Poem: If I should die on my way to freedom.

By James Clingman

If I should die on my way to freedom,

At least I was on my way.

At least I was on the road, pushing

against the winds of change, and

pushing against the grain, making my

way toward freedom.

At least, each morning that God blessed me to awaken and put my feet on the floor, I stood up and stood tall, put one foot in front of the other and began that day once again, on my way to freedom.

At least I was on my way, each day with my Queen Jocelyn and my precious children around me – and each moment – pressing toward a future in which they would finally be able to rest from our long and harrowing journey. I knew there would be no rest for me, ‘cause I was on my way to freedom, and freedom is always an uphill climb.

But, if I should die on my way to freedom, at least I was on my way. Unlike some of the Children of Israel, unlike some on Harriet Tubman’s freedom train, and unlike some of our brothers and sisters today, I was always determined to go forward. I was making my way to freedom, and nothing would turn me around.

At least I was standing, but NEVER standing still.

At least I was walking, and NEVER looking back.

At least I was running, but NEVER running in place.

At least I was striving, but NEVER striving in vain.

If I should die on my way to the sweet light of freedom, at least on my journey the view changed everyday.
At least I met and loved new brothers and sisters along the way.
At least I persevered, pressed on, kept going, despite the daily roadblocks.
At least I trusted God to make a way for me out of no way, and He always did, because He never fails.

If I should die on my way to freedom, there’s just one thing that I ask. Put your arms of love around my Queen and my children and keep going! Fill my space with someone strong and unafraid, someone who can chart new courses, someone who loves and trusts his people enough to continue on to freedom.

If I should die on my way to freedom, whether I am leading or following, pass the word down the line, distribute portions of my essence to my dear brothers and sisters, and tell them to keep going. Tell them I’m watching them, and tell them I love them. Tell them the chain is not broken; it just got stuck for a little while as we were going through a tight space. Tell them what I told them when we had our family talks. “Let’s go get our freedom,” the MATAH rallying cry.

So, if I should die on my way to freedom, don’t linger too long at my grave. Don’t stay too long in your grief. Give those hugs, and give that love; shed those tears, but dry your eyes. Get back on the road to freedom so you will be able to say, “If I should die on my way to freedom, at least I was on my way.”

Dedicated to Brother Ken Bridges,

October 11, 2002

Ken Bridges Day

Ken Bridges Day, June 24th is primarily a day of remembrance to honor our fallen ancestor, MATAH co-founder, author, visionary, hero, Ken Bridges. Remember, Ken was assassinated Friday, 10.11.02, during the Wash., D.C. area sniper attacks. Additionally, it’s a day to honor all our ancestors who understood the importance of developing the Black economy: Madame C.J. Walker, Marcus Garvey, S.B. Fuller, A.G. Gaston, Booker T. Washington, Reginald Lewis, Amos Wilson, etc. All conscious Africans should commit to using Black produced products in their homes by ‘giving and buying’ Black from Black owned businesses to help build our economy and children’s future.

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“All I have I have given you. I have sacrificed my home and my loving wife for you.  I entrust her to your charge… I have left her penniless and helpless to face the world, because I gave all, but her courage is great, and I know she will hold up for you and me…”  Marcus Garvey, Letter from Atlanta jail.

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Recalling a father and worthy friend by Kenny Waters

ken1Snipers took his life, but local businessman left legacy of uplifting people

By Kenny Waters, Philadelphia Tribune Staff Writer – October 25, 2005

Inspired throughout his life to uplift people of African descent while empowering the economic state of Blacks, Kenneth Bridges was a unique individual to many. Sadly, leaving a business meeting in Washington, D.C., three years ago this month, Bridges was fatally shot and killed, becoming a victim of the Washington area snipers, John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo.

A family-oriented man, Bridges viewed his six children and wife as being a blessing from God. He was also known as a man who balanced the love he had for his family with the passion he had for strengthening the Black community.
“He was a sincere brother with a genuine love for uplifting people of African descent,” said Bridges’ older son, Justin. “I was truly blessed to have him as a father, and he was one of the realist men I have ever met,” Justin Bridges said. “He loved and cared for his family and was all about providing for them.”
With his wife, Jocelyn, Bridges loved his children, from the oldest to the youngest: Aja, April, Justin, Joshua, Alana, and Alyssa. They collectively describe their father as being a loving and caring man, who thought family first, by all means, then his community. Only April and Justin were able to talk to the Tribune on the anniversary of their father’s death.

