Don’t Hold Me Back
Our cover features one of Winfred Rembert’s compelling paintings. This painting (“All Me”),now in a private collection, was inspired by the seven years (1967-1974) that he spent on chain gangs while in the Georgia prison system. We have been honored to display Mr. Rembert’s paintings at our shop over the past six years where some of you have been fortunate enough to meet him or acquire a painting from him. His art and life are now accessible to a wider audience in his first book, a children’s book titled Don’t Hold Me Back: My Life and Art, which has just been published by Cricket Books. We urge you to buy a copy. You can order a copy from us [See Item 1] or you can buy it at your local bookstore or online through any of the usual sources. [See also the magazine at item 1201].
Mr. Rembert’s life is an extreme example of the difficulties faced by African Americans in our society. He grew up in Cuthbert, a town in southwestern Georgia. His world view was narrowly bounded by the cotton fields in which he and his Mama labored, and by grinding poverty and virulent white racism. The Civil Rights Movement gave him hope, but, instead, he was almost lynched and ended up in prison. His “All Me” painting reflects his feeling while in prison that he would have to be a thousand “me’s” in order to ever get off the chain gang. That same feeling of hopelessness is shared by many African Americans. Overcoming long odds is by definition a long shot. The simple truth is that, when the odds are overwhelming, most people end up overwhelmed.
Perhaps that is one reason that we celebrate the achievements of African Americans who manage to beat the odds. This catalog is full of African American achievement. While it is tempting to focus all of our attention on the super stars, especially in our star-struck society, it is at least equally important that we honor and remember those who persevere and achieve in every day life without ever soaring to great fame and fortune. There is much in this catalog on “social history,” recording the lives of “ordinary” folks doing the best they could under difficult circumstances. Dedicated teachers, nurses, accountants, social workers, computer and lab technicians, small business owners, factory workers, postal employees, store clerks, etc. are essential to progress and prosperity. These role models, together with dedicated parents who value learning and education, are the real keys to a better future for everyone.
This catalog also documents the efforts of many to combat unfairness and racism and to promote economic and racial justice. We honor their efforts, whether or not we always agree with their particular tactics or proposals. Unfortunately, racist and anti-democratic forces remain strong and are not without followers. As the preacher would say, “The devil can find a thousand ways to cloak his wickedness.”
Phil & Sharon McBlain