Tag Archives: african american

The Power Of The Pen

Let me to take a moment to pay homage to the late William Raspberry who was a provocateur, gentle spirit and by most accounts a gentleman who used words effectively to shake conventional conversations. His artistry was so profound that it was not until you actually thought about what he said did you feel the power of his words. This profound wordsmith was my hero and a man – among men!

This legendary columnist died a few days ago and with his passing I wondered if this teacher to all who read his work really understood the significance of his presence. From my reading of his words I came to feel the spirit of this great man who cared profoundly about morality, and particularly parental responsibility. Now, I never met Mr. Raspberry but because of him I wanted to use words to affect the minds of men, and women.

It is hard to say how his importance to journalism will be measured. His headstone should say that he was one of the first widely syndicated African American columnists. He was a pioneer and a “role model”, a staunch advocate of civil rights who could also pick fights with what gets referred to as “the civil rights establishment.” You would have to add that he was also an advocate of civility.

This man did not meet the stereotypes of what a “black commentator” was supposed to be as often times he was characterized as a conservative. But Mr. Raspberry simply had a passion for justice, especially where poor children were concerned. It was a passion that refused to be contained by ideological boxes or by the expectations of others about what he was supposed to be writing.

This powerful African American writer was built with bravery. He was consistent in his opposition to the Iraq war and injustice, which was a rare in the world of commentary. His questions about why we were going to war were both basic and sophisticated, rooted in the common sense that characterized all his work.

I have often heard the unanswerable question; “if a tree falls in the woods and no one was there – could it be heard”. With respect to this literary giant – there is a load sound and the vibration shakes the world. Someone once said, “I might not be the one who changes the world but I can change the mind of the one who will change the world”. That is what you did Mr. Raspberry!

You were my hero and thank you for your contribution. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com

Legacy – A New Season the sequel is now available on Kindle with the hard copy released July 20th. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008HJRPE0


Granddaddy’s Lessons

It’s been several years since “Just a Season” and it’s time to move on. Generations have come and gone, life is bearable after all, and hope lives in a little boy and in a man who almost lost all hope. On July 3rd I released “Legacy – A New Season” is the long awaited saga to the epic novel “Just a Season” that will take you on an awe inspiring journey through the African American Diaspora, as told by a loving grandfather to his grandson in the oral African tradition at a time when America changed forever.  So I would like to share and except from the epic novel “Just a Season” because the story continues… 

Today we live in a world where there is no more Granddaddy to share that precious wisdom necessary to guide our young men and women into adulthood. I was very fortunate or maybe blessed, to have had a loving grandfather who shared many valuable lessons with me. These lessons formed the foundation of my very being…

“Granddaddy would say if you really hear me, not just listen to me, you will inherit life’s goodness. I would hear him talk about things like “God bless the child that’s got his own.” He constantly reminded me that everything that ever existed came from a just-single thought, and if you can think it, you can figure out how to do it just put your mind to it. I would also constantly hear that a man must be able to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done regardless of the circumstances. “I raised you to be a man and as a man, you don’t know what you will have to do, but when the time comes, do it.” Granddaddy drove home the point, the difference between a man and a boy is the lessons he’s learned.

Granddaddy would also say you will always have an enemy. Your enemy is anyone who attempts to sabotage the assignment God has for your life. Your enemy is anybody who may resent you doing positive things and will be unhappy because of your success. These people will attempt to kill the faith that God has breathed within you. They would rather discuss your past than your future because they don’t want you to have one. Your enemy should not be feared. He would say it is important to understand that this person usually will be close to you. He would tell me to use them as bridges, not barricades. Therefore, it is wise to make peace with your enemy.

“Just remember these things I say to you.” I certainly could not count all of these things, as it seemed like a million or more that I was supposed to remember. However, he asked me to remember above all else that there is no such thing as luck. The harder you work at something the luckier you get. I would tell him that I was lucky, maybe because I had won a ballgame or something. He would smile and tell me luck is only preparation meeting opportunity. Life is all about survival and if you are to survive – never bring a knife to a gunfight. This would be just as foolish as using a shotgun to kill a mosquito. Then he asked me to remember that it is not the size of the dog in the fight; it is the size of the fight in the dog.

