From The Hill

THE DRUM MAJOR Dedications, Part I

Posted 2/8/14 (Written by Michael Mack, Founder of Palatine Hill Productions)

Michael MackTHE DRUM MAJOR is dedicated to three great souls who now belong to the ages.  The first is Ned Briley, my mother’s grandfather, my great-grandfather, the Kunta Kinte of our family. 

We don’t know his birth name, but he was born free in Nigeria.  Then kidnapped by slave catchers, he survived the Middle Passage, and was brought to America in chains at the tender age of eleven.  He was separated from his family of origin – father, mother, and sister – in the South and sold to a Judge Briley who resided in Maryland.

My great-grandfather was still quite young and without any formal education when freedom came.  He went back to the South, seeking to get as far from his former slaveholder as possible and reunite with his family. 

They say he was understandably angry, not violent, but a man robbed of freedom and justice.  According to one story, he could throw a hatchet and split a tree in two!

They say he was “black as the ace of spades” and had the courage to follow his heart.  He fell in love with and married a woman named Ann.  She was of mixed race, a woman whose mother had been raped by a slaveholder, but she looked white. Given the times, this marriage took extraordinary courage from them both.  Somehow they managed to make a home together in North Carolina, where my mother met Ann, who was on her deathbed, but our Kunta Kinte had already passed on.

Whenever I find myself tempted to feel down about anything, I think of Ned Briley, that eleven year old boy whose unfathomable sacrifices gave me a life… and the way becomes clearer… I say yes to the next challenge… and take the next step.

May God bless and keep you always, Ned Briley… and thanks for being you.