Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Remnant from an old Book

September 19, 2020

Every now and then in an age of overburdened media fluff, an old .doc will show up with some relevance:

Old Scroll

“The Man opened the scroll and found the place where it is written,

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’

“And he closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all were upon him, and he began saying to them: ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ ”

Every now and then in an age of overburdened social media, an old .doc shows up with some relevance. Who knew?

Glass half-Full

Freedom Summer 1964

September 10, 2020

Hearing Meghna Chakrabarti’s On Point roundtable discussion this morning reminded me of The Freedom Summer. During that college vacation three months in 1964, young people from across the nation went down to the dangerous Deep South to help black voters get registered. 

Meghna’s primary guest today was Bob Moses, a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during that 1960’s time of nation-shaking Civil Rights progress.

Bob Moses

In 2017, I included a paragraph about Bob and his compatriots in my novel, King of Soul. The early chapters take place in Jackson, Mississippi, where I was living and attending grade school. Some of these scenes are quasi-autobiographic.

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 5, in which Bob Moses is mentioned:

        But Liberty and Justice for All is not something that just happens.

        As compatriots with liberation and deliverance, liberty and justice emerge triumphant from the very embattlements of human history. Where their zealous advocates manage to grab some foothold in the landscape of human struggle, freedom is fleeting not far behind. Noble aspirations are all summoned up when the careless slayings of men demand value more sacred, more holy, than the mere clashing of weapons and the expiration of breathing bodies.

        In our present exploration’s story, the bad news is: there is an inevitable outflow—the shedding of blood—which propels violence to ever higher levels of atrocity.

        The good news is: where there’s shedding of blood, Soul is not far beneath.

        In the summer of 1964, all of these elements of human struggle converged in an unprecedented way. Way down south, in the piney woods and  sweltering fields of Mississippi, a new activist strain of blood-red camellia was taking root in that freshly-tilled civil rights black delta loam. As God had heard the cry of Abel’s blood arising from Edenic soil, he heard now the beckoning of enshrouded laborers, those dead and these living. Their muted cries called forth  liberation; they demanded deliverance.

        So while black folk of the deep South were struggling to register their right to vote as Americans, a vast brigade of like-minded souls from other regions caught a whiff of their newly-planted liberty, and so the new brigades took it upon themselves to go down to Mississippi and lend a hand.

          Go down, Moses, was the call. Go down, collective Moses.

        There were many who heard that call; there was even a man named Moses, Bob Moses from Harlem.  He, and others who stood with him against discrimination, planted themselves in Mississippi at the crossroads of injustice and opportunity. Down here in the verdant lap of Dixie where the honeysuckles twine sweetly and the slaves had mourned bitterly, a battalion  of wayfaring strangers from far and near came to cultivate the new growth of freedom.

        They were filling a void in the whole of the human soul. Robbed of freedom, the Soul of Man wails out a distress call; then in regions afar, the Soul of Man hears, and resonates with action.  Deep calls unto deep.

        In Berkeley California, Michael Savola answered the call. He knew about the work of the NAACP. He had heard the battle-cry, had felt those deep twelve-bar blues jangling through his heart and across his brain. When Michael got to Mississippi, the civil rights pioneers took him by the hand and lead him into a little church. For the first time ever he felt the flesh and blood plaintive chant of Negroes; they were singing”:

The truth will make us free,

The truth will make us free,

The truth will make us free some day.

Oh deep in my heart I do believe

The truth will make us free some day.

        In New York City, Andrew Schumer answered the call. He had heard about the work of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. He had been told of the struggle, had caught the prickly blue-note riff of tragedy; it had morphed as a thorn, a thorn to pierce his comfortable heart of white entitlement. When Andrew got to Mississippi, he wandered into a dusty colored-town boulevard where right there on the sidewalk folks was gathered to do business with the wider world. Now he witnessed the fleshing out of what had been, up until now, mere conceptual liberation. He saw it and heard it in a new way, the tune he had heard before and now heard again for the first time:

We shall overcome.

We shall overcome.

We shall overcome someday.

Oh, deep in my heart I do believe

We shall overcome someday.

        In Detroit, Tyrone Haydn answered the call. He had read about the great struggle in the newspaper; had heard about it through the grapevine of insatiable youthful idealism, he had  informed himself about the plight of the blacks down South. Now he involved himself as a volunteer in the struggles of the CORE, SNCC, SCLC and COFO. He felt a kinship with them, and, even further along in prescience,  he would sense, in due time, a connection between their dark pain and the anguished Asian faces of war-torn Vietnamese villagers.

