Lillie Belle Allen (Excerpt From My Book: “The Black Wake Up Call”)

THINKING THOUGHTS

WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE, DO BAD PEOPLE CARE – DO THEY SLEEP GOOD AT NIGHT?

CAN PEOPLE WHO DO BAD THINGS TO OTHERS TRULY BE      GOOD PARENTS, GOOD FRIENDS, GOOD HUMAN BEINGS?

AND WHAT DO BAD PEOPLE SAY TO GOD WHEN THEIR DAY OF RECKONING COMES AND THEY HAVE TO EXPLAIN WHY THEY DID WHAT THEY DID?

I remember going to my grandmother’s funeral.  I suppose I wanted to be strong because my son was sitting beside me, but I could barely stop crying.  And even though she had lived her life well into her eighties, she was now gone.  I knew I was her favorite (well, aren’t we all in our own minds?) every time I saw the sun in her eyes shine and warm my soul.  Grandmothers have that way of looking at you and making you feel special.  But why do they have to go?  Yet love is a two way street and she used to tell me, “You’re the only that comes and helps me with your grandpop (he was wheel-chair bound).

Life is strange.  Death is even stranger.  You live treading through an endless ocean of life experiences, maybe even becoming an adept or talented “swimmer,” hopefully living life to the fullest, keeping your head above troubled water and avoiding the sharks, the people who try to drag you down into an abyss of negativity and feed off of your reactions.

And throughout this life, if you’re lucky, you may even manage to have many more happy days than bad days.  But deep down inside you know you won’t get out of this life alive, just like you know you won’t be able to swim in any ocean forever.  Eventually, your body and soul wears down and you succumb to something, even if it’s just the water of Life itself.  Nonetheless, you’d like to spend as much time here on earth as you can.   Because, really, no one knows what death holds.

Life giveth and life taketh away.

So let’s take a walk in another Soul’s shoes:

Imagine it’s one of those happy days because you’re on vacation visiting relatives, but you are in a small city that is experiencing major racial problems.   You and your family – a sister, brother-in-law, and your parents – head out to the store.  All of you end up lost on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, having been let through a barricade by a policemen, and you run into over 60 angry White folks, many with guns a-blazin’.   You, in the backseat, get out of the car intending to take the wheel because your sister, the driver, has frozen with fear – but before you can get into the driver’s seat, you’re life comes to an end in a hail of gunfire so powerful it knocks you out of your sneakers.  There are over 100 rounds of bullets fired in the direction of your car.  In fact, the shooters were even reloading and you, or your body and your family, are there for what seems like hours.

You’ve become the victim of a hateful crowd of racist looking for someone to kill.  And in your last terrifying moments, a shotgun slug having torn through your torso as you tried to crawl back under the car, you hope, maybe, someone will come to your rescue, possibly a policeman?  But reality has it that the police are even in on the murder.  They’re out to see to it that you die, too.  In fact, the police encouraged those who murdered you, and even handed out bullets.

And so you die, and everyone involved in your murder gets away with it.

And let’s say you’re among the family members of this innocent victim.  Say you’ve been, emotionally, drifting through life in what seems like an on-going nightmare from that day on, a nightmare that you can’t seem to wake up from, almost smothered by thoughts of what happened to your loved one every night you lay down and every morning you wake up.  A nightmare where your loved one is murdered in cold blood – gone, right before your very eyes and no one has paid for the crime. And if you’re the 11-year-old daughter of the victim, you saw the car that carried your mother to her murder roll home full of bullet holes, being driven on the rims.

Can you imagine the pain?  The anger?  The hate?  GOD is the only way you make it through the day.  And even he has trouble explaining this one to you.

Imagine if you, a family member, decades later, find out that the investigation has been reopened and some people are going to be arrested.  And then you find out that a current mayor, Charles Robertson, a leader, was involved in your deceased family member’s death.

And for whom does this BELLE of Freedom ring?  Not for thee.  No, I am not really free because my justice, my people’s justice, comes late – if at all.

 

Well, the aforementioned story is what happened in the Lillie Belle Allen Case – a case where Ms. Lillie Belle Allen, an African American from Aiken, South Carolina, was in York, Pa, visiting her family during civil unrest in 1969.  Yes, York, Pa, one of four cities claiming to be – along with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Lancaster, PA – the land of the free and home of the brave’s first capital. Over 400 State Policemen and National Guardsmen, tanks and all, had to roll into York to restore order because of rioting that went on for nearly two weeks.

I was six years old when this happened to Lillie Belle Allen. Six years old.  One of my only memories of my grandfather walking, before diabetes ravaged his legs, was when I was about this age.  I remember walking with him and reaching way up to hold his hand as we walked to his mother’s house, my great grandmother, Nana.  I remember my grandfather picking me up and putting me in a chair and my great grandmother giving me that nasty carnation powdered milk.

Wow!  So about a half-hour down the road in York (40 minutes from Baltimore, MD) . . . about this time . . . people were murdering Lillie Belle Allen, a fellow human being, in cold blood because of the color of her skin.  It sounds like something during the days of slavery, involuntary servitude . . . a long, long time ago.