“The brother was a serious family man and serious community worker who was consumed to his environment,” Justin said. “There are most leaders that have egos; he was the complete opposite (and) could care less about the spotlight.”
At one point, Bridges privately published a book on what he thought was essential to life. “He wrote a book that he dedicated to us on what he thought would benefit us in becoming adults,” said his daughter April. “He wrote it because he said that he would not always be here and that we needed something that would keep us moving forward.” Passionate and committed to making his race consciously aware of the economy and what it could do to help the African-American community, Bridges traveled around the globe trying to increase the idea of investing in the Black society. “Ken’s passion was helping Black people,” said business partner and good friend Gregory Montgomery. “He preached for us to move to mental freedom, and – as he would say – for us to remove ourselves from the Willy-Chip – an inferior mental condition Black people had. He wanted Blacks to raise their conscious and understand who they are.”

children“He was an extremely unique individual who had insight on people,” said close friend to the family Bob Lott. Lott was one the three people to speak with Bridges within 45 minutes of his death. “He should be mentioned with the likes of Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a powerful speaker who was always up beat,” Lott said. “I had an opportunity to go with him on a few business trips, and the whole time he could be on the phone with someone in another time-zone, go to a meeting, then leave the meeting, and be back on the phone conducting more business,” Lott said.
“We could get back to the hotel from a long day of meetings and traveling around 11, and I would be beat, but he would be up 5 a.m. on the phone as a guest on some radio or talk show some where. He was always on the top of his game mentally, and always thinking of ways of uplifting people of African descent. He just had an unqualified love for Black people, and when talking about what he has done or did, I don’t know where to start.”

Bridges was an educated businessman with a graduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He had a vision to establish a vehicle that would redirect the spending habits of African Americans. Justin Bridges said his father wanted his people to concentrate on spending money that would benefit the community. “He wanted people to think of ways they could use their money to create businesses and institutions,” he said. “He wanted Black people to become consciously aware of their spending habits.” It has been reported that Black America spends over $750 billion annually – the seventh richest economic engine in the world. Bridges’ background in business led him to a successful marketing executive position at the Scott Paper Co. in the early ’80s, but after a few years he felt compelled to start his own business. He believed he could not achieve “true freedom” working for corporate America, and he eventually resigned from Scott Paper to focus his attentions on his part-time business.
Many questioned his motive for leaving a life filled with the perks of being a top executive, but Bridges had a life-long commitment to his people and to himself. After leaving corporate America, he got involved in Amway, a multi-level national marketing system, where he was able to establish relationships with over 3,000 distributors across the country.

ken2There he reached the highest rung of success – the Diamond Direct Distributor level. But he decided to leave the company after unsuccessful attempts to get Black-owned and produced products through Amway’s channel of distribution. He then decided to cancel operations, but made a pact to himself, that he would return to the world of distribution when the right time presented itself.

Approximately one year later, Bridges jumped back onto the scene with graduate school buddy Al Wellington to form People Organizing and Working for Economic Rebirth. P.O.W.E.R. was a direct sales business designed to create a channel of distributed goods and services manufactured and produced by people of African descent. Through this organization Bridges was able to build friendships and networking relationships with a lot of well-known African Americans. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan served as P.O.W.E.R.’s national spokesman and George Johnson, owner of Johnson Products Co., agreed to become its first product manufacturer.

The business looked like it was on the right path, but folded due to various circumstances. It was not until 1995, the year of the Million Man March, and some intuitive research that Bridges and business partner Wellington would finally reconstruct their vision of a Black channel of distribution company and form what is known today as the MATAH Network.

Established in 1997, MATAH – meaning, “ those people of African descent who give and buy Black” – was designed as a vehicle dedicated to the economic, spiritual and social upliftment of people of African Americans. “MATAH is genius work and not because it’s my fathers business, but because it links up manufacturing companies that are geared toward bringing money back into the Black community,” Justin said. “It’s not a capital-driven organization. It’s Black people using their money as power. It’s basically helping to build a Black nation. (That was) what my father always talked about. Making people aware of internal reparation.”

“We have to continue to keep his dream alive, and we’re reaching out to the community for support, especially from Philly,” said April, who now serves as the customer service representative for MATAH. “It’s been kind of difficult because he was the heart of the organization, and we know when you lose the heart of something it’s difficult, but where still here,” she said.

ken4Justin Bridges is still hosting the talk show his father started with him. Initially, the elder Bridges gave his perspective on internal reparations from an adult view, while Justin voiced his opinions as a young adult. “MATAH Rebel Black Waves Internal Reparations” is aired on 900-AM on Saturdays evenings from 7-8:30 p.m. The family and close friends of the Bridges are diligently working to establish the Ken Bridges Foundation, and are acknowledging July 24, his birthday, as Ken Bridges Day.

“We are trying to find a way to put him in the history books,” Lott said. “We are working on a documentary of his life and his vision – people need to know what he did.”

Philadelphia Tribune article recreated with photos by Bob Lott.

Ken Bridges: First and Lasts by Franklin Mayfield

The first time that I heard Ken speak, I felt as those who heard Malcom, King or Frederick Douglas speak, the need was never so clear, the urgency was never so close, and the love for our people was never so great. This man was about the sacrifice for me, for us, and our future.