King of Soul

Things Fall Apart

September 5, 2020

In 1919, when it seemed the whole world had just damn near been blown apart beyond repair, the Irish poet W.B. Yeats wrote:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are filled with passionate intensity.

In 2020, although the numbers are bigger, the electrons are faster and the people are undoubtedly smarter, we . . .

having learned the great lessons of the War to end all Wars, and then having learned, 20 years later, the necessity of driving the nazis and fascists back into their holes,

and then after another 40 years, having learned the lesson that Cold War is less lethal than hot war, but far more frustrating and probably more mentally and psychologically debilitating than the old hot war scenario . . .

we find ourselves once again in a situation where it appears that:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

. . .and although the blood-dimmed tide is not completely loosed again, God forbid that it should be. 

But the extremist tail-ends of both sides are once again back to their old tricks: fomenting discord and confusion; the boogaloos and antifas foaming at the mouth to drum up some fresh blood and mayhem, and thereby to realize on reality tv all the blood and gore we’ve been seeing on degenerate entertainment screens since psycho in the ’50’s when I was but a kindergartner . . .

and meanwhile back at the inevitable  crash scene

the republicans have blown their wad reigning down megalopoly money at the top to trickle down, and they’ve used all their monetary tricks so that now they’re out of aces and turning to a donald duck bundle of sticks scenario, so that now we come to discover

it’s time to let  the democrats sit in the hot seat for awhile so they can do their thing and throw money at the bottom end so it percolates up as the greenbacks become more and more irrelevant and everybody gets a meal ticket and a green card while the 1%ers hunker down somewhere

and I, trying to sleep, evading the midnight menace, turn to the pages of history for understanding, only to uncover, alas, more discouraging old-news. . .

the blood-dimmed tide of innocence is (still) loosed upon the world;

and as the blood-drained son of man was crucified, 

in Washington the ceremony of liberty was assassinated . . .

Graham

(from a biography of Frederick Douglass, There Once Was a Slave, by Shirley Graham in 1947)

Things are forever falling apart; the center cannot hold, and yet . . . and yet . . .

Good luck with that!

King of Soul

Sister Letetra’s Plea for Change

August 29, 2020

At the age 29, Jacob Blake was shot by Kenosha police who were arresting him in connection with a domestic dispute.

Now he is paralyzed.

Of the seven shots fired at Jacob, four struck his back, as he was opening the driver’s door of his vehicle.

The shots ripped into his flesh as three of Jacob’s sons were sitting in the back seat.

In the aftermath, in the after-wrath, two days later, among the many words spoken surrounding this incident, were these, spoken at a news conference . . . the message of Letetra Widman, Jacob’s sister:

“I am my brother’s keeper, 

and when you say the name . . . Jacob Blake,

make sure you say father

make sure you say cousin

make sure you say son

make sure you say uncle,

but most importantly, make sure you say:

human.

Human life—let it marinate in your mouth, in your minds

a human life just like just like every single one of y’all . . .

and everywhere.

We’re human, and his life matters!

So many people have reached out to me,

telling me that they’re sorry that this happened to my family.

Well, don’t be sorry, ‘cause this has been happening

to my family for a long time . . . longer than I can account for.

It happened to Emmitt Till; Emmett Till is my family . . .

for Orlando, Mike Brown, Sandra . . .

this has been happening to my family,

and I’ve shed tears for every single one of these people that it’s happened to.

I’m not sad. I don’t want your pity. I want change.”

Letetra’s call for change is now added to the mounting groundswell of demand for justice in the treatment of minorities in this country, especially in matters of law enforcement.

In these United States, 

we have Constitutionally- mandated principles that prescribe how justice is to be administered by courts of law, and by officers of the law. 

We have legislated laws and judicial precedents that prescribe legal procedures for arrest of suspected criminals and offenders.

For too long . . . since the days of their emancipation from slavery, black citizens have endured constant neglect of our lawful procedures of arrest.

In recent months, especially since the slaying of George Floyd, our national attention has been directed by active citizens on systemic neglect of legal procedures.

As everybody knows, the passion and frequency of organized protest has intensified steadily. Now we have another national incident in this continuing string of bungled, shot-up, seriously injurious, improperly violent arrests.

