Monday, February 6, 2023
Honor Thy Father
By Yussuf J. Simmonds (Managing Editor)
Published June 18, 2011

*** Legends ***
By Yussuf J. Simmonds

“Fathers led the way; daughters followed”



He was a three-time world heavyweight boxing champion, a social and religious activist and a Muslim Minister, who resisted the military draft, challenged the U.S. government, and won his case in the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, he was a well-known public speaker and a poet who, since retiring, has become a world-renown humanitarian. He spends his time travelling the world lending his voice specifically to causes in the under-developed nations. Born Laila Amaria Ali, she is one of his nine children, who followed him into the boxing ring, as a professional boxer. After earning a degree in business, she briefly delved into business, then lent her name (the Ali brand) to a line of cosmetics and hair care products, after becoming a boxer like her world famous father. Muhammad Ali’s other children are Rasheeda, Jamilla, Maryum, Miya, Khalilah, Hana, Muhammed, Jr. and Asaad.


Clarence Avant rose from humble beginnings in North Carolina to become one of the most powerful and influential men in the music industry. Along the way, he founded Sussex and Tabu Records, and pioneered the way, and mentored a generation of music industry giants including Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, Antonio L.A. Reid, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Stevie Wonder and many more. In addition to his business acumen, Avant’s work also transcended political, humanitarian and philanthropic endeavors. His daughter, Nicole Avant, followed his footsteps as a music executive, political activist and philanthropist. Active in the Democratic Party, she was nominated by President Barack Obama to be Ambassador of The United States of America to The Bahamas. After a unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate, she was sworn into office by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton September 9, 2009. Ambassador Avant is currently the official representative for the U.S. to the Bahamas, and has been since she presented her Letters of Credence to the Governor General of The Bahamas in October 2009. Clarence Avant also has a son, Alex.



Walter Bremond founded the Brotherhood Crusade in 1968, and co-founded the National Black United Fund in 1972. After the 1965 Watts Revolt, Bremond and a distinguished group of Black social activists got together and hammered out what became the largest and most successful Black independent funding source in the nation, and gave life to an ancient idea in the Black community–the Brotherhood Crusade. He followed that model by co-founding the National Black United Fund that spawned similar funding organizations throughout the country. In co-founding the Black United Fund, his vision was to establish a co-coordinating and planning body, on the national level, to assist in the creation, training and maintenance of competent staffs, and in the other activities designed to further the concept and practice of self-help. After Danny J. Bakewell, Sr. institutionalized Bremond’s vision, and he passed it on to Charisse Bremond Weaver, who has now taken over the reins of the Brotherhood Crusade as the first female president, following in her father’s footsteps. Under the watchful eyes of her mother, Mrs. Bertha Bremond, a retired educator, and a board member of the Brotherhood Crusade, Bremond Weaver is continuing the tradition of self-help, dignity and respect–the watchwords of the Brotherhood Crusade. Walter Bremond also had two sons, Michael and Duane (deceased).


Known for his soft baritone, silky smooth voice, Nathaniel Cole, better known as Nat “King” Cole, was already an established singer when the advent of television increased his popularity. Cole became one of the first Blacks to host a television variety show in the U.S. His soft baritone voice was a natural for the new television medium; in addition, Cole also did bit parts and singing in movies up to the time of his death. In November 1956, The Nat King Cole Show debuted on television, but due to the racial climate the show was controversial. Despite his successes as a singer, musician, bandleader and an accomplished artist, because he was a Black man, that over-shadowed his talent and his accomplishments. Surprisingly the show lasted a whole year, but it was done in because of lack of advertising, the life-blood of all media endeavors which prompted Cole to say, “Madison Avenue is afraid of the dark.” In January 1964, he made one of his final television appearances singing “When I Fall in Love”; it was dubbed his finest and most memorable performance. A heavy smoker, he died from lung cancer in February, 1965 at 45. A part of his personal legacy is his daughter, Natalie who has carved an impressive niche following her father’s impressive career. In 1991, she mixed her own voice with her father’s and produced an unforgettable rendition of her “Daddy’s” 1961 “Unforgettable.” The song and album won seven Grammy awards in 1992. Born Natalie Maria Cole she is an American singer, songwriter and performer who rode to musical success in the mid-1970s as an R&B artist with a string of popular hits. Cole had five children.


