Surry Power Station employee writes memoir on growing up Black during civil rights movement

Published 3:48 pm Tuesday, December 13, 2022

“Reflections of a Soul” isn’t just a memoir; it’s Black history, as seen through the eyes of a young Ernest Porter growing up in a poverty-stricken home in north Philadelphia.

Porter — now a husband, father of four and 30-plus-year employee of Dominion Energy, most recently assigned to Dominion’s Surry Power Station — describes the memoir he’s been writing over the past decade as an “unapologetic quest for truth.” He self-published the book in June on

The book compares Black history in America to childbirth, from the “wombs of slavery” to the “labor pains” of continued injustice and disparities facing African Americans, noting Porter’s July 18, 1964, birth had coincided with a protest in Harlem over the shooting of an unarmed 15-year-old Black boy named James Powell by a police officer “in front of Powell’s friends and about a dozen other witnesses.”

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Just over a month after Porter’s birth, a historic race riot broke out in a predominantly black neighborhood of north Philadelphia from Aug. 28-30. That same year, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership during the civil rights movement, only to be assassinated four years later.

Porter’s journey south began when his grandmother, Juanita Elizabeth Porter, took him from the inner city to live with her in North Carolina for the summer. The move likely “saved his life, considering the life expectancy of young black males at the time,” the book states.

“I resisted the passion and desire to author a book of this nature for years,” Porter writes, but “the world continued in its inconsiderate pinwheel pattern of cruelty, and the voices grew louder and louder. Whenever I would hear about the cases of people like Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, and so many others, the voices would thump against my chest and run through my head.”

On Aug. 9, 2014, a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer shot and killed Brown, an unarmed Black teenager. That same year, Cleveland, Ohio, police officers shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, also Black, who’d been playing with a toy gun in a public park. Bland, a 28-year-old Black woman, died in police custody in Texas in 2015 after being pulled over for allegedly failing to signal changing traffic lanes. The officers who killed Brown and Rice were never criminally charged. The officer who’d pulled Bland over – though initially indicted for perjury – had his charges dropped after agreeing never to work in law enforcement again, according to reporting by The Guardian.

“Reflections of a Soul,” Porter said, was inspired by the conditions he watched his great grandmother, grandparents and mother endure.

“In many ways, I inherited the same struggles. I would write down things that I felt like I couldn’t talk to adults about, the treatment of African Americans not only in north Philadelphia but across America,” Porter said. “I notated my church upbringing and even from the Christian adoption in faith, we were still suffering, and my young mind couldn’t process how God would allow such inequalities.”

The book will, in Porter’s words, “ask questions that make you look at your life and if your soul is conducive to the teaching of Christ.”

It is available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle edition at Porter lives in Louisa County.