And it is true in this case and in many recent law enforcement mishaps. . . that violent, law-defying, depraved extremists of both antifa and bugaloo ilks have taken it upon themselves to jump on board the protest bandwagon and divert it, by their own violence and destruction, toward their own anarchic purposes.

There are extremists on both sides whose intention is to ignite a civil war between Left and Right in this nation.

We, the law-abiding citizens of these United States, must not let them.

Republicans—God bless ‘em, I am one of them—are too damn focused on their own comfort and privilege to allow their own eyes to see the weightier matters of the law. 

Neglect not, brothers and sisters, the weightier matters of the Law: 

Justice, and Mercy and Faithfulness.

We need to work together toward the “change” of which Jacob’s sister, Letetra, speaks.

But even more potent than her well-chosen words are those words found in the counsel of Jesus. They go way back . . .

“. . . for I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me. I was in prison, and you came to me.”

And those who heard these words said . . . say what? when did we do all that stuff ?

“. . . whenever you did it to them, you did it to me!”

So all ye comfortable goody-two-shoes g.o.p. types out there, don’t forget to heed all the words of the ancient Book.

Quit obsessing about peace and safety. If you get too bent out of shape about peace and safety, sudden destruction will come upon you.

Don’t allow the fringified crazies that you’re so obsessed with blow this whole democratic-republican experiment all to hell!

LatetraWidman

Listen to the voice of one crying in the flyover wilderness, concerning yet another illegally-shot-up arrest:

“I don’t want your pity. I want change.” 

King of Soul

Big Crab Little Crab

August 27, 2020

I was feeling quite crabby about the state of our Union, when I came across this recent jpeg that captures in imagery our present conniption.

Here we see the party of the Left as it closes in on what is left of that minuscule grand ole party of the Right, of which I once was a member.  In its present state, the formerly principled party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan is hemmed into a dead end. 

The Crabs

Alas, in the intense confrontation currently enacted, our cowering conservative is shell-shocked, shell-locked and clueless.

The little guy appears to be surrounded on three sides by the walls that trump built.

Glass half-Full

Evidential Shells

August 23, 2020

Strolling along the strands of time

we find pieces in the sand,

remnants of creatures’ 

life gone by.

Let us collect a few pieces . . .

Oh, what have we here?

Let’s take look.

We plop down in the sand

and begin arranging shells.

. . .don’t know why, I just . . .

have some notion of Cambrian past

or the Genesis moment

Spirit of God hovering over

the surface of the waters

eons ago.

There’s a pattern somewhere

in these random shards

of sea creatures’ cranked-up

now cracked-up

abandoned huts,

and here’s a man, wanting to find a story

a history, a timeline,

reason or rhyme

some explanation

written into the remains.

some meaning 

in the random remnants?

A closer look reveals

two types.

Shells2

Now arrange a bunch in

pattern, improvised

maybe random

maybe not 

just to make some

comparison 

maybe discern some

development pattern 

or even divine imprint

now arrange them on sand

to make some unique surfus opus,

a work of beachified shard art!

SeaShells

Hey notice

most of these little clammies

had cast out concentric rings

in their gradual growth . . .

rings that span wider and wider

as the creature’s expanding abode grew 

broader, elliptical . . .  in a widening gyre

further and further flat out

from the  brain

or whatever that  organizing organ

is in a mollusk mind.

Others fling up calcified arcs

like dead rainbows.

See the roundy one at the bottom.

But then,

alas, and pshaw!

as Moody Blues sang

many moody moons ago . . .

“ the tide rushes in

and washes my castles away

and I’m really not so sure

which side of the . . .”

SeaSwipe

Glass half-Full

Down on the Farm

August 18, 2020

So it was somewhere in the great flyover mid-section that this farm owner decided it was time to harvest his crops.

Farmland

The project would be far too big for himself and his family to complete, so he drove over to the nearby town of Lake Wobehoohoo. He parked his old Chrysler in the vast parking lot and walked into the Marketplace Food Court to have some breakfast. 

While consuming there, the farmer was checking out the locals to recruit some help for the upcoming work.

By ’n by, he spotted some guys and gals that he knew to be good workers and waved them over to his table. The farm owner explained to them the project that he needed to get done and asked  if they’d like to get in on the job, for which he would pay each one a hundred bucks for the day’s work.

The wiley crew signed on and headed out to the farm to get started on the work, to be managed by his boss-man.

As it turned out, however, a little while later the farm owner got a text from his manager stating that the his assessment of their progress indicated that the harvest would not be completed that same day unless more labor was brought in to help.