Donny Hathaway’s recording career was very brief, but the influence of his music, as a soul artist, has continued decades after he has passed. As a talented songwriter and a singer, some say that the longevity of his music derived from its foundation in the Gospel tradition. Also, he was described as a remarkable song stylist who defined nearly every song he touched in his brief career. In addition to being a singer and a songwriter, Hathaway was also a producer, an arranger and a musician. Some of the big named entertainers that he worked with included Roberta Flack, the Staple Singers, Jerry Butler, Aretha Franklin, The Impressions and Curtis Mayfield. And he was also signed with Mayfield’s Curtom Records where he recorded with the Mayfield Singers. Lalah Hathaway (born Eulaulah Donyll Hathaway) has inherited her musical talent from both parents–her father Donny and her mother, Eulaulah, a classically-trained vocalist. Lalah is a contemporary R&B and jazz singer; she has released several albums and has collaborated on one of them with jazz great, Joe Sample. Though she barely knew her father, she shares his talent as a singer and songwriter, in addition to his warm vocal tone and extensive knowledge of music. Donny Hathaway has two other daughters, Kenya and Donnita.


According to his biographical data, John H. Johnson was always grooming his daughter Linda to eventually take over the helm of Johnson Publications after he was gone. Now that she has taken charge, the work of her father, the founder and the “engineer” of the Johnson Publications empire is continuing through “Jet” and “Ebony” magazines, and other ventures which have made it the largest African American owned and operated publishing company. Johnson carved out an empire and left a legacy that included cosmetics, fashion designing, television and radio production as trusted trademarks and brands around the world. His vision changed the national media landscape and inspired Black people by giving them a continuous look at the best of themselves. His wife, Eunice Johnson, was also his helpmate, as secretary-treasurer and director of Ebony Fashion Fair working with him to secure the Johnson Publications legacy for their daughter. Johnson began with “the Negro Digest” and became the first Black person to appear on the Forbes 400 rich list.

As CEO of Johnson Publications, Linda Johnson Rice became the first African American woman to be named chief executive officer of a company listed among the top five of the Black Enterprise 100s, the nation’s largest black-owned companies. Johnson Publishing had more than $400 million in sales as of 2002 and was the number one black-owned, privately held publishing company in the world, worth $350 million and employing more than 2,500 people.


He was the dominant force in the civil rights decades from the mid-1950s through the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. aroused the nation to live up to its creed that all men are created equal, and he did so through speeches, protests, marches and non-violent civil disobedience in the mode of one of his mentors, Mahatma Gandhi. He rallied one of the largest marches to the nation’s capital calling for re-dress from the government and others that systematically and institutionally deprived people of color the rights endowed by the Creator and enshrined in the Constitution. King received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and became one of the most dynamic orators of the 20th century. Since his death, his message has transcended borders, boundaries, races and ethnicities. His birthday is now recognized and celebrated as a national holiday. Following his footsteps, his youngest daughter, Bernice Albertine King, has become a minister. She was elected in 2009 as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)–the organization founded by her father–but declined to continue as of January of 2011. Like her father, Bernice is skilled in public speaking, and has been named by Ebony magazine as one of their Ten of Tomorrow future leaders of the Black community. She holds a Juris Doctor in Law from Emory University and is a member of the State Bar of Georgia. Bernice King travels the world on speaking engagements, and she is also a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Dr. King’s other children include Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott King, and the late Yolanda Denise King.


Considered by many as the dean of Black Hollywood, Sidney Poitier as the first Black man to win an Academy award for a leading role has pioneered the trail and led the way like no other Hollywood icon for generations of actors. At one time, he was the standard by which all Black actors were judged; experts in sociology and human dynamics described it as a heavy burden. But Poitier prevailed and has since been awarded another Academy award, for his body of work on and off the screen. In addition, his work includes being a director and a diplomat: he was appointed ambassador to Japan for the Bahamas. He has also received the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, two NAACP Image Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album. President Barack Obama recently awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor at a White House ceremony. His daughter also carries his name–though spelt differently, “Sydney”–and she has developed a body of work that may one day rival her father’s. Born Sydney Pamiia Poitier, part of her resume include Joan of Arcadia, Grindhouse, Knight Rider, Twilight Zone, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice. He has five other daughters: Beverly, Pamela, Sherri, Gina and Anika.