Granddaddy’s words had so much power, although it would often require some thinking on my part to figure out what he was talking about, or what the moral of the story was supposed to be. It may have taken awhile but I usually figured it out. For example, always take the road less traveled, make your own path, but be sure to leave a trail for others to follow. Life’s road is often hard; just make sure you travel it wisely. If you have a thousand miles to go, you must start the journey with the first step. During many of these lessons, he would remind me not to let your worries get the best of you.

Sometimes he would use humor. For example, he would say something like “Moses started out as a basket case.” Although most often he assured me that hard times will come and when they come, do not drown in your tears; always swim in your blessings. He would tell me he had seen so much and heard even more, in particular those stories from his early life when dreadful atrocities were done to Negroes. Some of the stories included acts of violence such as lynchings, burnings, and beatings. He would make a point to explain that the people who did these things believed they were acting in the best interest of society.

He would tell me about things he witnessed over time, that many of these atrocities were erased from the memory of society regardless how horrible the event was. Society’s reasoning would make you think their action was right, fair, and justified. Granddaddy would add, if history could erase that which he had witnessed and known to be true, how can you trust anything history told as truth? He would emphasize that I should never, never believe it, because nothing is as it seems.

I would marvel at his wisdom. He would tell me to always set my aim higher than the ground. Shoot for the stars because if you miss you will only land on the ground and that will be where everybody else will be. When he would tell me this, he would always add, please remember you are not finished because you are defeated. You are only finished if you give up. He would usually include a reminder. Always remember who you are and where you came from. Never think you are too big because you can be on top of the world today and the world can be on top of you tomorrow.

I think Granddaddy had the foresight to see that I could do common things in life in an uncommon way, that I could command the attention of the world around me. Granddaddy impressed upon me that change is a strange thing. Everyone talks about it but no one ever tries to affect it. It will take courage and perseverance to reach your place of success.

Just remember that life -is not a rehearsal. It is real and it is you who will create your destiny don’t wait for it to come to you. He would say, can’t is not a word. Never use it because it implies failure. It is also smart to stay away from those who do use it.

He would tell me that I was an important creation, that God gave a special gift to me for the purpose of changing the world around me. It may be hard sometimes, you may not understand, you may have self-doubt or hesitation, but never quit. God gave it to you so use it wisely. He would add often times something biblical during his teaching, or so I thought, like to whom much is given, much is expected. It is because we needed you that God sent you. That statement profoundly gave me a sense of responsibility that I was duty-bound to carry throughout my life.

Granddaddy’s inspiration, courage, and motivation still humble me, and I’m filled with gratitude that his example profoundly enriched my soul. So much so that in those times of trouble, when the bridges are hard to cross and the road gets rough, I hear Granddaddy’s gentle voice reciting words once spoken by the Prophet Isaiah: “Fear not for I am with you.”

Excerpt from “Just a Season”
All Rights Reserved (c) 2008

http://johntwills.com

Legacy – A New Season the sequel is now available on Kindle with the hard copy released July 20th. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008HJRPE0


Happy Birthday Lena Horne

Today we celebrate the birthday of Lena Horne, known to her peers as “The Horne”. The electrifying beauty and uncompromising performer who shattered racial boundaries by changing the way Hollywood presented black women for six-decades through a singing career on stage, television and in films was the model of black womanhood.

She is best described in her own words saying “my identity was clear because I no longer have to be a ‘credit,’ I don’t have to be a ‘symbol’ to anybody. I don’t have to be a ‘first’ to anybody. I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.”

Lena Mary Calhoun Horne was born June 30, 1917, in Brooklyn, N.Y. Her father was a civil servant and gambler who largely abandoned the family, although Ms. Horne reconnected with him in the late 1930’s. Her mother, an actress, was largely absent from Ms. Horne’s early life because of work on the black theater circuit. Shifted at first among friends and relatives, Ms. Horne was raised mostly by her maternal grandmother, a stern social worker and suffragette in Bedford-Stuyvesant, then a middle-class Brooklyn neighborhood. Ms. Horne said she was influenced by her grandmother’s “polite ferocity.”

In 1933, when she was 16, Ms. Horne was reunited with her mother and new stepfather, a white Cuban. It was the peak of the Depression, and they lived on relief in Harlem. Ms. Horne was pushed into a job at the Cotton Club by her mother, who knew the Harlem nightclub’s choreographer. The segregated club attracted white clientele who liked to watch the top black entertainers of the day, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, surrounded by what was promoted as a “tall, tan and terrific” chorus of girls.

