After Big Jake was released from the hospital the morning after being admitted, he began convulsing and vomited several times in his hotel room. Still sick, my brother forced himself to an airport conference room for a meeting scheduled with Senator Kamala Harris. Before she arrived, he had to go outside. He did not want to throw up in front of her.
Ms. Harris proceeded to the meeting room not knowing that he was sick. But once she found out, she behaved like a family member.
“Jacob,” Ms. Harris said, “you need to get better for yourself and because your voice is very important.” As he prepared to go to the hospital yet again, he gave a thumbs-up and wearily pushed on. For Li’l Jake and for justice, not only for his family, but for so many other families as well.
This has been a grueling family ordeal for the two Jakes. But not only for them. My brother’s three adult children, Jakorey, Letetra and Zietha, have wearily traveled with their dad from events like August’s March on Washington to hospital waiting rooms. Li’l Jake’s 20-year-old brother was taken to a hospital in Illinois and treated for depression. That facility is about 100 miles from Wisconsin. Yet my brother knew he had to be there, even if it meant turning around again after just a few hours to be with Li’l Jake. This exhausting journey has become familiar to our family.
This kind of sacrifice is not new. Generations of our family have risen above their tribulations. My father, the Rev. Jacob S. Blake, marched with Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery and fought for fair housing in Illinois. My uncle, Rev. Eustace L. Blake, led a protest against police brutality in Newark, N.J., in 1964. He urged his parishioners at the St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church to actively participate in African-American organizations like the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. “The price of freedom is not cheap,” he told them.
Other family members helped found community service organizations and were steel and hospital workers union members. Still others pushed the ideals of this nation forward by working to end segregation in New York City public schools and in other places around the nation.
These generations connect this family at this moment of truth. The truth that we, too, are human beings. The truth that the late sage John Lewis said is the “foundation of all things.” The truth that cannot be denied, tarnished or whitewashed.