Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Robert E. Lee Jr., III

His training began early.

Bobby Lee got spiritual roots from his mother and street-savvy from his father. His parents owned Lee's Congo Bar in Houston's Fifth Ward. Lots of action. Character building stuff.

When Bobby was 12 or 13, his father took him to New York City for the first time. They drove up in a big Packard automobile. Maybe it was a Lincoln. Either way, it was big. And the cavernous trunk was filled with foodstuff from home that was not available in the metropolitan canyons of New York. Not unless you took a gun to Central Park.

After World War II, America's black population was on the move. This was the early 1950's and NYC was filling with southern blacks.

But the tastes of home cooking were memories so strong that Robert E. Lee Jr., II and his son, Robert E. Lee Jr., III, bought some "hot ice" and filled the trunk with rabbit, squirrel and raccoons. Upon their arrival in New York, word spread and they were soon sold out. It was a taste missing from New York food. Home cooking.

On another trip, Bobby's dad filled a pick-up truck with East Texas firewood. And sold out within hours of arriving.

Bobby remembers his father taking him to a Harlem hardware store where they purchased twine, a padlock and Royal Crown hair cream. He coated the lock with the hair cream and fished for coins in every sidewalk grate 145th down to 125th.

In telling these stories, Bobby's voice is happy. He enjoys sharing these memories -- memories which helped shape him into one of the most incredible human beings I've ever met. He's a living legend in Houston: social worker, Black Panther, political organizer, mentor, yard man, writer, artist and working class hero.

If you're a first-time visitor to this blog, look over to the column on the left and click on past posts about Bobby Lee:
--Writer, artist, shooter
--My mentor
--Is Jasper burning?

Like those rabbits, squirrels and raccoons -- the taste is uniquely American.

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