The Horne, as she was endearing called because of her striking beauty and voice, was considered one of the most beautiful women in the world came to the attention of Hollywood in 1942. She was the first black woman to sign a meaningful long-term contract with a major studio, a contract that said she would never have to play a maid. This single act transformed the image of the African American woman in Hollywood. As film historian Donald Bogle said, “Movies are a powerful medium and always depicted African American women before Lena Horne as hefty, mammy-like maids who were ditzy and giggling… Lena Horne becomes the first one the studios begin to look at differently… Really just by being there, being composed and onscreen with her dignity intact paved the way for a new day” for black actresses.

In Hollywood, Ms. Horne received previously unheard-of star treatment for a black actor. Her reputation in Hollywood rested on a handful of classic musical films. Among the best were two all-black musicals from 1943: “Cabin in the Sky,” as a small-town temptress who pursues Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and “Stormy Weather,” in which she played a career-obsessed singer opposite Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. She shared billing with hugely famous white entertainers such as Gene Kelly, Lucille Ball, Mickey Rooney and Red Skelton but was segregated onscreen so producers could clip out her singing when the movies ran in the South. “Mississippi wanted its movies without me,” she once told the New York.

Metro Goldwyn Mayer studios featured Ms. Horne in movies and advertisements as glamorously as white beauties including Hedy Lamarr, Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable. James Gavin, who has written a biography of Ms. Horne, said: “Given the horrible restrictions of the time, MGM bent over backward to do everything they could. After MGM, she was an international star, and that made her later career possible, made her a superstar.” Ms. Horne appeared on television and at major concerts halls in New York, London and Paris. She starred on Broadway twice, and her 1981 revue, “Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music,” set the standard for the one-person musical show, reviewers said. The performance also netted her a special Tony Award and two Grammy Awards. She was formidable and the first black cabaret star for white society.

As a songstress her repertoire consisted of sophisticated ballads of Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Frank Loesser and Billy Strayhorn. She loved the music but also said she liked surprising the white audience who expected black entertainers to sing hot jazz or blues and dance wildly. In her singing, Ms. Horne showed great range and could convincingly shift between jazz, blues and cabaret ballads. New Yorker jazz writer Whitney Balliett praised her “sense of dynamics that allowed her to whisper and wheedle and shout.”

She told the New York Times in 1981, “I thought, ‘How can I sing about a penthouse in the sky, when with the housing restrictions the way they are, I wouldn’t be allowed to rent the place?” In the late 1940’s and 1950’s, she chose to focus on quietly defying segregation policies at upscale hotels in Miami Beach and Las Vegas where she performed. At the time, it was customary for black entertainers to stay in black neighborhoods, but Ms. Horne successfully insisted that she and her musicians be allowed to stay wherever she entertained. One Las Vegas establishment reportedly had its chambermaids burn Ms. Horne’s sheets.

In 1963, Ms. Horne appeared at the civil rights March on Washington with Harry Belafonte and Dick Gregory and was part of a group, which included authors James Baldwin and Lorraine Hansberry that met with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to urge a more active approach to desegregation. Ms. Horne also used her celebrity to rally front-line civil rights activists in the South and was a fundraiser for civil right groups including the NAACP and the National Council of Negro Women.

Working closely with NAACP Executive Secretary Walter White, Ms. Horne said she wanted to “try to establish a different kind of image for Negro women.” They successfully challenged the casting system that had long marginalized black performers onscreen by having them portray servants, minstrels or jungle natives. To Ms. Horne’s surprise, her efforts to overcome servile screen parts was resented by many black actors who viewed her as a threat more than a pioneer. She said she was perceived as a danger to the system of informal “captains” in the black acting community who worked as liaisons with film producers when they needed “natives” for the latest Tarzan picture.

After the triumph of her 1981 Broadway show, she led an increasingly isolated life in her Manhattan apartment. Over my lifetime I have seen and known giants who have illuminated the world. None shined brighter then “The Horne”. A life rich in wonder that now belong to the ages. Rest In Peace Ms. Horne as you take your rest among the ghost of the great.


