Gregory A. Domingue '72
Deceased May 28, 2014
Gregory Allen Domingue, my "Soul Brother," died in Houston, Texas, on May 28, 2014, from complications associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as Lou Gehrig's Disease.
Greg was born on August 16, 1950, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was the middle child of seven siblings born to Catherine Iona Domingue and Paul Blaine Domingue Sr.
Greg was one of 16 Black students admitted to Amherst in 1968, the first class admitted after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sixteen Black students is a relatively small number by today's standards, but it is a number which nearly doubled the Black student population at Amherst. According to his classmate and sophomore-year roommate, Russell Williams '72, Greg was involved in many of the discussions and activities that raised racial and regional awareness at Amherst, contributing to an expansion of self-reflection and social understandings, and positively transforming academic content at the college for all the classes that followed.
Being three years behind Greg, I only vaguely recall Greg from our days at Amherst. Greg was in the class of 1972 while I was in the class of 1975, so he was concentrating on leaving while I was concentrating on arriving. However, over the last three years, Greg and I have engaged in many exchanges on the Black Alumni listserv ... and off it. Indeed, I was the one who recruited Greg to serve as the lead moderator of the original Black Alumni Listserv Moderator Panel and, in that role, Greg was perfect in helping to "moderate" the tone and focus of the medium.
Quite frankly, what drew me most to Greg was his spiritual side. He and I shared a profound spiritual link, and I was fortunate enough to receive a number of the religious notes that he prepared on an almost daily basis for his family and his friends. He was a very good man and a very deep thinker on religious matters. As one of our fellow listserv participants, Dr. Harold Massey '80, wrote:
"There are some people who, even without direct personal acquaintance, exude a peace and grace that define the Divinity inherent in both of these powers. Greg Domingue spoke meaningfully to us from his "PRAYER GARDEN" and from his heart; we heard his soul's compassion and his highest hopes for humanity. We learned his rich personal history but, more importantly, he invited us into his humble heart to learn how he made powerful sense of his cherished family legacy and his worldly engagements. Even in cyberspace, I knew Greg was a gentle man who embodied far more than the etiquette and protocols that long since have distilled the term to "gentleman," a far lesser spirit than he breathed into life with his own. Greg and I shared some off-line exchanges that served only to reinforce all that I had sensed of his love and compassion through his written words in computer-mediated community. Here's an observation he shared about this forum:
"My participation in the listserv is a surprise to me because I have always been more of an observer than participant. ... The amount of talking I've done in the cyberworld is a really big surprise to me - but I got addicted early on and couldn't stop. Some of the relationships established during this time have become very important - one of the things that I regret is that I did not maintain contact with high school friends, and with college friends. ... So what I've done on the listserv is to recapture some lost time."
"I was humbled by Greg's sharing about his abiding and faithful love for his dear wife, Betty (to have celebrated 30 years this October to my calculation), and his two daughters, Aisha and Nina, from an earlier marriage that ended with the death of their first mother at four years and seven months old. ... Greg also spoke regretfully of the geographical distance that interfered with more frequent physical time with his grandchildren in Cleveland and Brooklyn. He was proud of Nina Domingue-Glover's artistry, especially the one-woman show she wrote and produced and excelled to perform in New York. He was equally gushing about Aisha's son and his healthy diet, Aisha's frugal and focused patience in serving battered women, and her disciplined saving of her money while working three part-time jobs until she found the fulfilling role she needed for a meaningful life. Greg was chock full of gratitude for each and every relationship he created or encountered and his fruit hasn't fallen far from his tree!"
As a confirmation of Harold's observations, Greg's fellow Amherst classmate and one time roommate, Russell Williams '72, said upon receiving news of Greg's passing:
"I received the notice of Greg's passing through the Amherst Black Alumni listserv, and was greatly surprised, saddened, and dismayed. Greg was a classmate, a roommate of mine during our sophomore year, a friend, a sometimes confidant, and one of the alums with whom I felt I could communicate most straightforwardly - with knowledge that his responsive comments and insights would be expressed with thoughtfulness, wisdom, caring, and (often) humor. We had many deep, heartfelt, and unique conversations. "I will TRULY, TRULY miss him."
As was evidenced over the years, Greg was an avid writer and for a time, a contributor to the New Orleans Tribune, interviewing and reviewing the books of many great African-American authors. He was also a faithful servant to the Ralph Douglas West Encouragement Ministry at Church Without Walls in Houston, Texas.
Greg's family reports that Greg was encouraging until the very end. Though many thought he was a quiet person, to those who knew him well, he was full of love and life, and always had a joke to spare. He often surprised family members and friends by doing things like playing Santa, taking teddy bears for ransom and starting water gun fights. He loved music and movies and shared many inside jokes with Betty and the girls, which they expressed in quotes from his favorite movies. He was very competitive when it came to playing games. Indeed, Greg came in third in the Inaugural Quest for the Cup Black Alumni Football Prognostication Contest, edging out the author of this note. All in all, Greg generally enjoyed a good time with family and friends. He was affectionately known as "Uncle Critter."
Greg is survived by his loving wife, Betty Marie Domingue; two daughters: Nina Domingue Glover and Aisha Domingue; a son-in-law, Johnathan Glover; five grandchildren, Jinle, Jahi, Neliah, and Narien Glover, and Lamine Gordon; his six siblings: Paul Blaine Jr. (Aster), Marie Lorraine (Jeff Sr.), Gerald (Gwendolyn), Charles Steven (Denise), Monica (Neil), and Olivia (Greg); and a host of nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews.
