10-11 – Another Date We Must Never Forget

Posted by Jim Clingman October 8th, 2006

(This article was written in 2006 – Watch the video, read these words, and remember this brother )

Having mournfully put another September 11th anniversary behind us, and as we move closer to October 11th, I urge you to stop for a moment on that day and remember the life and death of a brother who was just as significant as each one of those who perished on 911.  Although he died alone, from an assassin’s bullet; although the nation does not pause for a moment of silence; although no bells ring in his memory; although his name is not called from a roll; and although there are no marches held in his name, we must never forget our dear Brother, Kenneth H. Bridges.

Ken was a family man just like many of those we mourn in the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon, and in Shanksville.  Ken was also at work when he was killed.  Ken is just as much a hero as those who died trying to help others on 9-11 because he died in the act of helping others.  Ken sacrificed his life, before he was killed, by giving so much of his time to the cause of economic empowerment for Black people and taking so much valuable time away from his beloved wife and six adorable children.

On 10-11, at nearly the same time the first tower fell in New York, and after making his last cell phone call to his wife, Ken Bridges is lying on the ground, a bullet having ripped through his body; he was probably thinking the same things I am sure those who died on 9-11 were thinking just before they transitioned.  Knowing him the way I did, I feel confident in saying Ken was thinking about his family, his work, his brothers and sisters, and the quest he had been on since 1997:  The MATAH Network.

Ken Bridges was a man among men and we should never forget him and that infamous date, October 11, 2002.  Just as we commemorate others who worked and sacrificed for our people and who loved us more than they loved themselves, we must do the same in memory of Ken Bridges.  He deserves no less from those for whom he fought so valiantly, so eloquently, and so tirelessly.

Each one of the persons lost on 9-11 left loved ones behind, mourners who still love them and will never forget that tragic day.  There can be no less from us for Ken Bridges, who touched thousands of individuals with his engaging smile, his bear-hugs, and his infectious and indefatigable enthusiasm for true economic freedom for Black people.  Had he been on one of the upper floors of either of those towers, or on that plane in Shanksville, we would owe him the same homage, not because he happened to be there at the wrong time, but because no matter where he was when he met his demise, we know he would have been working for us.

As Ken’s long-time partner and friend, Al Wellington, said in his remembrance of his fallen confidant, “The world doesn’t know it yet, but Ken Bridges was the most significant Black leader since Martin Luther King.”  How right Al was in his assessment.  Ken Bridges “died on his way to freedom,” never lagging back, afraid to be out front, but as authentic leaders do, he led the way; he showed us how it was done; he lived what he taught.  In so doing, Ken found himself in the right place at the wrong time, just as those who lost their lives on 911 did.  They were where they were supposed to be that day, and so was Ken.  He just stopped to get gas, as he was making his way back to his family after a marathon “freedom session” that could have catapulted Black people to new heights in economic freedom.

Ken was in the right place, doing the right thing, for the all the right reasons, but just not at the right time.  Those in the World Trade Centers were doing much the same.  In both incidents there have been rumors of conspiracy and intentional targeting by someone other than the ones accused and/or convicted of these crimes.  Parallels abound between these two occurrences, but the parallels cease when it comes to how we treat the memory of Kenneth Bridges and how we treat the 9-11 tragedy.  Yes, there were 2900 lives lost that day, but to their families each person lost was a single horrendous act just as Ken’s death was to his family and friends.

I think about Ken quite often, like nearly everyday, as I see his portrait in my office, his “If I Should Die on My Way to Freedom” poster in my basement, the African doll he gave my daughter, and the MATAH jacket he gave me the first day we met, which I still wear.  I remember him as I listen to the tapes and watch the videos on which he speaks so passionately about the importance of Black economic freedom.

I remember him through his wife and children whom I speak to and see from time to time.  I remember him through our mutual friends and associates, and I remember Ken Bridges because he actually brought to fruition an institution, an entity through which Black people could circulate our dollars among ourselves.  He was an “authentic” leader who paid the ultimate price for his leadership and concern for his people.

It’s so nice when my daughter remembers something about Ken and mentions it to me.  I am so glad she had the opportunity to meet him.  It’s good to know that she will never forget 10-11.  Will you?  Go to www.kenbridges.org and get to know him.  Rest peacefully, my brother.

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