Do you remember when Grambling’s very own Sonic Drive-In, right off of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, was vandalized and burnt down (circa 1996)? Well I do, because more than a few individuals blamed me for its demise; especially the mayor, the FBI, the ATF, and a host of other concerned citizens. Actually, I remember it like it was yesterday. Revolution was in the air, but so was retribution. And yours truly was cast as public enemy number one.
But what did I do to deserve that, anyway?
1. At the time, I owned Black to the Basics, an Afrocentric bookstore, located in the “village.”
2. I had a reputation for being quite vocal when it came to my political beliefs. “I got a letter from the government, the other day…”
3. And like many of our peers back then, I, too, had adopted Black Nationalism as my attitude. “Fight the Power! Fight the Power!”
4. But my real crime, I believe, was my inflexible belief that all major businesses in the town should be Black-owned.
Actually, it all started when we found out that the very land that the old Sonic still sits on, today, was sold to the other man instead of the brother man or woman. And to me, that felt like a slap in the face. So, in response, I made a homemade sign, and began to picket the building site.
And that’s when the harassment began. Because if remember correctly, I found myself in the back of a police car, on more than one occasion. But then, like a movie, the Sonic mysteriously caught on fire. And that’s when my troubles with law enforcement began to multiply.
Still, I sometimes regret that so many bridges were burned back then. Instead of bringing the community together, as one, we divided along economic and political differences.
But to the point, who would have thought, that almost 20 years later, the town of Grambling, our second home, would still be so underdeveloped? For example, we still don’t have a supermarket, and students were complaining about that as far back as ’88. And although we continue to see signs that a hotel is coming, that’s all we see: signs.
More importantly, once a hotel is built, God willing, will it be Black-owned? Will it be owned by those of us who have ties and roots in the community? Or will colonialism or the “great white hope,” win the day.
Anyway, what are we going to do now? For our beloved alma mater needs our help. It’s plight is constantly in the news and on Facebook, almost on a daily. Therefore, in my humble opinion, it’s time for the alumni to step up and show out, for Dear Ole Grambling. Indeed, Booker T. Washington and Charles P. Adams would expect no less.
Zoltan Sharif graduated from Grambling State in 1992.