Powell, who was a 35-year veteran of the Army, died Monday from COVID-19 complications. He rose to political prominence in his time under Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush. There was persistent speculation about his stature that he would run for president as a Republican.
Powell was never comfortable speaking about race throughout it all, according to Kevin Powell, a New York-based writer, rights activist, and not related to Colin Powell.
"I believe that's why many Black people never saw him as leader," said Kevin Powell. Kevin Powell met Colin Powell in the 1990s when he was frequently mentioned as a possible presidential candidate.
Colin Powell became disillusioned with the GOP later and endorsed Democrats starting with Barack Obama. Powell called Donald Trump, then-President of the United States, a national disgrace. He also stated that he no longer considers himself to be a Republican after the Jan. 6 storming at the Capitol.
Kevin Powell, also Black, stated that "By 2009, the Bush years were over," he was virtually invisible in many things that occurred -- Trayvon Martin's, Ferguson's, George Floyd." It was obvious that the party he was a part of was moving in the right direction. He didn't say that this party was anything more than race-mongers.
According to Sam Riddle (an Army veteran and Detroit-based activist), Powell's dignity, composure, and calm should not be taken as an indication that he does not understand the struggle of his people.
Riddle, who hosts a Detroit talk-radio show, said that Riddle "embodied a quiet inner strength we knew he held onto the battlefield for America as well as for Black Americans." "We can use bullhorns to demonstrate quiet competence, integrity, and perseverance."
Powell was concerned about the U.S. incarceration rate, which is consistently the highest in the globe. He supported policies that would keep young people, particularly Black Americans, out the criminal justice system.
Powell stated that he wasn't in favor of cutting law enforcement budgets to combat police brutality years before the 2020 murders of George Floyd. Powell suspected that many Black Americans would agree. A June 2020 poll by The Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, conducted during the height of the summer's protests against police brutality, showed that 43% of Black Americans supported or somewhat supported reducing funding for police. Only 30% were opposed to the idea.
Powell stated in 2017 that "You cannot say, We should disinvest criminal justice, police, and courts.'" They're not there to protect white people. They are there to protect Black people as well."
He said, "If you tell a Black leader in a community that the police won't be there, they might say, "Whoa!" They want fair and balanced justice for all Americans.
Powell, a child of Jamaican immigrants, grew up in New York City's Bronx borough. He said that he was raised in a community in which his neighbors were just as interested in his safety as his mother and father.
Powell stated that he had grown up with adults who were concerned about him in a Mic interview. My two parents and all my Jamaican relatives in South Bronx looked out for me kids. You were always going to be punished if you did anything wrong.
In 1958, Powell graduated from City College of New York. Later, the Colin Powell Center was established to foster student leadership and community engagement. The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership was later renamed.
The school created a racial justice fellowship program in the wake of Floyd's slaying, and Black Lives Matter protests. This was a joint initiative of the Colin Powell School's Black Studies program and the CCNY's Black Studies program.
According to Andrew Rich (dean of the Colin Powell School), Powell once stated that he wanted the next generation to enjoy the same opportunities as he did.
Rich stated that being a Black American was what "defined his experience." Rich said, "He was a trailblazer. He was aware of the barriers that he broke. He was proud that he opened doors and didn't close them behind himself.
Former President Barack Obama stated Monday that Powell had helped "a generation young people set their goals higher" and that he "never denied that race played a role in his life and in our society in general."
Obama stated, "But he also refused that race would limit him dreams, and through steady and principled leadership, helped pave so many who would follow."
Frederick Gooding, an associate professor of humanities at Texas Christian University, stated that many Black people turn to African Americans who are highly successful to advocate for them.
They might expect Colin Powell to do more, or be more than they need. Gooding stated that it might have been one of those deals in which he might not have spoken for all Black people, but at the exact same time it's okay that he doesn't."
Gooding said that Powell's long career and record of public service are evidence of his excellence.
Gooding stated, "When it involves African Americans, oftentimes, when you've had to be touched by the struggle so as to speak, when your position of power is privilege, do you leverage that?" He may not have been a front-line cheerleader but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t affected by the struggle.