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I Made a Vow to Make a Difference in People’s Lives

My dad was the best person I’ve ever met,” Isaiah “Ike” McKinnon says simply. “He grew up in Alabama, the son of farmers and grandson of enslaved people. He played in the Negro League before starting his family, catching for Booker T. Brunion and earning the respect of Satchel Paige. He had to move north when Ku Klux Klansmen tried to kill him for speaking up for Black workers’ rights to organize a union.

“He left school in the second grade, and lacked confidence reading and writing his whole life. But oh, did he tell stories! I guess I got that from him, along with his work ethic and his ability to forgive. Dad was the standard-bearer for who I am.

“Another man shaped my life in a different way. A Detroit police officer, Rotation Slim, was one of the ‘Big Four’  – a scout car of White cops who terrorized my neighborhood in the 1950s. I had just started at Cass Technical High School, and had gotten a ride home from a neighbor, when a police cruiser pulled us over. Rotation Slim and his partner jumped out. He was a tall, gangly man with dark hair and a reputation for assaulting and even killing a few Black people, and there was never any recourse for his victims.

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