As sometimes happens in Forest Park, the news was made this week in the cemeteries. An exemplary young African-American man was buried at Forest Home after his murder in Maywood. And in an altogether remarkable coming together, an African-American educational pioneer, buried in the same cemetery for 102 years, was remembered and honored.
First there is DaShamone “Spuddy” McCarty. Murdered on May 16 on a Maywood street. Home one week from the sanctuary of a small town college in, of all places, North Dakota. McCarty, whose life had challenges he was actively overcoming, was a three-sport star at Proviso East. He was a kid with adults, not parents but adults, who saw the spark, the possibility and who lifted him and steered him as surely as they could past the troubles.
That explains Dakota College in Bottineau, North Dakota. A town of 2,211 souls, ten miles south of the Canadian border. Home of Tommy Turtle, a 30-foot-tall fiberglass model, touted as the “World’s Largest Turtle.” And a long way from Maywood.
McCarty’s basketball coach from Dakota College travelled to his funeral at Rock of Ages Church. Maybe he was surprised by the sea of black faces in the chapel. The basketball team in its uniforms. The best friend whose parents opened their doors and helped raise McCarty when his family gave way.
But it was Donnie Boyce, the Proviso basketball coach, who carried the message home. “He was a hard worker. You can’t let failure be part of your equation. You’ve got to be accountable and responsible and Spuddy was that,” said Boyce.
We can’t explain these street shootings, their randomness, their finality. We also don’t seem to be able to stop them. Too many guns. Families in tatters. Schools that don’t work. An acceptance of black-on-black crime so long as it is contained in places such as Maywood.
Another grave plot. More helium balloons released to the skies. Short memories.
And yet, just three days after McCarty was interred at Forest Home, there was another gathering, this one on Memorial Day, and some 60 people with very long memories came from Arkansas and Ohio and Forest Park to honor Joseph Corbin. Corbin has been at rest at Forest Home since his death in 1911.
Born to freed slaves in Ohio, Corbin was an educational leader among African-Americans in Arkansas during the era of Reconstruction. He founded Branch Normal College in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Today it is the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Our John Rice reported last week that Gladys Turner, an Ohio woman, who had attended a high school there named for Corbin later went on to attend the college he founded. That created a strong interest on her part in Corbin. Her research led her to Forest Park, home of some remarkably interesting cemeteries.
And so on this Memorial Day, Turner, Mayor Anthony Calderone, Commissioner Rory Hoskins, Congressman Danny Davis (an Arkansas native and graduate of Corbin’s school), joined with the Historical Society and interested supporters in reigniting the reputation of Joseph Corbin, a man who made opportunities, who survived the senseless violence of his era and who through caring and circumstance is held in honor a full century after his passing.
Who will keep the candle lit for DaShamone McCarty?