So the farmer went back to the Marketplace to recruit some more help, and sure enough there were some eligible workers hanging out at the Marketplace. So he hooked up with them, made the deal and sent them out to help the other workers complete the project.

But that afternoon, the manager’s text were still calling for more labor. The farmer went back to the Food Court to scope out the scene and recruit yet some more help. Sure enough, there were some young bucks and chicks hanging out and he signed them on.

Long about five o’clock, wanting to make sure the project would be completed, he signed on even more laborers.

It was one helluva long day, but by 6:30 pm. the work was all done.

Thank God. Now the farm owner and his family could relax.

So he paid everybody their agreed-upon compensation, thanked them for their good work and sent them on their way.

By ’n by, as the farmer and his family were settling into their homestead for the evening meal, there came a knock at the door.

A couple of those early guys who had been hired in the early workday hours were standing on the front porch at the front door when the farm owner opened it. 

Long story short . . . these guys were busybodies who were not interested in minding their own business. They started complaining because they had heard through the grapevine online that all the workers got the same compensation, even though the late hires—those good-for-nothin’ doowops—had entered into the project in the waning hours and only toiled for a few hours. Some of them losers even worked for only one hour! and then collected the same equal opportunity-equal outcome-equal this-n-that na na na booboo compensation!

So Jethro, standing at his front door looking disdainfully at these complainers, says to them:

“Friends, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a hundred bucks? Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to these latecomers the same payment. I mean . . . isn’t it still legal for me to utilize my own resources and assets as is appropriate for my enterprise? Can you not mind your own dam business and be content while I do what I need to do?”

And so, in the big picture as it turns out . . . in some cases,  the last shall be first, and the first shall be last. No big deal. 

Y’all be content with your lot in life and we’ll all get along.

Everybody ain’t the same, y’know. But there’s diversity and there’s responsibility and there’s . . . well, you know . . . freedom and equality and all that. Some folks who got a raw deal maybe a few centuries ago may be due a new deal now. Don’t worry your pretty little privileged head about it.

Glass half-Full 

The Dixie Death

August 13, 2020

By ’n by, way down South

that sleepy ole antebellum way

of honky life got laid low—

had to kowtow to a new master

whose color was darker

with features more Africana.

A newfound integrity

has ultimately laid low

the ole mint julep on the front porch days

of white

privilege

 cuz the good ole boys

and gals got laid on them

by the sands of time

a rectified blend of African charm

and a revolutionary new testament of grace.

But the racist honkies

took a long damn time to 

figure that part out.

So they were in for a long hard

lesson, but

they didn’t know it yet.

Black folks knew the lesson would be 

hard

‘cuz they’d been livin’ it for over 400

years

though it took them a while to figure out 

just how stubborn and contrary the whites

could be

when they got that deer-in-the-lights look

in their eyes.

Things got serious

after Brother Medgar was assassinated

in his own front yard

after speakin at the New Jerusalem

Church

And then

the ancient soulful cry of Rachel

weeping for her children was heard

all along the magnolia boulevards

and carefully-tended camellia pathways of white

privilege . . .

here, there and yonder

throughout the black community

and beyond.

Brother Medgar had caught a glimpse

of the Promised Land,

but he never got there

like Brother Martin never got there.

Nevertheless

there was a burning bush down south

h’yeah

where they lived and breathed

and had their being

and worked tirelessly among their people.

Sister Anne, during her last week

at Tougaloo College 

accompanied a small group

of intrepid black folk to order luncheon

at a downtown dime-store lunch counter,

following the example of them bruthas

in Greensboro 

a few years earlier.

Brother Medgar’s call,

Brother Martin’s call

for voter registration

and just plain-ole freedom

and dignity and justice

was ringin’ out!

It reverberated

from the red clay hills of Georgia

among the magnolias and

carefully-tended camellias

of the Deep South,

formerly thought to be the Solid

South

before it got fracked with a fresh

delirium tremens of

falling-apart white

privilege

and got run outa town

by the great grandsons and daughter

of former slaves.

As the dews of Dixie used to drop on us

so are the pages of  that history long-gone

droppin’ down on us 

as a decadent dust 

cast on us:

Ole mint julep on the front porch white

privilege been sho’nuff proven wrong,

laid down low

in the dust heap of history

Yessir, that Ole South system is now long gone;

but for it I wouldn’t give you a damn dime

‘cause the weight of that abuse could not go on 

as it broke the back of American liberty

liberty just tryin’

tryin’ to be free!