As the patriarch of a singing family, Roebuck “Pops” Staples was a pivotal figure in gospel singing and R&B music during the 1960s and 70s. He was also an accomplished songwriter, guitarist and singer, and a member of singing group, the Staples Singers. Growing up on a cotton plantation in Mississippi, he began to play with local blues guitarists. After dropping out of school around the eighth grade, Staples sang with a gospel group before marrying and moving to Chicago in 1935. While working in the stockyards, construction and a steel mill, he began singing with the Trumpet Jubilees and in 1948, he formed The Staple Singers doing gospel music at local churches. In the 1960s they signed with Riverside Records and later Stax Records, and eventually gained a large new audience. The group made it big with the 1972 US #1 hit “I’ll Take You There,” followed by “Respect Yourself,” their biggest hit. As a teenager, Mavis Staples used to sing at local churches and on a weekly radio show. After she graduated from high school in 1957, the group took their music on the road with “Pops” Staples on guitar including the voices of Mavis and her siblings. With Mavis’ voice and Pops playing the guitar and singing, the Staples Singers became enormously popular gospel singers eventually being dubbed the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement. “Pops” Staples other children were also in the band: his son Pervis and other daughters Yvonne, and Cleotha.


An American rhythm and blues, funk and soul singer and comedian, Rufus Thomas recorded on Sun Records and Stax Records from the 1950s to the 1970s. Due to economic hardships, he left college before graduating to pursue a career in entertainment, joining up with an all Black revue, the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, in 1936 that toured the South. Needing a steady income, Thomas worked for 22 years at a textile plant while still trying to make it as an entertainer, which he eventually did around 1963 with his “Dog” hits. He had already started at radio station WDIA in 1951 where he hosted an afternoon show called “Hoot and Holler.” WDIA, which featured an African-American format, was known as “the mother station of the Negroes,” and became an important source of blues and R&B music for a generation of White and Black listeners. Thomas hosted an amateur show for years and it was during one of those shows, a young B.B. King became known to the world. One of the highlights of his career was his 1972 performance at Wattstax in Los Angeles. His daughter, Carla followed his footsteps beginning in Memphis. He was her biggest influence as she was often referred to as the Queen of Memphis Soul, and accompanied him during his days as an emcee. Thomas was also instrumental in helping her with her Teen Town Singers gig and promoting her breakthrough single, Gee Whiz. Thomas had two other daughters: Marvell and Vaneese.


After Malcolm accepted Islam, he received his “X” from the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and became a minister in the Nation of Islam. Though he was a voice in the Black community, Malcolm X became known to the world after the airing of a television program in 1959 titled The Hate That Hate Produced. He exploded on the scene in newspapers, radio, and television, and became a sought-after speaker, debater and spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Based in Harlem, he was Harlem’s Black ambassador. There, and in the United Nations, he would meet with local, national and international dignitaries including Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Fidel Castro, Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal A. Nasser, A. Sekou Toure and Kenneth Kuanda. Malcolm ministered for the Nation of Islam from 1952 to 1964, and during that time, he advocated self-defense for Black people to protect themselves against the violence from White people. Malcolm won over many Blacks who believed that he spoke for them having experienced the same “hurt and pain” that they felt. After leaving the Nation of Islam, he became a Sunni Muslim. Malcolm collaborated with Alex Haley on The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which was published after he was assassinated in 1965. Attallah Shabazz, is the eldest of six daughters born to Dr. Betty Shabazz and Malcolm X (Shabazz). She graduated from the United Nations International School and entered Briarcliff College, majoring in international law with a minor in English. Like her father, Shabazz has a keen appreciation for diverse cultures and a healthy respect for humanity. Malcolm X’s other daughters are Qubilah, Ilyasah, Gamilah, Malikah and Malaak.

Categories: Legends

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