Time after time, meeting after meeting, my appreciation for Ken has only grown. I have told my family that this man, these men, are men of history. That what they do today will impact our people for generations. I count it an honor to give them my strength.

The last time that I saw him, we were talking about the importance of the work for our people. The last thing he was doing was handling the business of Black economic empowerment. The last struggle that he has had is over.

The greatness of the humility of Ken Bridges was only overshadowed by the greatness of the challenge. And that challenge is now ours. Our bother has joined the ancestors. And as a Christian, I believe he is receiving his rewards right now. Look up, because we have a great cloud of witnesses, cheering us on, Ken is now in that crowd, saying, “fight for freedom, uplift the broken, open the minds of the deceived, empower the weak. Be strong MATAH be strong!

The first time that I meet Ken Bridges, was during a meeting in which he and Greg drove down to meet us in Cincinnati. To discuss the vision of MATAH’s internet initiative and to check us out. To make sure, that the technology arm of MATAH would be in good hands. What I saw was a brother of vision, insight and deep love of our people.

Internal Reparations by Ken Bridges

`Reparations is mostly about making repairs, on ourselves: mental repairs, cultural repairs, institutional repairs, economic repairs …. repairs of every type that we need in order to recreate and sustain viable Black societies.` Professor Chinweizu, First Pan African Conference on Reparations, 1993.

Two Forms of Reparation:

External – What we receive from the U.S. Government and U.S. and foreign corporations for their part in slavery, which was a crime against humanity.

Internal – What we give to ourselves, love of self and love of race, leading to significantly more Giving and Buying Black in particular and in general, supporting pro Black initiatives.

What is Our Strategy

Work on both simultaneously. However, it is clear that if we got External Reparations today, we would give 95% of the financial benefits to everybody except other Black people. That`s what we do right now to our nearly $600 Billion consumption spending power. Now when we give ourselves Internal Reparations, or internal repair, we will love our race and ourselves more.

What Are Some Things That You Can Do To Bring About Internal Reparations?

Step 1. Know Thyself … Get more knowledge about who you are as a descendant of Ancient Africans. Go to Black Book Stores to purchase material, ask the store owner for their recommendations, we recommend, Journey of the Songhai People by Dr. Edward Robinson, Jr.

Step 2. Join organizations with like minded people. For example, people who believe that `They Owe Us` External Reparations and `We owe ourselves` Internal Reparations. Today you can join N`COBRA, December 12th Movement, NBUF, UNIA, NBPP, MATAH, etc.

Step 3. Participate in MATAH Network, the only national Black owned Channel of Distribution, linking up Black Producers with Black Consumers for the purpose of keeping the Black dollar in Blacks hands much longer. This vehicle creates the opportunity for personal wealth, organizational wealth, business wealth and thereby, community wealth. Become a consumer or Business Center with MATAH today.

Step 4 Start Giving and Buying Black as much as possible. Start today with the Vendors at this event and the non profit organizations with booths here today.

MATAH Network`s Role In Internal Reparations

MATAH is a five year old Black Channel of Distribution, featuring hundreds of products made primarily by people of African descent and consumed primarily by people of African descent. The need for MATAH is apparent when we look at two deplorable financial statistics regarding Black
people:

– While our consumption spending power is impressive, nearly $600 Billion annually, we consistently give over 95% of this to non Black owned businesses. In short, we make other people wealthy, while Black owned businesses are not adequately supported.

– The 1997 census revealed that Black owned businesses accounted for a pitiful .4% of the total business receipts. We represent 12% of the population and only .4% of the business receipts???

We have enough collective wealth to literally wipe out Black unemployment, which would raise income and hope and thereby stimulate a severe reduction in crime. The solution is to simply re-direct more of our own dollars back to ourselves. This is Internal Reparations.

MATAH Network is a business that is organizing a movement of the MATAH (people of African descent who Give and Buy Black) to re-direct more of their consumption spending to MATAH, the Black Channel. This will keep Black dollars in Black hands longer. This too, is Internal Reparations. Here is some of the good that will come from

– Increased Personal Wealth

– Increased Organizational Wealth

– Increased Business Wealth

– Increased Institutional Wealth

– Increased Community Wealth

How You Can Participate?

Become a Network Business Center (NBC) … This can be an individual, an organization, a Church, a business, a school, or other Black owned institution. NBC`s create a revenue stream for themselves by selling MATAH products and putting other Black people or institutions in business as a NBC. The cost is $65.00 for a Literature Kit or $175.00 for a Product and Literature Kit. (Recommended)

Become a Network Consumer (NC) … Get on the monthly AutoShip program to ensure consistently Giving and Buying Black.


NOTE: MATAH is not currently operating, so references to purchasing products or membership from MATAH do not currently apply. Complete text above is for historical purposes.