Monday, July 26, 2010

From The Honorable Sis. Cynthia McKinney: My Remarks At My Father's HomeGoing Ceremony, Order Of Service, Billy's Bio

The Honorable James Edward “Billy” McKinney

Sunrise February 23, 1927 -- Sunset July 15, 2010

Cynthia McKinney
July 19, 2010
Jackson Memorial Baptist Church
Atlanta, Georgia

Reverend Creecy, Reverend Sutton, Reverend Rice, Elected Officials, and all of you:

Thank you all for being here with us today to honor my father and to *help* all of us who knew and loved him manage our collective grief.  It’s funny how I never believed that it would come to this.  You all know that Billy was larger than life.   He was honest, smart, street-wise, pensive, yet playful. That’s why I can say without a doubt that Billy taught me how to live.

After I came back from a humanitarian mission to Gaza, but instead having spent 7 days in an Israeli prison, I went on a nationwide tour to tell interested communities what had happened to me.  At the Seattle airport, a supporter who has now become my friend, paid me the highest compliment:  she told me that I was “alive.” 

I thought long and hard about that.  Because, honestly, much to my father’s chagrin, there are so many people in our community who pass their days just marking time instead of making a difference.  Billy knew that it was within our capacity to materially change our conditions, if we would only do what is required.  He knew *that* because he *did* that.  And somehow, he transmitted that faith in our fellow human beings to me and taught me to be free. 

My father also taught me how to love.  I’ve learned from my own personal experiences that it’s easy for us Americans to think that we can just order love and pick it up at the drive-through window.  But through this journey with my father, I’ve learned to appreciate the African and Asian views of love--that its touch is so deep to our core as human beings, that it is unquantifiable, it is undefinable, and it is what helps to give us core and value and depth and meaning--when we find it.

Billy taught me love on two levels.  He taught me the kind of love that would risk his job to challenge police brutality; that would challenge racism and discrimination; that would give away my Christmas “Etch-a-Sketch” the day after Christmas to a needy child in Bowen Homes.  I never forgot that.

And so, I learned to love my community because every action in my father’s being showed me how to do that.  I learned to love humanity because I saw my father grow in his own attitudes and admit that he was wrong about gays and apologize to them in 1996 when he saw their dedication to me after I was forced into a bruising legal battle to remain in Congress and it was only the white gay community in Atlanta that would cross the racial "Maginot" line that is Candler Road out in Decatur and come into my campaign headquarters and fold letters and stuff envelopes and answer phones and do whatever was necessary to help me win reelection in a vastly redrawn district.  And I did win in a hotly contested race.

My father loved people.  He sacrificed too much in the way of personal wants and his family sacrificed, too, because his focus wasn’t on only us, it was on his beloved community, too.

But he has been unfairly smeared by special interests in this town who want to preserve *their* interests at the expense of yours.  And my father was not about to sacrifice your interests.  In my father, you had a protector and I know you all know that.

And so, when the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and other aspects of the pro-Israel Lobby in this country, including their supporters right here in Georgia, targeted me for defeat, my father came to my rescue by telling the truth.  I was targeted by the pro-Israel Lobby because I dared to question the Bush Administration about what happened on September 11, 2001 and because I have the audacity to believe that no group of people, including Palestinians who *are* the Semitic people in this discussion, by the way, should suffer as Blacks in the United States have suffered.  Billy McKinney called them out and let you know the truth about what was going on and who was doing it in the midst of intentionally-created confusion and campaign chaos. 

That chaos included acts of political sabotage, including both my father and I being abandoned by some of our closest personal and political friends.  The attack on us was total.  And the battle was for your mind so that you would lose respect for someone unafraid of speaking truth to power.  My father came to my defense because I rightly questioned how George Bush could “win” an election in which he lost the vote; why Africa’s diamonds, oil, cobalt, copper, uranium, coltan, timber, and fisheries enriched economies in Europe, the United States, and Israel while Africa remained broke and broken.  What I was doing went to the core of the existing power configuration in this country and I began to expose its method of finance.

