By: Donald V. Watkins
Copyrighted and Published on April 21, 2022
On April 12, 2022, I received an unexpected letter of inspiration from Mr. Willie Kibiru of Marietta, Georgia, dated April 7, 2022. Nineteen years ago, Mr. Kibiru was a valet attendant who parked cars for patrons of Lou's Pub in the Lakeside Entertainment District located on the Southside of Birmingham, Alabama (USA). At the time, Lou's Pub was my favorite local "Watering Hole."
I remember Mr. Kibiru well. He was always courteous, very professional, inquisitive in a respectful way, and personable. Mr. Kibiru was then, and is now, an impressive man with a bright future. He is a shining example of what we can become when we appreciate all of God's children.
My family and I will cherish Mr. Kibiru's kind words for a life-time. We are thrilled to be included in Mr. Kibiru's friendship circle.
When I first met Mr. Kibiru, I was the lead attorney in the Birmingham federal court case of USA v. Richard Scrushy, who was accused of leading a $2.7 billion accounting fraud scheme at HealthSouth, Inc. From 2003 to 2005, Mr. Scrushy was successful in defeating all 85 felony charges listed in his original 2013 Indictment. No lawyer prior to or after Mr. Scrushy's case has defeated 85 felony charges in a single-defendant case. It is a winning record in American jurisprudence that still stands to this day.
Mr. Kibiru watched the 2020 Netflix documentary on the Scrushy case titled, "Trial by Media;" Episode 4, "King Richard." The documentary reminded him of the many talks I had with members of the news media, local attorneys, and patrons at Lou's who inundated me with questions and comments about the Scrushy case. During this period of time, Mr. Kibiru and I discussed my life and experiences as an African-American in the Deep South.
Here are Mr. Kibiru's inspirational words to me:
"Your life was an inspiration then before social media and more so today as I get to follow your world-class journalism rooted in truth at whatever cost. Reading through your articles has taken me through the underbelly of this great civilization that is America. It has also highlighted the beauty and the ingenuity that has made America a superpower and explained why America continues to be a destination for many across the globe who believe in a greater and better society for all. For many of us who immigrated here as adults, we can easily miss the sacrifices made for us to enjoy the freedom and space to pursue our wildest dreams.
Thank you for the legal fights that you have taken on in Alabama and across the country to ensure that the pursuit of happiness in America is for all humans equally. You have taken the high road to social justice by speaking truth at a high price to a country that you love even though you have done really well for yourself and could have chosen to live in the confines and comfort of wealth. Because of that audacity, the world will realize some deeper consciousness and our civilization will be more just than the one we found.
I used to read Voter News Network [a Watkins-published newspaper for Independent voters] and it informed my political leanings. By observing you from a distance, I have learned that the pursuit of truth and justice needs an independent mind. I have also learned that it can be expensive, but you have to be willing to pay the ultimate price to live in freedom.
I can only imagine what it is to take on an establishment like the state government of Alabama as an American of African descent, standing up against the powerful elite in a court system that at a point never acknowledged your credentials as an outstanding attorney, that even used racist epithets against you in a court where you served as a lawyer and a world-class lawyer for that matter.
Your life is a stream of fresh water that clearly cannot be contained. You have continued to water the souls that you have encountered with freedom, whether its helping the people you are in prison with to attain their freedom, or inspiring people like me through living out your freedom behind bars. Watching you live this persecution with grace has taught me that a liberated man can NEVER be enslaved with chains, and the unchained are not necessarily liberated.
I have developed a curiosity about money and obviously it was breathtaking to read your article about the Rothschild family [which has been viewed by more that 186,000 readers worldwide] and their grip on the global money supply. I am aware that, against all odds, you were able to establish a bank in Alabama that was able to put forth impressive numbers even throughout an economic crisis.
One thing I have observed about you is this: You have a strong belief in your ability to perform at the highest level. Even though there are affirmative action programs available for minorities, you have chosen to beat your competition even on uneven grounds. I deducted that from your pursuit to buy the Angels baseball team [in 2003-2004]. I detailed all of the above to express my gratitude that I was able to watch from close by, being a valet, and to be able to follow you over the years.
I can admit that over time, I have become a student of Watkinsism. What I would describe as Watkinsism is: 'A boldness rooted in family pride with the conviction that we are children of God almighty with a birthright to live in liberty and to extend the same to others.'
Today, I have two sons and I run a small cleaning business. I feel the weight to give them more owing to what I know, and I will. I watched a video on YouTube as you got emotional talking about Mr. Ramus Rhodes, of whom to you was the [law school] professor who was never honored. You even went on to write about him as you served in the prison dining room. He sure has stuck around even after you graduated from law school. His spirit lives on because what he did then was not as a vocation, but was born out of love. As a cleaner myself, that story spoke to me that there can be a higher calling in any vocation.
Mr. Watkins, to be honest, I don't feel sorry for you, for I can see the grace by which you have navigated through this. I am angry that the same state that you have served throughout your life has taken you away from your family and I continue to pray that you will not miss a day in your life even behind bars or in the "Hole."
May the grace of God be upon you, your children, and your grandchildren as they miss you in the special family occasions and, just like Joseph, may what was meant to harm you be that which God meant for good.
Be of good cheer and as for me, I will take the lessons that I have had the privilege to learn from you to build a firm family legacy. Thank you very much for living a righteous life and if I can be of service in any manner beyond prayer, it will be a great honor to serve a man who has given so much to humanity."
My Open Reply Letter to Mr. Kibiru
Dear Mr. Kibiru,
Your words of inspiration have humbled my family and me. I am glad that God allowed our lives to intersect nineteen years ago. I am also happy that the way I have lived my life has had a positive and lasting impact upon your life.
As you travel along the road of life, there are two guideposts that will help you navigate the difficult times ahead. They come in the form of two songs I listen to everyday. They will give you the positive energy you need to rise above the hatred, envy, and limitations of the misguided men and women who oppose our growth in a multicultural and diverse society.
I start my day by listening to the 9:51 minute version of "Wide as the Sky," by gospel singer Isabel Davis. It enables me to endure any amount of abuse, pain and suffering in the course of life. For nearly two hundred years and six generations, the Carmichael/Varnado/Watkins family has adhered to the message in "Wide as the Sky" to protect our family during every dark era in this nation's history. There is no higher power than God and no greater force than His unconditional love for humanity.
I end my day listening to the 7:54 minute version of "God Favored Me," by Rev. Hezekiah Walker. On April 25, 2021, I published an article titled, "God Favored Me." The article talked about how God favored me in a big way in spite of the hatred of my enemies.
God has shown me throughout my entire life that I am one of the most blessed men in the history of mankind. I have been loved by way more people than those who hate me.
What is more, I have witnessed God raise up the name of Mr. Ramus Rhodes, the brilliant janitor at the University of Alabama law school who molded me into a fierce and effective warrior for social justice. Mr. Rhodes' good name and enduring contributions to humanity are known around the world. Mr. Rhodes is more famous and respected than any of the federal judges and prosecutors who tried to tear me down.
In closing Mr. Kibiru, I ask that you share your love for humanity as you grow in business and prosper in life. We are the ones God has chosen to stand up for the "least of theses," at any personal price. We must also raise up a whole new generation of strong-minded and positive thinking human beings, and we must do it one person at a time.
God favored you, as He did me. He gave both of us the greatest gift of all -- our ability to love humanity, without seeking favor, recognition, or a reward for doing so. We are truly blessed!
Thanks for your friendship!
Donald V. Watkins