In 7 of 52 Weeks of Gratefulness, I give thanks for Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze.
I was in my MR COMPUTER MAN service truck on Highway 82, headed back from a service appointment in Columbus to Starkville, when a tan 2001 Lincoln Town Car flew past me. As the car advanced ahead of me, the driver glanced over in my direction and suddenly the car’s speed dropped precipitously to match my own, our vehicles side-by-side on the highway. The driver locked her eyes on me, nodding her head, then pointing in my direction and afterward sped off. I was perplexed and slightly unnerved by the encounter, but little did I know that moment would mark the beginning of one of the most meaningful relationships of my career. Shortly thereafter, I received a call from Dr. Athelia Eze to provide IT services for her practice and that began a 20 year relationship with her and Dr. Placid Eze of Eze Family Medical Clinic.
I’ll jump straight to the punch line and say that Dr. Athelia Eze and Dr. Placid Eze are unsung heroes in the black community, not only here in Starkville or in North Mississippi, but arguably throughout the southeast, having had clinics and pharmacies in (including, but not limited to) Starkville, Columbus and East Point, Georgia. No one has done more in this area to identify, recruit, educate and produce black medical professionals than Dr. Athelia and Dr. Placid Eze. They gave minorities a chance and an onramp into medical professions when no one else would.
This is not something I’ve heard about, the Eze’s themselves don’t even talk about it, it’s something I’ve watched them do quietly and purposefully. I would add that it’s also something they’ve paid dearly to do. I’ve watched them take people with little to no background in a professional setting, with next to zero experience in the medical field and in many cases pay to have them educated, personally study with them for exams and certifications to help them along the path to attain a meaningful and gainful career. It’s an absolute slough of trial and error, frustration, candidates quitting, spectacular failure, betrayal, disappointment, considerable expense, but always love.
Love characterizes their practice. You can hear it in Dr. Placid’s laugh and bedside manner with his patients. You can see it as Dr. Athelia would greet her customer’s children by name, knowing the candy each child preferred. It is a safe place, sadly still needed in 2022, where blacks can come and not get strange looks or funny treatment for the kind of insurance they have, for not having insurance, or for not looking like a ‘good client’ –whatever that means. Sure, as an I.T. professional I’m there installing network equipment or servicing computers but I’m always paying attention. And, when people came through those clinic doors or pulled up to the pharmacy drive-thru window they were treated as though they belonged there, as though they were wanted there. For better or worse the Eze’s focused on care first and would often work with their patients to figure out how to take care of the cost later.
Care for your people even when it costs you is the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.
Dr. Placid is from Nigeria and Dr. Athelia is from the coast, so they didn’t even know many of the people here that they would come to make investments in. As graduates of Morehouse College and Mercer University, respectively, as well as being members of the black greek letter organizations Kappa Alpha Psi and Alpha Kappa Alpha, they were steeped in an African-American culture that prioritized collective progress and embraced education not for education’s sake but as a tool for empowerment. So, in all that they do and everywhere they go, they’re always looking out for black people they can invest in -even if it costs them –because they love them. Again, the blackest thing I’ve ever seen.
I can hear the question, “Wait. Isn’t this just reverse racism?”
Dr. Placid and Dr. Athelia love all people. In watching them serve, hire and work with people of all backgrounds, that would be clear to anyone.
They simply made it a point to focus love where love was lacking. You should too.
This is black history. I am inspired by the Eze’s commitment not only to offer compassionate medical care for their community but also to increase its economic capacity. While it doesn’t always look great for the bottom line, it always yields a profit because love never fails. Their love has born fruit in my life that I’m eager to bear in the lives of others. I’m grateful. #52WoG #BlackHistory