Angelo Herndon Lynn
My wife and I were leaders in the tenant organization at Bromley-Heath projects — one of the largest and most dilapidated housing developments in Boston. We had been mobilizing with our neighbors for a rent strike against the Boston Housing Authority — that is, against an agency of the same government which gave half of the residents their income through welfare benefits. Given this connection it almost goes without saying that no one had ever heard of a rent strike in a public housing project before.
My wife, Juliana, was now nine months pregnant. We had been going together to natural childbirth classes at Traditional Childbearing Group (TCG) for the last five months.
For the last three months Julie couldn’t get up the stairs to talk to the tenants. (The elevators were broken in most buildings, so we had to walk up and down the eleven flights.) Julie was our best organizer. It was her honesty — she wore it like a rainbow ‘round her shoulders as she stood at the doors of the residents’ apartments, explaining to them why we need to stand together to defend our rights.
On this morning, April 22nd 1980, Julie’s water broke. I called Majeeeda Amadadeen, the lead mid-wife at TCG. She got to our apartment on the sixth floor of two-seventy-nine Centre Street, “JP Projects,” about 20 minutes later with Veronica, her assistant, and mid-wife in training.
Majeeda barked out orders. I called her “The General” because she gave instructions in a crisp staccato — very clear, very precise. She created an atmosphere of deliberate confidence.
“Push! Breeeeeaaathe! Push! Breeeaathe, in, out, in out. Push!”
Julie held my arm with her fingers and squeezed/pinched. She pinched so hard that my arm turned black and blue. I figured if sharing this pain helps at least a little bit, then I’m capable of this much contribution.
Majeeda turned to Veronica and said softly and calmly, “She’s hemorrhaging.” Veronica looked at Julie bleeding and then looked off into space. Majeeda, in the same tone of voice, and firmly, said, “Call an ambulance…”
Veronica… fainted… on the spot.
Majeeda turned to me and in the same manner said, “Alexander, call an ambulance.”
Blood was pouring out from between Julie’s legs. At the same time could be seen the one inch circumference of the top of a baby’s head.
I ran to the phone. “We need an ambulance! Now! Two-seventy-nine Centre Street, Jamaica Plain, apartment number 631!”
“Stop yelling, sir. What’s the problem?”
“My wife’s giving birth in our bedroom. She’s hemorrhaging. We need an ambulance now! Two-seventy-nine Centre Street….”
We chose natural childbirth because we were against the drugs, forceps and the rest which were staple accoutrements to childbirth in the hospital at that time. We chose TCG because they were Sisters who were committed to upholding all that was honorable and righteous (and, therefore, healthy) in the way folk (Black people, especially in the South) had successfully conducted childbirth for centuries in a part of the United States where we were not allowed in hospitals.
On the negative side, my wife and I had a general experience of the hospitals in Boston as not being places where folk were received with loving kindness and meticulous care.
Veronica, the mid-wife in training, fainted because of a combination of seeing the blood spurting and the prospect of being jailed: natural childbirth in the home, the way we were doing it (that is, without the official sanction of and under the direction of someone from the White dominated for-profit health care industry of the time) was against the law.
The blood kept flowing and Majeeda was preparing to shove her third long needle filled with pro-coagulant into Julie’s thigh when a loud thud hit the front door.
I opened the door to the countenance of six ambulance personnel, in fatigues and army boots, carrying a stretcher. As they blew by me heading through the apartment towards the bedroom I had a flash of my wife being carried down the stairs, nude from her waist down and bleeding, on a stretcher held by six White men who looked like they were the militia. As this image crossed my forehead I rushed passed them to my wife’s bedside, thrust my body over the bed spread eagle, about two inches above my wife’s body.
Majeeda the General said, coolly, “Alexander, it’s OK.” And I stepped away from the bed.
The ambulance team moved to the bed, and at that moment out plopped Angelo Herndon Lynn, seven pounds, six ounce man child, crying and screaming something about being a son of a proud and struggling people, crying and screaming something about being sent by the old souls to help the living carry forward their adjurations to build, build, build, a bright future….
The baby blooped out onto the bed; General Majeeda wrapped him in clothe, wiped him down and handed him to me. In the background of this new born wrapped in my arms, came a singing/chirping from Julie, now become hummingbird: “I’m a mother! I’m a mother! I’m a mother!…”
Angelo’s namesake was a great leader of his people during the depression of the 1930’s. Angelo Herndon led a strike of 10,000 starving share croppers (tenant farmers), both Black and White, in Klan dominated Georgia, and won the first public assistance in the history of that state.
Two months after Angelo’s birth Bromley-Heath Tenants Organization won the first ever rent strike in a public housing development in the history of Massachusetts public housing.
Thirty-seven-year-old Angelo Herndon Lynn is today a computer analyst for IBM residing in Atlanta Georgia.