TRULA’S OPEN LETTER TO THE YOUTH OF TODAY (A Legacy Story)
The words delivered by Officer Trula Ann Godwin, Davenport Police Department
In recent national news coverage, a young man was heralded as a hero for rescuing a couple from a burning mobile home in Mississippi. What made this story so spectacular to the media was the fact that the young man was African-American, the couple was white, and outside their mobile home flew a confederate flag. Add to that information the fact the young man was returning home just having viewed the movie “Rosewood”. (http://www.displaysforschools.com/history.html)
Here was a young man who had just seen a movie about a white hate mob wiping out an entire community of African-Americans leaving no trace that the community had ever existed. Suddenly he witnesses a burning trailer flying a Confederate flag that often is today’s emblem of membership in such a hate group.
This young man not only stopped to help, but he saved the two people inside which required going into the flaming inferno, and then giving them CPR. The couple inside told the media that medical personnel told them, another two or three minutes and they could not have been saved. The husband who was pulled to safety first said when he looked at the burning trailer, he was not sure he would have risked going back in for his wife as it looked so hopeless.
The young hero made a decision based on his hope that there is good in this world, though it may only have been in him. He did not judge the situation by what he saw, or what he could have “thought” he saw. Recently reunited with the couple he saved, he was embraced by them both, thanked and assured no Confederate flag would ever fly at their house again. Even though their flag had no association with a hate group or intended racist attitude, they now understood what it meant to him.
My challenge to the African-American youth of today is the same as my challenge to the White youth , Asian youth, Native American youth and indeed all youth. Take responsibility for all that you think, believe and act on. Do not let hate, bigotry and prejudice from the past or present lead you to destroy the future. Be strong in your pursuit of justice, and let it be justice for all.
Have faith and hope in this nation and its future. Never let anyone take your heritage from you. You were born in the greatest nation with the most freedom of any place in this world. Do not let negative history become so ingrained in you that you destine yourself, your family and this country to repeat it’s mistakes.
Be responsible to communicate with others, to bury fear of being different, and in fact learn to embrace it. It is your birthright and your true “Heritage”.
Believing in your future, I thank you.
Trula Ann Godwin.
This letter was delivered as part of my sister’s last career speech. As a police officer she loved this invitation to speak more than any other. As a white police officer she felt most honored to be asked. It was the invitation to speak at the yearly Conference of Black Youth. Indeed, though she was ill from cancer treatments, she delivered the speech as her last official outreach before leaving the force after twenty seven years to battle her breast cancer.
She always wanted to be sure whatever she was going to say, was said in a manner that conveyed respect and lifted her listeners up. She never forgot where she came from and that she had lived growing up first- hand in the segregated south. She wanted to be sure that when they honored her by asking her to speak, she honored them in what she would say.
Trula had learned firsthand the bitterness and pain of racism when she married the first black police officer from an adjoining city. His home was fired on and his family threatened when he first went on the force. After their marriage, each served on integrated police forces of bordering states, and were shunned by many.
Having suffered discrimination being only the second woman to come onto the police force, she had the experience of male officers refusing to work with her because she was female, and she had already been initiated by the Blue Code punitive retribution among officers, when she reported a policeman’s abuse of a detained black suspect.
Her new marriage caused a firestorm and she now had to suffer rejection from long time friends and fellow officers. She was the butt of cruel and vicious pranks, even in the police station where her peers were among the pranksters.
She believed in expressing herself in poetry and one of the poems she wrote and dedicated to her husband follows:
As dark as the night,
as dark as his hope
His very being cries out
for recognition beyond his hue.
At first, afraid to question,
bitter acceptance with restraint.
Born into penance to be paid
by generation after generation–
the tally never balanced.
Developing Mind, Body and Dreams
until the day of realization
That his dreams are for dreaming,
His mind is to waste.
His body is different…
And during Life’s struggle of Hope
for the blending of humanity
He questions his burdened strife–
and cries out..
“What seed was sown to beget
the destruction of My heritage?
Nourish the continuing growth of ignorance–
the indignities that bring
Despair to mind
Hate to heart
Dreams that become
Nightmares to the oppressed?”
Such was the shared legacy she experienced and now shares with you. Cancer silenced her and stilled the fingers that had so long labored to record the story of her life and experiences. She can no longer pen her unique life events, and her written words intended for a biography disappeared after her death. Her legacy lives on in the lives and issues she challenged and changed.
The dignity of her last words, her personal eulogy if you will, further illustrates that she overcame the hate and the vicious attacks and died more than a survivor, she died a victor.
A EULOGY FOR TRULA BY TRULA 1940-2002
At the funeral services there were simple flyers handed out with a picture of a field of flowers on them. This simple statement was left as her parting thoughts.
To each and everyone who touched my life each in your own way, I want to say “thank you….a very special thank you”.
Some touched me with love and compassion, standing beside me through trials and tribulations. Others became my inspiration, helping me to view life through a different light or guide me to a new path…a path yet to be explored.
There are many who touched my life as an instrument of learning, therefore a short but impressionable time.
Yet others touched me with tears or pain, you too were important.You taught me tolerance, compassion and forgiveness.
Each in your own way, loved ones, friends and acquaintances made me what I am. I grew to like myself…because of you.
To see the website of the organization started posthumously use this website. It is a site that worked with victim/survivors to go underground and has an underground mail system to sustain victims. http://www.trulagodwinproject.webs.com/
My sister Trula succumbed to complications of breast cancer after years of struggle December 23, 2002. It ended her long career in her beloved police work unceremoniously, and with regret. In the moment she could have said anything to anyone via her eulogy and funeral, the words above are there to tell you the essence of who she was at her death. I think she was very generous in her good-bye.