• The Big O

A moving moment between my father and my son.


I witnessed a powerful moment yesterday between my father and my son. My son, Omari, was moving into Mertz Hall on the Loyola University Chicago campus. My father, James Salisbury Sr. who is nearing 75 years young, made the trip out to Chicago from Rocky Mount, North Carolina to be part of the move in process and to be present as Omari started his college life.

My father brought along a special gift for Omari, a photo frame that my father put together and in the left frame was a picture of my father when he was about Omari’s age and was the College Photographer at Elizabeth City State University in Elizabeth City, North Carolina.

My father’s passion for photography as a youth earned him a full ride scholarship to ECSU with the sole mandate to capture as much of college life and culture as possible. This was a job that my father took very seriously, and my father went on to have an illustrious career in photography which along the way included opening the very first Black owned photography studio in the entire Pacific Northwest nearly 40 years ago.

Me, Little O, and my dad outside of Mertz Hall on the Loyola University Chicago campus.

On the right side of the picture frame, is a photo of Omari, who has found a passion in photography and media and will be studying broadcasting at Loyola. Omari who his whole life has been around media as he watched me work and at times worked with me all over the world, had never shown any indication of wanting to pursue a career in media until about a year ago and since then he is very focused on carving his own path.

With tears in his eyes, my father reached into his suitcase and pulled out the picture frame which was closed. Omari asks, “why are you crying” my father said, “because I am so proud of you” and hands Omari the photo frame. Omari opens it and see’s his grandfather in the left frame and himself in the right frame, both in a similar pose. In the left frame is one who’s history has been written and on the right is one whose best is yet to come. In that very brief but powerful moment a metaphorical torch seemed to be passed between my father to my son.

Later in the day as my father and I slowly strolled across the well-manicured Loyola campus, I asked my father why he was so emotional earlier in the day. He told me that his father, my Grandfather, James Salisbury Jr. who was a World War II veteran only had a second-grade education told my father that his only regret was that he never was able to go to school. My father said he could imagine James Salisbury Sr. looking down at that moment between grandfather and grandson and smiling widely. 

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