Lillie Belle was murdered by a group of nine White street gangsters looking for a victim, and Charlie Robertson, a cop at the time of the shooting and mayor of York, Pa, up until recent times, was yelling “White Power” and feeding the wolves ammunition to carry out their dastardly deed, telling the gangsters to “kill as many niggers as possible.”  Charlie Robertson, eventually charged with racial violence and inciting and handing out ammunition to gang members, even admits to leading a “White Power” chant at a park the day before Lillie was murdered.  It was also revealed that during his police career he had been suspended for slapping a Black woman, as well as for a situation involving a minor.

Charlie Robertson was quoted as saying:  “Everyone thought it was even.  One Black had been killed and one White.”  And he’s probably right, at least in his eyes, because Officer Henry C. Schaad, a rookie, was shot (actually died 14 days later) on July 19th, 1969, and Lillie Belle Allen was shot two days later on July 21st, the fifth night of rioting in York, started by White and Black gangs fighting with one another, causing the injuries of over 60 people, fires, and dozens of injuries.

And when one thinks about Charlie Robertson’s behavior, you wonder what other leaders around the country have something to hide when it comes to America’s history of crimes against Black folks?  Jews still hunt down Nazis.  Why is so little done to bring American racist to justice?

Henry Schaad’s murderers have since been found.  Two Black men, Stephen Freeland and Leon “Smickle” Wright, were charged and convicted in 2004 of second-degree murder for killing Henry Schaad.

After being pressured over a long period of time, Michael Wright, brother of Leon Wright, finally admitted what happened leading up to Officer Schaad’s murder: he, Leon and Stephen Freeland conspired to attack the armored vehicle that happened to contain Henry Schaad and left him dead.  Michael said they were tired of police shooting into houses and allowing White gangs to do drive-by shootings in black neighborhoods.

It seems like Michael, Leon, and Stephen thought the action they took was the thing to do, striking back at a racist society, I suppose?  Maybe they didn’t believe their bullet could pierce an armored vehicle, but they shouldn’t have pulled the trigger.  But what do I know?  Did they feel they were at war, under attack?  Was Henry Schaad one of those cops that had been shooting into Black homes?  What would you have done under these circumstances?

After a wave of national attention about Lillie Belle Allen’s case, 94 of York county’s business and community leaders sent a letter to two York newspapers telling them to “take the high road” in dealing with the issue.  The newspaper’s editors viewed the letter as a threat.  The papers had called for Robertson to resign from his position as mayor.  The letter was also sent to former Governor Tom Ridge, who went on to head up our nation’s Office of Homeland Security.  Apparently the “good,” powerful folks didn’t like the negative national publicity raining down on their town.  Time, Newsweek, “The Today Show,” CNN, and others covered the story.

Sounds like most towns or cities in America:  “Now, now, all of youzzz, jus’ git a long.  Don’t beezzz stirring up trouble and makin’ a fuss ’bout things.  Don’t be gittin’ folks all stirred up, now.”

And for whom does this BELLE of Freedom Ring?  Not for thee.  No, I am not really free because my justice, my people’s justice, comes late – if at all.

Brothers, Arthur N. Messersmith and Robert N. Messersmith, both members of the Newberry Street Boys gang, had a plan to shoot Blacks and had shot two black teenagers days before Lillie Belle Allen was murdered.

Under tremendous pressure from the local community, Robert Messersmith and Greg Neff were arrested in 2001 and convicted of killing Lillie Belle Allen in 2002.  Several months from the first charges being made in 2001, nine individuals ended up being charged with first-degree murder and six reached worked out deals, pleading guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their testimony.

So the prosecution made deals with gangsters.  Everyone was shooting at the car.  One liar even said that he thought Lillie Belle Allen had a gun when she got out of the car, and that’s why they opened fire on her.  How can so many people shoot her and only one shooter fire the “fatal” wound.  It sounds to me like Old Southern White Justice is being dealt here.  In other words, we’ll let as many off as we can because she’s “just some Black women.”  One witness said he was one of over 60 people at the shooting and he couldn’t figure out why police wouldn’t talk to him about the murder.

This is the kind of cut-rate, for sale, second-hand justice that Black people usually get, and at the same time we’re always being told by “officials” to keep quiet, let justice take its course.  Hah!  Now you have to be blind, death and dumb to think that had eight or nine brothas been shooting at a car and a White girl was killed the prosecution would be offering deals to anybody.  In fact, any Black person that would have been within a 50-mile radius had better catch the next space shuttle leaving earth.  And ya know it!

But if ya don’t know . . . I said – if ya don’t know . . . if ya really don’t know, ya BETTA ASK SOMEBODY.

And ya heard!!!

And for whom does this BELLE of freedom ring? Not for thee.  No, I am not really free because my justice, my people’s justice, comes late – if at all.

In 2005, $2 million was the result of a settlement reached by the children and sisters of Lillie Belle Allen against the city of York and five police officers.

Justice?

Not when you lose a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a fellow human being.

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