in with my father and his new family. My little brother Matthew Odell Tolliver was a bright light in my eyes, one that could not be extinguished.
I took a loan and went to New York Bussiness School in Manhattan for Data Entry while working in this father and son funeral parlor off of Fulton Street in Bedford Styvesant. Along with cleaning, my responsiblies included retrieval of death certificates from city hall and doing some of the offices’ paperwork. When I graduated to dressing the prospects, I decided that was not the place for me. April Fool’s Day in 1990, as I cut through the park from doing my laundry by Betsy Head Pool, I caught a stray bullet in the shoulder. IT WAS NOT FUNNY! If it were not for me turning to cut through the park, the bullet would have hit me high in the center of my back near my spinal cord, possibly leaving me dead or paralized. On the forth I was at the bus station with four thousand dollars I had saved up and a determined idea not to live in New York City another minute nor never again.
While visiting an old buddy of mine who had family out in Detroit, my little sister Peggy Ann Tolliver was born. He asked if I wanted to travel with him for a while, I opted in. We went from Detroit to New York to check my sister out first. From New York we traveled to Pennsylvania, to Massachusetts, and then on to Schenectady where I decided to settle down. Finding employment back then was a little more simplified, if you made yourself marketable. After being a productive working resident of Schenectady for a few years, I found myself in trouble with the law once again in 1996 by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. During that time I acquired an Asbestos trade, that upon my release in 2002 kept me at bay with employment to date.
I came home to a six year old, LaNasia Mone Tolliver. Defined “My World”. I started to see life totally different, being a significant part of another person’s life. I found myself getting more involved with the community. I always had a way of communicating to everyone. The normal and the ignorant, the underpriviledged as well as the challenged. All anybody really wants in life is to have someone to talk to that can relate and understand a point of view with an open mind. People trust me because I listen with nothing less than a possitive response to concur with as a reaction. It is easier saying nothing at all than to offer a fabrication of the truth.
I am in realization with the truth being like a tree. What no one can take from you is your word. Words being seeds that never go away. They blossom into some form of a tree or brush. Some with flowers or fruit and those that bear thorns. It will replenish itself with continuous life as long as the first seed is rooted strongly around honest facts- A solid foundation. It will grow tall and broad while helping other living organisms,(truth’s breath). Letting off fragrances of everescent beauty, while swaying with the wind steadily unlike an unplanted source, falsehood or lie. Towering respectfully for what it is, regardless of the many faces tranformed into by man. Living life after death. For the truth can never turn into anything except itself. A continuous breatheing orifis and actuality. That is how my nickname came about. People listen to me cause they know and respect me to speak from the heart. Mostly only able to respond by saying twice, “True-True”. After hearing that repeatedly from everyone ,I started joking and responding by saying, “What, why you keep calling me”?
In 2003 when my son was born, Laraun Samir Tolliver, I worked as a Commercial driving Import/export specialist for a local area dairy farmer named, Cappiello’s Dairy. Traveling to various locations throughout New York State was a rewarding and exciting experience. At slow times I moonlighted with one of the local unions out of Kingston, New York. I became responsible for filling in open work slots with reliable individuals from my neighborhood. Moving from contract to contract was good money, but dealing with all the discriminatory factors of the bussiness made me realize that there was a longing in the Asbestos field for a Minority Owned company.
Concentrating still on gainful employment not only for myself, but for as many individuals that had proper certifications and licenses, I started making steps in obtaining my own bussiness in the Asbestos field. Volunteerly assuring that as many people I can find, that really wanted to work, got themselves OSHA training and asbestos certifications at no cost through various agencies namely the W.I.A. (Workers Inforcement Act) program. Commiting myself to the community is something that came easy for me because I always loved helping people and I was good at what I do. Attending board and governmental community meetings became essential for obtaining as much information needed to try and bring a change for the ever so damage conditions of my area. Teaming up with Acorn, One stop, MCTAP (Minority Contractors Technical Assistance Program), BNI (Better Neighborhoods Incorporated), NAACP (National Association for Advancement of Colored People), and local colleges to form a coalition to assist as a complete unit to better improve areas such as Jobs, ethical stability and the conditions of our youth, using the Community Benefits Agreement as a strong hold.
I have always stood tall and proud of who I am as a person dispite the negative pit falls that I’ve experienced in my life. I am very proud to be an African American. Solely because of the advesities that My people have indured for the past 400 years and we stand strong when our eyes are not shut. I do not take for granted for a second the struggles of those before me. They bled for me to make the choices that I am allowed to make now. I owe them and myself. Black history has always intrigued me and I always found time to read and study an insert from one of my fallin fathers or mothers. I have always thought of having some type of artifact that we as a people could show representing the strengths and beauties we posses as a whole. At first thought of The African-American Flag came the realization of it was my family that built this country for what it is. Brick by brick, sweat by sweat and by blood and death. Knowing that we’ve walked throught the valley of death and now able to lie down in the green pastures, is a dream that many would never have thought would come to pass and I duly am blessed to experience. Make no mistake about it, the battles have only slightened just a bit.
Besides the creation of my children LaNasia, Laraun, Trustin, and Honesty, nothing in this world makes me more prouder than the creation of the African-American Flag. I pray and hope that this vision inspires you, the reader, to want to know more of where you came from so you can utilize the solid foundation that has been paved for you to continue your journey on where you must go. A path of righteousness. Please use this as a talisman to further unlock the doors to knowledge, wisdom and understanding within yourself. Throughout my life and from the knowledge that I have gained, the individuals I selected to be apart of the flag became the lights that glimmered the brightest in my eyes and have inspired me the most. My vision , My dreams, My hopes. I thank you for the time that you’ve shared your soul,(eyes) with me and I urge you to pass the Baton. It is infinite if it is shared.