I speak at a lot of schools across the country, and I’ve encountered a trend that drives me freakin’ nuts. I always ask students the following question:
“How many of you want to be a professional athlete or a rapper?”
At inner-city, mostly African American schools, nearly every hand shoots up. When I ask the same question in a white suburban school, maybe 10 percent of hands are raised. I speak to a lot of schools, and this happens without fail.
I tell black kids all the time, “You ain’t gonna be me.” Even if you’re any good on the court, the odds are stacked against you. But I can tell from the blank way they look back at me: They’re putting all their eggs in this totally unlikely basket. But I get why. Young black kids get from the media an unrealistic picture of African American success. Athletes and rappers, with Denzel and Oprah thrown in.
So to mark Black History Month here at The Citizen, I’m going to introduce you every day to my Philadelphia Black History Month All-Stars. Many of them didn’t make it into the history books or even the newspapers of their time. But their stories are inspiring and worth knowing.
Walter P. Lomax, Jr.
Walter P. Lomax, Jr.
(July 31, 1932 - October 10, 2013)
Walter Lomax opened his first South Philly medical practice in 1958, where 10 years later he treated Martin Luther King, Jr. for a respiratory infection. He expanded to six health clinics, with over 20 doctors, and Correctional Healthcare Solutions, which sent doctors to 70 prisons in 10 states. He also founded Lomax Companies, an umbrella for several businesses, including radio station WURD. And he contributed to various African and African-American causes, both personally and through his Lomax Family Foundation. In 1994, he bought the plantation in Virginia where his great-grandmother, and hundreds of others, had been enslaved—what Michael Coard in Philly Mag rightly described as an “expression of real black power.”
- La Salle University and Hahnemann University Hospital
- Lincoln University, Hon. ScD
- Formed Lomax Companies, an umbrella group that includes Lomax Real Estate Partners, Prime Image and MyArtistDNA, and 900AM-WURD
- Founded the Lomax Family Foundation
- Bought the Virginia plantation where his great-grandmother was a slave
Lomax “was a trailblazer who showed many in the African American business community what was possible with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of hard work,” City Council President Darrell Clarke said after Lomax died. “Dr. Lomax did not just show us how to succeed; he demonstrated the importance of giving back to the community.”
Home page image: North Philadelphia Heroes © City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program / Cliff Eubanks. Photo by Kevin Slattery