Interview with Nicole King: Sister wants to undo the slave mentality

| November 10, 2015
Eric Hackley

Eric Hackley

By Eric D. Hackley

Editor’s note: The following is the second installment in a three-part series writer, historian and television producer Eric Hackley has developed to find out and share with the public why some Fort Wayne residents went to the recent Justice Or Else march commemorating the 20th anniversary of the MIllion Man March and what thoughts, ideas and plans they brought back to the city. Scroll to the bottom of the article to watch video of this interview.

ERIC HACKLEY: Nicole, you recently attended the Oct. 10, 2015 “Justice or Else” Million Man March.  What exactly does “Justice or Else” really mean to you?

Nicole KingMS. NICOLE KING:  For me, it was about finding equality and a group understanding among all of us. It was the first time I’ve been around so many of us from different ethnicities, who were raised differently, who all felt the same way about the treatment of my fellow brothers and sisters. So “Justice or Else” for me was about finding the meaning of “equality.”  Not what was given to me as the meaning of “equality” but what we are viewing it as this current day.

Why did you go to the March?

MS. KING:  I went because I have a 14-year-old son.  I was not born and raised in Fort Wayne.  I was born in Connecticut which is a very big melting pot. I also grew up in Jersey where I was around Jewish, Italians, blacks, Cubans, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Then I moved to Gary, Ind. which was all black.  Then I went away to college and had cultural shock because for me, my entire graduating class at Lew Wallace High School in Gary was black. All of my teachers were black.

So when I went away to college, I had cultural shock because I was not in the majority anymore. When I moved to Fort Wayne, there was something I noticed.  In Fort Wayne, they don’t seem to worry as much about color here and they do about the bottom line dollars.  My son, I do not see him staying in Fort Wayne.  I wanted him to get a feel for what his people were facing outside of this small community. As big as Fort Wayne is, it’s more of a country town in a city setting.

I wanted my 14-year-old son to see and feel the power of us when we’re gathered together for the purpose of unity. He had never experienced that.  We go to church together and there’s a group of us at church.  Or we’ll go to a basketball game and there’ll be a group of us at the basketball game.  But who is showing my son that when we gather, that it’s more about our rights and about how we are being viewed.  I needed him to see something other than what we’re being displayed on TV for us in context to Ferguson or Baltimore.  I needed for him to see besides that. And that’s exactly what happened. He was empowered! When he got to the car the first thing he said was, “I’m even more focused.”  I knew that I had a good kid but for him, he saw that he had to set an example.  So it wasn’t so much for me, because I had grown up seeing so much. It was for him because I knew that he had not.

HACKLEY:  How were your eyes re-opened?

MS. KING: For me, one of the biggest eye opening experience was that although we all lived in different corners of the earth, we were all interpreting the world the same way.  We were all seeing that we don’t hold a majority vote. We see ourselves everywhere but we’re not depicted very fairly.  We don’t feel like our voices are being heard and we were unified in that opinion.

When I came back, one of my biggest concerns was that everyone’s attitude was “So what? Well you had the march, now what?”  But it was the momentum the marches bring.  Every year more people are being made aware. More people are hearing the struggle.  When my son saw Sandra Bland’s family come up and Tamir Rice’s family come up and Eric Garner’s family, it became real for him. It was not a TV story.  Those were breathing heartbeats standing that he was seeing on that stage.

There is strength in numbers. The more that are gathered, you feel that backing. I felt the strength behind my brothers and sisters.  I had never seen these people before, but yet I stood arm and arm with them.  We cheered at the same things.  Smiled at the same things.  We became disenchanted at the same parts concerning how we’re being treated.

I don’t think we in Fort Wayne gather like that. Individually, we’ll do things. But churches don’t group together anymore like they use to. They have views over here and over there.  But for this one day, we were all brought together. I realized we all see things the same way. No matter where you’re living, you’re faced with the same struggles that I am.  My son’s will be faced with the same struggles as men from California are.  It was empowering because people who lived that life, gave him a voice. Gave him words to use, he learned new terms.  He no longer calls himself black. He now calls himself indigenous because of something he heard there. It wasn’t that I had taught him wrong, it was just that he interpreted himself a different way after being around so many of us.

HACKLEY: You mentioned that individually we’ll do things, but collectively we don’t.  It seems part of that fear is, we don’t want to upset white people.

MS. KING: I agree.  I agree that sometimes that slave mentality of pleasing the “massa” comes through as, it’s kind of hard to undo repeated behavior. It’s said that it takes 21 days to create a new habit.  Well over years and years, imagine the nature vs. nurture that has gone into training us.  Because we were trained. We were taught to behave a certain way.  It’s hard to undo that when it’s been passed down from generation to generation.

The Million Man March was not about being angry. It was about being organized and having direction. If you were listening, there were examples, options and opportunities given for you to explore those options.  There were committees for you to join. What it comes down to now is each one teach one. What I have learned is, it would not be fair if I just kept the information to myself. It is now my job now that I know this.  I know there are committees.  I know that the Nation of Islam is buying land to build houses and farms and flourish beyond what is provided to us.

That slave mentality is something that must be undone. It was a learned behavior that must be unlearned. We don’t really empower each other to learn. When one brother gets knowledge, he tends not to share. He uses it as collateral, something to look down on another brother.  I want to undo as much of that as I can.

I had a post that said, “we always speak about black people as being the crabs in the barrel.”  But the problem is, the barrel is not the crab’s natural habitat. It learns to survive in the barrel and the way in which it learns to survive is to pull the person in front of him down in so he can move up.  We have to realize that we are given many opportunities and gifts and we have to share them and spread them so we don’t feel so competitive amongst each other.  Then we do feel like sharing, and we’re not very good at that. And part of that is from that slave mentality.

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Category: Civil Rights, Local, National, People, Special Reports

About the Author ()

Eric Hackley is a veteran independent journalist, television show host and producer focusing largely on history, particularly family history in the black community. His award-winning public access television shows have featured a host of local and national icons. Hackley can be contacted at

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