The weight of our abuse came all tumblin’ down on us

with Rosa’s resolve—her courageous dignity.

She refused  to go to the back of the bus,

and so sparked the long-slow death

of segregation integration

in this nation

land of the free

home of the brave:

Brave Rosa!

Rosa’s refusal changed the course history.

But in some ways

we still be traipsin’ along

on that Edmund Pettis bridge

with Abraham, Martin, and John Lewis

Anybody here

seen the long hard-won legacy of Sister Rosa?

Remember

Anybody here

heard the death cry of Brutha George?

Glass half-Full and King of Soul

The Swan Song of Arnold Yates

August 7, 2020

The world is mad tonight.

Unresting souls feed-bleed into

the turbid ebb and flow of online ire.

Yearning and burning in the worldweb gyre

the world is radical tonight.

Reason’s been flung apart; the Net cannot be told

what to do.

The sender cannot comprehend

the far-flung manipulation of what he sends.

Digiboard

A data-driven tide is loosed into the swirl

where hackers whack our data-driven world

everywhere

the ceremony of benevolence is drowned

in the turbid ebb and flow

of human usury.

Clueless proles lack all comprehension, while wizards twirl

their trolled-up swirls

into cookie-coded streams

that nullify our naive dreams

and herd us, the cattle-driven teams

in programmed herds of Left and Right

as online armies clash by night.

The world is mad tonight.

Glass half-Full

John Lewis in His Story

July 28, 2020

Ambassador Andrew Young and Representative John Lewis organized and  led a history-changing march across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965.

Ambassador Young has recently mentioned that, long ago, Jesus and his disciples had led a movement against “the whole Roman empire.”

Inspired my Jesus’ firm adherence to non-violence, Young and Lewis summoned a group of marchers together on March 7, 1965, to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, en route to the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery, where collectively they would urge the Alabama legislature to enable voter registration for black folk.

“You can overcome evil with good,” says Ambassador Young, in paraphrasing Jesus’ injunction to turn the other cheek in response to violent abuse. 

“…but you can’t overcome evil with evil,” 

And so many early civil rights crusaders did turn the other cheek, back in the day. And they suffered for it, but their willingness to suffer and sacrifice ultimately inspired a groundswell of moral and political support to enact the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

After that groundbreaking, bridge-crossing . . . John Lewis’ leadership found its full  course: “Lewis was able to shift gears from direct action to reconciliation and progress,” said Andrew Young recently of John Lewis. 

Ambassador Andrew Young recently shared a memory of back in the early days, before the Movement had gathered steam. Black folk would be singing together, while they were gathered in Christian worship and  declaration:

“And before I’d be a slave

I’ll be buried in my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free.”

In commemoration of a great American patriot, John Lewis, I’ll share with you a snippet of history, which is included in my recent novel, King of Soul. In chapter 4, we find a group of believers gathered together in mourning the death of an earlier pioneer of civil rights, Medgar Evers, 1963 . . .

On Sunday morning, Aleen and her husband Bo took their children to Mt. Zion AME church. A shroud of heaviness hung upon the gathered people of God, dampening the joy that their weekly gathering customarily dispensed, and hindering the Spirit’s work of divine healing and reconciliation among them. All across Mississippi and beyond, the murder of Medgar Evers was casting a pall of grief.  Departing from his usual routine, Pastor Reggie asked the choir to ignite their worship in a manner different from their usual jubilation. He requested a song that would draw God’s people, by the Spirit, into a solemn reflection upon the suffering and injustice of this life as exemplified by Jesus on the cross, and the eternal life made possible by his victory over death through Resurrection.

         And so the choir, clad in purple and black robes, began to sway, humming the tune before its words were manifested in  melody, moaning, laboring in the Spirit to bring forth a full expression of God’s grief, and their grief, at the death of the Son of Man, and those who, like Brother Medgar, have entered into his eternal dwelling-place.

Oh, Freedom, Oh, Freedom,

Oh, Freedom over me.

And before I’ll be a slave

I’ll be buried in my grave

And go home to my Lord and be free.

Following in Medgar Evers’ path of martyred dedication to truth and freedom, John Lewis has gone home to freedom, having left a legacy of freedom for his people and all Americans in this troubled world.

John Lewis

He was no slave, being buried in his grave, after that last funereal  procession over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. He was a courageous American pioneer for justice.

Now we should  re-dedicate that bridge in Selma as the John Lewis Bridge.

King of Soul