Afterall, I was sent to Washington to represent you.  Only thing was that when I got attacked, Billy came to my defense.  And he was punished for doing so.  Every bad word you read or hear in the special interest press about either one of us, just know that the powerful individuals who operate in the shadows of power, pulling the strings of your elected officials, the U.S. military, government contracts--they all want to keep things in your life exactly as they are now and Billy McKinney understood fully that we need change, but that we are not going to get the deep, structural kind of change we need--we can’t get it on the cheap. 

Billy McKinney made the kind of principled sacrifices that allow us to sleep better at night.

Lord, what are we going to do now?    

Billy McKinney was all about love.  And Billy McKinney loved Leola.  During his illness, he would just sit and stare at my mother.  And she would ask him what he’s looking at.  And he would say “I’m admiring how beautiful you are.”

Billy and Leola were the definition of love.  And in these last months, they have shown me how devoid my life is of that kind of undefinable, unquantifiable love.  In that regard, I have a lot of introspection to do. 

Billy McKinney also taught me how to cry.  Over these past few months, I didn’t know my body could create so many tears.  I have never in my life known this kind of sadness.  But Billy taught me to understand that even at the depth of my grief, I must never forget the grief of others:  that mothers are crying all over the world because of U.S. policy.

My father was such a strong black man.  It would make me cry just to watch him endure his illness with such grace and dignity.  He never complained.  No matter how much discomfort my father was in, his universal response was “it’s all good.”  And one day at the hospital he was so uncomfortable, he was really uncomfortable, but I heard him say aloud to himself, “It’s gonna be alright, *anyway.*”

One day he wanted the nurse to reposition him.  He was getting his medicine in a way that prevented him from being moved, but he was uncomfortable.  So he begged the nurse to please reposition him.  Then, as the nurse was about to leave the room, Billy turned to me and asked, “Did she give in?”

Billy McKinney taught me how to live and how to love, how to cry and how to die.  My father, BIlly McKinney, was a hell of a man.

On behalf of the family, I’d like to thank all of you for the love you gave my father during his life and the support you give to us now.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

There are times in our lives when mere words seem inadequate to express how one really feels. This is one of those times. Suffice to say a huge “Thank you!” to all who shared your prayers, gifts of kindness, and your presence as we experienced a most difficult time in our lives.

Leola, Cynthia, Coy, and Greg

Special Thanks
The McKinney Family would like to extend special thanks to the following individuals:  Brad Hubbert, Edgar Hillsman, John "Flukie" Maddox, "Tony" Christian, Lucy Grider-Bradley, David Josué, Mawuli Davis, Derrick Rice, Emma Darnell, Pauline Drake, Ouida Lamar, Ophelia Guice, Faye Coffield, "Jocco," Manie and Donna Baugh, Lawrence McDuffie, Elyria Mackie, Mike Raffauf, Ruth Jackson, Caron Jenkins, Desdimonia Cross, Francine Earl, Cynthia Safford, Don Debar, Brenda Clemons, Charles Onana, Dan, Marie, and Cori Fowler; and to the following families:  the Barbours, the Mabrys, the Carraquillos, the Walkers, the Christions, the Christians, and the Bones.  We appreciate the love and compassionate care shown to Billy by the Darnell Center, Dr. Zhaohai Wang, Dr. Thomas Seay, and the doctors, nurses, and staff at Atlanta Cancer Care, St. Joseph's Hospital, and Hospice Atlanta.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Leola; daughter, former Congresswoman Cynthia Ann; 2 sons, James and Gregory; one grandson, Coy and 2 granddaughters, Morgan and Lauren; sisters-in-law Joan Christian (Thurman), Atlanta, GA, Virginia Christion, (Roosevelt “Fat”), Birmingham, AL; brothers-in-law Ernest Christion (Luvenia), Birmingham, AL, Haywood Christion (Wylean), Birmingham, AL Eugene Christion (Cassandra) Atlanta, GA; and many loving nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors, and friends.


Silence is the deadliest weapon of mass destruction.

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