Greg was preceded in death by his first wife and the mother of his daughters, Thelisa Jane Corbin Domingue, Smith '73; his parents, Paul Blaine Domingue Sr. and Catherine Iona Domingue; his nephew, Brian Paul Domingue; and his great-nephew Nehemiah Darensbourg.
Perhaps, it is most fitting to allow Greg to sum up the meaning of life himself. Greg wrote:
"So what do we learn here? We learn that our feelings and limited thinking should not interfere in God's plan. We learn that God gives us the grace to do what He has assigned to us. We learn that we are the person He created us to be, and it is up to us to be that person, so that in the end, the glory belongs to God, and we have 'endured hardship, done the work of an evangelist, and fulfilled our ministry (2 Timothy 4:5).' And finally, what we learn is that the only response to who we are and what we do, is to hear God say, 'Well done, good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:23).'"
Well said, my brother, ... and well done.
Everett "Skip" Jenkins '75
With assistance from Russell Williams ‘72, Aisha Domingue and Ellis Moss ‘79
People are angry because their souls are exposed, and they resent intrusions into the most remote recesses of their minds. Others are hurt because they feel unjustly accused, or because their exposure reveals secrets they would prefer not to face themselves, much less discuss publicly. The anger and the hurt are the cleavage of an axe in the flesh and sinew and muscle that should be our America. Race - the axe - kills nerve and tissue and bone; hacking and petrifying the very humanness that we all are. And it doesn't make a difference that we all struggle with it - race dismembers everything.
What some people do not understand, or perhaps refuse to acknowledge, is that the axe splits my flesh as well. No matter that they are Baptist or atheist or Jewish or satanic. If, for them, I am so different, perhaps considered less of a person, perhaps not even here, then they need not bother with conscience nor worry about souls. Even as they ignore my humanity, in blind submission to misinformed rhetoric, the life of their souls becomes more eternally expendable.
How can they not see racism as it is to me? Sometimes I want to grab them by the throats, and shake till their ears ring and disembodied motes of color float before their eyes, like blown dust at a sun-filled window.
The most telling fact of all is that - unlike Germany, Poland, Austria, Bosnia, Rwanda - there are no mass graves with bodies of innocents bulldozed to forgottenness; no suffering of millions anthemed in another country; no names of dead soldiers enshrined on a wall; no enclaves where small groups of survivors preserve what is or was once a distinct, resplendent culture: America saw to that long ago. No charred and scarred bodies, no bullet ridden skeletons; only the children of children sleepwalking through the nightmare that is our legacy to them; possibility and potential swirling in the economic and societal chaos we have all allowed nativity.
Our own minds and bodies are scarred; but our children hold no memory of racism before desegregation. What we cite as facts, presented logically, are dismissed and ignored. Even Cornel West- among America’s foremost intellectuals – is asked, stupidly, if he is Black, like other Black men. And I wonder if a cab will stop when he hails it in New York or Washington; and if it doesn’t, I wonder, is it because he wears those ugly glasses?
I began reading to my daughters almost as soon as they could hold up their heads to look at the pictures. When they were old enough, I had each of them read Jubilee, Miss Jane Pittman, and later still, Invisible Man. Each has read more of what one might call "serious literature" than I have.
When I returned to Baton Rouge after Amherst, I told interviewers that I had a degree in Black Studies, and they each told me I was overqualified. Consequently, my first employment was cooking at the local burger emporium. A little later, my aunt helped me get a job at the department store where she worked.
The day I arrived in Amherst, it was rainy and gray. The airline had lost my luggage, the footlocker shipped in July didn't arrive till November, and Sandy was pissed at my choice of the jackets he'd offered to loan me: I had chosen the one I thought was warmest - my thin Louisiana suit was soaked; and even today, it's rarely cold here.
Wayne was the only person in the class who knew for sure. Sandy, having asked for a Black roommate, was guessing but uncertain. Other people in Morrow asked if there had been a "colored" guy in our discussion group. Someone, I've forgotten who, said that their parents would never have allowed them at Amherst if they'd known the niggers would be there too. The ethnic niceties traded on the Morrow hallway sometimes became "little murders."
Someone, and I'd rather not embarrass either of us, accused me of "passing" for Black in the Amherst Student, and Horace answered the letter for me. I've been asked what I am: Egyptian? Iraqi? Iranian? Hispanic? "Other?" I've been told that I couldn't possibly be Black. The Immigration agents asked for my driver's license. Still, no one is issuing Negro cards.
My Dad taught me to love books in elementary school. It was he who introduced me to Mrs. Bennett at the Carver Branch Library. At the end of freshman year, he told me that I hadn't been quite prepared, not quite, for Amherst; I had to agree. Midway through junior year, Dad earned his G.E.D. a.nd I was very proud of him. When I gave him books - mysteries - for Christmas '86, he had recently lost too much of his sight to read them. That's the way lupus is, and in '89 it killed him.
Amherst matured in me, a living, breathing intellectualism, and I like it. I began writing again two years ago after eighteen years of not writing, and I like that too. David Duke collected 60% of the white vote in my home state just four years ago, and that pisses me off. Just yesterday, Liva Baker told me she had not been able to find a segregationist in Louisiana to finish the book published this year on integration in New Orleans: I guess she didn't look under the right rock.