September 27, 2013
First of all, I can’t believe that Jocco is gone to that other place. But be assured that wherever he is, he’s with my Daddy organizing for the Revolution.
I call it The Revolution, but in reality it is only the revolution in our minds, in our thinking, that will occur when Black people are willing to cut the umbilical cord and stand up on our own as we once did, strong, proud, self-sufficient, and independent.
Jocco not only longed for that day, he worked for that day. Everything about Jocco was Black Dignity. And you cannot give as much to the community as Jocco did without a tremendous capacity for love.
So let me start there.
Smithie, Jocco LOVED you. Jocco was soooo very proud to have landed a “Spelman woman.” And believe me, everything they say about Spelman women must be true because Smithie stole Jocco’s heart.
Everyone who knows Jocco knows that Smithie is his “Spelman woman.” So, when I had the opportunity to first meet Smithie, I understood why he sneaked off to marry her. For him, it was love at first sight and he knew a good thing when he found it. Smithie was poised, graceful, articulate, beautiful to look at, and generous because she allowed Jocco to spend his every waking hour somewhere in the community.
And Smithie was good for Jocco. Before Smithie, Jocco specialized in zoot suits of the shiny pastel variety. After Smithie, Jocco was always among the best dressed men around.
Smithie, your love for Jocco was evident in the beam on Jocco’s face because he knew he when he stepped out of your home, he was at his best.
Davida, Jocco always made everyone around him sensitive to special needs. It became a calling for him; and he was rightly insulted when special needs were not incorporated into official programs or anything that we did. Jocco advocated for you and for all special needs individuals. Because of his commitment, I can truly say that
Davida, you became a part of Jocco’s identity.
So, with this solid home and family life, Jocco could go out into the world with confidence. In fact, Smithie and Davida, you gave Jocco the confidence to go out there and conquer his own fears. And conquer, he did.
Jocco loved to tell stories of his days in radio and of his time on the road with James Brown. And boy, did he have stories. But the best stories were the ones that Jocco created. His life was a novel comprised of short stories—each one more intriguing and beguiling than its predecessor.
Jocco’s work in the Congressional Office for the 11th District was a labor of love. He brought the plight of the Black Farmers to me. He got to know every Black farmer in Georgia.
We termed the 19 rural counties of the 11th Congressional District as “The Heartland.” Jocco was in love with The Heartland. Heartland people are the kind of people who discuss a problem and solutions over a meal and then surprise you with a homemade peach cobbler to take home!
And boy did we eat lots of peach cobbler! But Jocco would never eat on the road if it was close to dinner time. Because, as he often reminded us, he had a WIFE and she had dinner waiting for him when he got home.
Funny, I used to always say to him. “I think I need a wife.”
When I was going through the big redistricting ordeal that eventually dismantled the 11th District, I was trying to reach out to people to explain what was happening. Jocco could get anybody’s personal telephone number. Not the public one, but the one that they answered. I don’t know how he did it.
Perhaps Jocco’s biggest triumph was when he was able to get the braille fax number of Stevie Wonder and I was able to update Stevie on a regular basis of the perils of redistricting that we were going through at the time.
But, as you know, politics is not all about triumph. Politics also has its fair share of betrayal. And Jocco was betrayed in such a way that hurt him deeply.
Jocco was set to run for the Georgia General Assembly, for a State House seat. And he would surely win. It was redistricting time and the incumbent was not ready to leave. The Voting Rights Act required that the District in question be made so as to not disfranchise Black voters. However, in a stroke of political perfidy, Georgia’s "Good Ol' Boys" drew Jocco's home out of the district he was sure to win. They did this after having promised that the district would be drawn according to the Voting Rights Act. Because of the one-year residency requirement, Jocco was not able to run in the District; this, the Good ol’ Boys did at the very last second, just before the sound of the gavel adjourned the Legislative Session. Once again, the Good ol’ Boys of Georgia had made sure that voters' choices were artificially limited.
Jocco loved the McKinney family and took my son, Coy, as his own son. Jocco earned the keys to my house and to all of our hearts.
I’m still shaking my head because I can’t believe this is why we have reunited. Smithie and Davida, thank you for giving Jocco the freedom to fly, to become, to grow, to learn, and to love.