In the story of Lori Leak Travels to Paris, you see a mention of an older brother, Earl. He is away at football camp in the story. There is a photo of him on Lori’s bedroom wall. As you know, Lori is me. Earl was my real life older brother.
I want to share a bit about my brother. His name was Earl F. Phillips and to me he was my Lion. As Big Brothers go, he was a great one. Significantly older than me, born during my mother’s first marriage, he held me when I was born and cared for me, changing my diaper when I was a baby and making me my favorite breakfasts of grits, eggs and salmon as a young girl.
Tea Parties and Dancing
He teased me to no end, always in good spirit. I couldn’t bear to be without him and although you would think that a teenaged boy would not want to be around his baby sister, he did. He would take me with him often when he was with his guy friends. He also spent a lot of time playing with me — having tea parties, playing hide-and-seek, and giving me piggyback rides. His heart was always so big.
Earl, as I grew older, taught me how to do couples dancing (especially how not to let the boy dance you into a corner), made sure I was proper in my language and behavior, and to respect older adults. He continued to tease me at any opportunity.
As we got older and he went off to college on a football scholarship (he was a running back), Earl opened his big heart even more, becoming a Big Brother in the organization of that name, spending some of his spare time each week with a fatherless boy. On top of that, he would come home on weekends and get me, then drive me up to his college where he met his future wife, and have me spend the weekend with them. Can you imagine a Big Brother who didn’t mind having Little Sis, as he called me, be a welcome third wheel? He took us to museums and parks , we explored the big city, he always took us to lunch and/or dinner. Sometimes I would just hang in the dormitory while he went to football practice or meetings with his fraternity Omega Psi Phi.
We had our secrets that we kept from our mother, such as when he would let me have a bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a rum and cola while watching football games on TV and let me eat cheese until I was terribly constipated. He came to my spelling bee competitions, sat bravely in the car when I was learning how to drive and never said a word of criticism except for “That was some turn there” with a broad smile. my hert was sad for him when he was so deeply in love with his future wife and she would not talk to him, resulting in him breaking down in tears at the dinner table. I hummed along as he sang Earth, Wind & Fire and Stevie Wonder love songs all summer long when he was away from her. Later when we were both adults, we agreed we would not tell our mother that he took me to a casino and played blackjack, so long as I received a portion of his winnings.
Earl joined the U.S. Navy became an officer (and was involved in the Gulf War), got married and had two beautiful, smart children. I went on to become a journalist and clergywoman and later an entrepreneur and author. He was always so proud of everything I did, praising me for my intelligence and my writing skills. He kept his open heart with everyone. After leaving the U.S. Navy he went into corporate HR. He also became active in his fraternity alumni chapter, doing philanthropic work. He had such a passion for ensuring that young Black men had good models. He served in his fraternal organization, the Delta Upsilon Chapter (Trenton, NJ) of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He had a good word for everyone, no matter if they were nice or unkind to him. He managed to make friends across ethnicity, creed, religion, economic status. etc. Women were envious of my sister-in-law and men found him to be a true brother and friend.
Giving and Living
Whenever we would talk on the telephone he would tell me of the work he was doing with Omega Psi Phi. in the last years of his life he was increasingly deeply involved, and really enjoyed organizing the legacy breakfast that was held once a year. An extremely humble man but with natural leadership abilities, he rose to the top and was asked to be Basileus (President) of his fraternal organization. In great pain every day of the last five years of his life while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation AND working full-time, he continued to do the philanthropic work of Omega Psi Phi. He never complained, always had a smile and a joke. He would never speak of dying only living. He showed no fear of death and vowed to do nothing except live in this life until it was no more. He was more than a husband, father, Big Brother and friend, more than a man among men.
In the last spring of his life, he finished his coursework for his Ph.D., saw his first grandchild be born and tow weeks later went to the General Meeting of Omega Psi Phi in Washington. D.C.. The Delta Upsilon chapter renamed the annual fundraiser Legacy Breakfast after him and today is it the Earl F. Phillips Legacy Breakfast.
There is so much more, as I have a lifetime of memories of him and he was, besides my parents. the one person who knew me my entire life. He left me a great abundance of love and good memories. He gave so much to everyone. Now, I want to give a little back in his honor.
Lori Leak Travels To Paris
My brother was very proud of my worldwide traveling, my global humanitarian work, my service as an ordained minister, my writing and my published books. I still had not found an illustrator for Lori Leak Travels To Paris while he was alive but I did a year after his death. I know he would have loved this book, with its girl power energy, family message and authentic positive portrayal of an African-American family. He would also have loved to see our family as illustrations. Humble in heart, he would be slightly embarrassed to be included in the book series.
Earl’s birthday was August 6. I am now offering “LORI LEAK TRAVELS TO PARIS” at a 10% discount and 5% of the proceeds from each book purchased August 2-6 will be donated to the Earl F. Phillips Legacy Breakfast.
I hope you will buy a copy for any children in your family, any children you know, your local library, a literacy drive or the child in you! (Use the blue button below)