Yesterday morning, with temperatures at about 40 degrees, Cynthia Williams took a bus from downtown Cleveland to the Call & Post at 11800 Shaker Blvd. then stood in line for a little more than two hours for a free turkey to be hand delivered courtesy of Don King.
Many, like Williams, arrived via bus, car, or on feet with the assistance of a walker or shopping cart, thousands of others showed up for a free turkey as well. Shortly before noon, the crowd became a little restless and began to chant “Don King! Don King!”
When the newspaper publisher/legendary boxing promoter arrived, the crowd cheered.
Despite being 84 years old, King passed out Butterball turkeys. Williams was right there to receive the first. She said it will serve as Christmas dinner.
“I appreciate it,” said Bridgete Crump, of the Lee Harvard neighborhood. Crump, who parked three streets away from the Call & Post, arrived shortly after 11:15 a.m. with her son in tow. “This will be a part of my Christmas dinner; otherwise I wouldn’t have been standing out here.”
That seemed to be the sentiments of all. One man landed a 13.9 lb. bird while few others were lucky enough to score two. Everyone appreciated King’s generosity.
In a jovial manner, King told everyone “Merry Christmas” as he handed out turkeys.
“In the spirit of Christmas, it’s better to give than receive,” said King, who’s been distributing turkeys through his annual Turkey Tour for the last 50 years. The idea, he said, initiated when he was in the numbers business and owned The Corner Tavern on Cedar.
At the Call & Post, he distributed more than 1100 turkeys Tuesday. He can’t even count how many turkeys he’s given out through the years. It was important for King to hold this year’s Turkey Tour at The Call & Post because it is the oldest Black newspaper in the state and the voice of the community. “The Call & Post is a great paper. It’s clear, candid and concise when speaking out against the system.”
King went on to say “White Supremacy” is the root cause that keeps our system unjust. “If we change that, we can change the globe.”
King also recalled old friends like the late Rev. William Crockett, and other members of the El Hasa Temple, who have assisted with The Turkey Tour over the years. “Rev. Crockett was my man,” King said of his friend. Even in his absence, a number of members from the El Hasa were on hand to assist this year making the process more seamless.
Charles W. Hales, is a 71-year member of the El Hasa Temple and is known as the Godfather. He recalls being Rev. Crockett’s chief lieutenant during Turkey Tour giveaways. “Me and Crockett gave out the first turkeys with the Shriners 20 years ago,” said Hales who will celebrate his 94th birthday next month.
“I’m glad it’s continuing,” he said. “This has helped a lot of people in the neighborhood.”
The event was slated to last three hours, but all turkeys were gone in about an hour and 40 minutes after the noon start time. Disappointed carloads were turned around and directed out well past the initial 3 p.m. cut off. Kudos to the Cleveland Police Department who did an excellent job on crowd control and directed the processional of vehicles that lined Williams Avenue all the way down to E. 116th St.
Councilman Zack Reed showed his support along with Cleveland legend George Forbes. The men of Kappa Alpha Psi along with Open Doors Academy also helped with distribution.
The Call & Post turns 100 next year and its wish is to continue King’s 50-year tradition of making the community flock together.