By now, you’ve probably heard that my great-uncles, Meeks and Thomas Griffin, received posthumous pardons the day before yesterday. My family and I experienced the sweet smell of victory when an injustice served almost 100 years ago was reversed. Nothing could bring my uncles back, but we did as much as we could. And sometimes that’s all you can do.
The publicity of this case has triggered lots of phone calls and text messages from people who also have family members who are currently in a tight spot. To them, I can only say that this is a battle that takes a lot of time and a lot of money to fight. The ideal thing would be to get support from an organization that specializes in advocacy, like the Rainbow PUSH Coalition or Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.
When I think about all the years and all the things that have transpired since this horrific incident ended the lives of my uncles, I wonder how my life would have been different if it hadn’t happened. After all, the execution led to my grandmother leaving South Carolina, growing up in the migrant town of Plant City, Florida, marrying my grandfather, attending FAMU, where she would go on to obtain a Masters degree and become a school teacher, a hairdresser and a florist.
Yeah, that’s right, working hard is part of my DNA … and so are HBCUs.
In some strange way, the worse thing that could have happened to those two brothers played a role in who I’ve become. And get this: If I weren’t who I am, Skip Gates wouldn’t have invited me to be part of his genealogy research, and I never would even have known about the plight of Thomas and Meeks Griffin or been able to get the kind of fact-finding done that it took to get that pardon. But the bigger point is actually not what happened, but how what happened was handled.
We all have tragedies in our lives. And I’m here to tell you that how we handle them can impact our family members now and for generations to come. You might not be able to solve every problem today, but if you work hard and keep your eye on the prize, somebody in your family will have what it takes to do things you couldn’t dream of doing yourself. It all matters and puts a heavy responsibility on us all. For every action, there is a reaction. Even if it’s nearly a century later.