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On Their Shoulders: Honoring the African American Contributions to Patrick Henry and America
Mr. Syid Abdullah (Father of Mr. Yusuf Abdullah) sailing on the USS Providence during the Vietnam War

We're trying to make Black History Month stretch over an entire year. We invite all staff and students to take a moment and write the answers to these simple questions:

  • Who in your family, community, and our country has inspired, motivated, and lifted your spirits to help you become a better person? 
  • What actions did they take that made you and the world a better place to live? 
  • As you stand on their shoulders what will YOU do to inspire others and also make the world a better place to live?

A great place to look for community and national leaders is at the African American Registry

Darius Hill '13 Honors His Father


When I read the words that Coach Deloney said* about my father and then look at the picture of my father when he was my age I think of how funny my dad could be.  He could make everybody, make everybody laugh with his jokes. 

My dad would tell me about playing basketball at Henry--that he was good and that he once scored 46 points in a game.  He said that Henry had good coaches and a good program.

My dad taught me triple threat which means when you catch the ball you should get down low and look to either shoot, pass, or take the dribble.  He used to tell me that I was lucky because I could shoot.  He couldn't shoot. When my dad saw me playing here as a freshman he told me that I would be playing Varsity as a sophomore and that I would be one of the main guys.  He was right.

My relationship with my father changed forever on August 15th, 2010.  I was at a friend's house.  It was about 8:00 at night and he called me to tell me he was going to pick me up.  We drove toward home and stopped at the Dairy Queen at Lyndale and then we went home.  We were eating ice cream.  Dad was upstairs and then he started coughing a lot and he was having an asthmatic reaction.  My step mom put him on his machine.  He got off and he was cool for about five minutes and then he started coughing again.  He came downstairs and my sister asked him if he was okay, and he said, "No." and then I asked him.  He didn't say anything.  He left the house and got in the car.  I stayed behind as they took off for North Memorial. 

I was watching television with my little sister and my step mom called from the hospital and told us they didn't have any news for us yet.  I called my mom and told her that I was concerned.    Pretty soon my Grandmother called and we talked.  Then my step mom called again and told us that her sister was going to pick us up and bring us to North Memorial. 

By the time we got to the Hospital everyone was crying.    My dad's sister came up to me and told me that, "Your dad died."  My auntie and I went up to see him and I cried even more.  I kissed him on the forehead and left out.

I want people to know that my dad always told me the right thing to do and every time I did what he told me to do something positive happened to me--every time.  My dad always challenged me to do better. He always told me that grades came first and that I could be the second one in the family to go to college (Gayle Smaller Jr. was the first).

My step mom and my sister got tattoos with my dad's name.  I decided to get one too.  The tattoo and my dad's memory are constant reminders of what I should do in life.   I know I'm going to go to college, though I'm not sure what I'll study as of yet.

Coach J.D. Deloney, a second year Graduate Assistant for the Men's Basketball program at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois and a '93 Graduate of Patrick Henry remembers Mr. Jodie Hill:

Being a high school student in the early and mid-1990’s was a special time for all that was a part of it.  During this time Patrick Henry High School was going through a transformational period whereas the racial and ethnic makeup of the school began to transfer from a predominately middle class white student population to an impoverished African American population.  Unlike like its rival North High School which at the time was the school of choice for Black students living on the North Side, Henry didn’t have any history associated with Blacks in north Minneapolis.  We were seen as an afterthought and treated like a stepchild in the north Minneapolis community.  Things became so dire at Patrick Henry during these times that word of Henry being closed down to lack of student enrollment was being heavily circulated throughout the community.  During all of this turmoil the Patrick Henry family became a closer knit family.  We didn’t care what the world, let alone north Minneapolis thought about us.  There was an underlying belief amongst the students that we needed to forge our own identity.  We believed that the best way to do that was through sports.  Not to take anything away from the other sports at Patrick Henry, everyone knew that in the city of Minneapolis, boy’s basketball was king.  As a result of that realization, we thought what better way to put Henry on the map than basketball?  Unfortunately, I was a junior guard by this time and our class of players was mediocre at best.  Luckily we had a very good senior class of players and a couple of good sophomore players that allowed us to be competitive.  I knew that if we wanted to put Henry on the map we need help, and needed it right away!

At that time the sophomore team was having an outstanding season.  They were playing well and dominating teams.  It was early in the season so I really didn’t pay much attention to all of the hype and figured that they were playing a weak nonconference schedule.  But the hype never died down and all that I kept hearing was the phrase “Coobie and Jo-Jo”.  Being a varsity player at that time I really didn’t pay much attention to our freshmen players even if they were good enough to make the sophomore team.  But I got tired of hearing about “Coobie and Jo-Jo” and decided to take the time to watch them practice and go to one of their games. I must admit when I saw them practice I was thoroughly impressed.   Coobie was a wide body banger that was very athletic and Jo-Jo was this slim but muscular athletic wing that could play 3 to 4 positions very well.  I thought to myself these are the type of players that is going to turn it around for Henry and put us on the map.  They were both very good players but there was just something different about that Jodie Hill kid.  I really couldn’t put my finger on it.  At first I thought it was that smile of his.  I mean the kid was always smiling.  If the sophomore team were up by 20 he was smiling, if they were down by 10 he had a smile on his face.  The kid was even smiling when we were being punished and had to run sprints.  Don’t get it twisted, Jo-Jo didn’t smile all the time because he was soft.  Jodie Hill was a beast on the court and as competitive as they come.  Now that I look back at it maybe he just wanted to kick your butt with a smile on his face as to acknowledge he loves the game of basketball.  Then I thought I hit the jackpot and figured out why Jodie stood out and it was definitely because of his high top fade haircut.  For those that don’t know what a high top fade is: it’s a hair style were the hair on the sides of your head is shaved but the top of your hair is left long and then cut into a box form.  To this day I honestly believe that Jo-Jo was like Sampson in the bible in that his strength and skill was due to his hair.  After much debate with myself I finally figured out what made this kid so special and why he stood out.  It was his sweet high arching jump shot, his ability to get to the basket at will, his unbelievable athleticism, his long arms that along him to defend all five positions on the floor, but more importantly he was touched by God.  God blessed him with a smile and personality that would light up a room.  That is Jodie Hill legacy, one’s ability to smile, no matter what hand life has dealt them!