Unsung Voice of Our Times

John Henrik Clarke was one of the most brilliant, profound, and empowering educators of our time. He was born January 1, 1915 in Union Springs, Alabama and died July 16, 1998 in New York City.

His mother was a washerwoman who did laundry for $3 a week and his father was a sharecropper. As a youngster Clark caddied for Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley “long before they became Generals or President,” Clarke would later recount in describing his upbringing in rural Alabama.

Ms. Harris his third grade teacher convinced him that one day I would be a writer but before he became a writer he became a voracious reader inspired by Richard Wright’s Black Boy.a vertern who enlisted in the army and earned the rank of Master Sergeant. After mustering out, Clarke moved to Harlem and committed himself to a lifelong pursuit of factual knowledge about the history of his people and creative application of that knowledge. Over the years, Clarke became both a major historian and a man of letters.

His literary accomplishments were very significant but he was best known as a historian. He wrote over two hundred short stories with “The Boy Who Painted Christ Black” is his best known. Clarke edited numerous literary and historical anthologies including American Negro Short Stories (1966), an anthology which included nineteenth century writing from writers such as Paul Laurence Dunbar and Charles Waddell Chestnut, and continued up through the early sixties with writers such as LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) and William Melvin Kelley. This is one of the classic collections of Black fiction.

Reflective of his commitment to his adopted home, Clarke also edited Harlem, A Community in Transition and Harlem, U.S.A. Never one to shy away from the difficult or the controversial, Clarke edited anthologies on Malcolm X and a major collection of essays decrying William Styron’s “portrait” of Nat Turner as a conflicted individual who had a love/hate platonic and sexually-fantasized relationship with Whites. In both cases, Clarke’s work was in defense of the dignity and pride of his beloved Black community rather than an attack on Whites.

What is significant is that Clarke did the necessary and tedious organizing work to bring these volumes into existence and thereby offer an alternative outlook from the dominant mainstream views on Malcolm X and Nat Turner, both of whom were often characterized as militant hate mongers. Clarke understood the necessity for us to affirm our belief in and respect for radical leaders such as Malcolm X and Nat Turner. It is interesting to note that Clarke’s work was never simply focused on investigating history as the past, he also was proactively involved with history in the making.

As a historian Clarke also edited a book on Marcus Garvey and edited Africa, Lost and Found (with Richard Moore and Keith Baird) and African People at the Crossroads, two seminal historical works widely used in History and African American Studies disciplines on college and university campuses. Through the United Nations he published monographs on Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois. As an activist-historian he produced the monograph Christopher Columbus and the African Holocaust. His most recently published book was Who Betrayed the African Revolution?

In the form of edited books, monographs, major essays and book introductions, John Henrik Clarke produced well over forty major historical and literary documents. Rarely, if ever, has one man delivered so much quality and inspiring literature. Moreover, John Henrik Clarke was also an inquisitive student who became a master teacher.

During his early years in Harlem, Clarke made the most of the rare opportunities to be mentored by many of the great 20th century Black historians and bibliophile. Clarke studied under and learned from men such as Arthur Schomburg, William Leo Hansberry, John G. Jackson, Paul Robeson, Willis Huggins and Charles Seiffert, all of whom, sometimes quietly behind the scenes and other times publicly in the national and international spotlight, were significant movers and shakers, theoreticians and shapers of Black intellectual and social life in the 20th century.

From the sixties on, John Henrik Clarke stepped up and delivered the full weight of his own intellectual brilliance and social commitment to the ongoing struggle for Black liberation and development. Clarke became a stalwart member and hard worker in (and sometimes co-founder of) organizations such as The Harlem Writers Guild, Presence Africaine, African Heritage Studies Association, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, the National Council of Black Studies and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations.

Formally, Clarke lectured and held professorships at universities worldwide. His longer and most influential tenures were at the Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell in Ithaca, New York, and in African and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York City. He received honorary degrees from numerous institutions and served as consultant and advisor to African and Caribbean heads of state. In 1997 he was the subject of a major documentary directed by the noted filmmaker Saint Claire Bourne and underwritten by the Hollywood star Westley Snipes.

John Henrik Clarke is in many ways exemplary of the American ethos of the self-made man. Indicative of this characteristic is the fact that Clarke changed his given name of John Henry Clark to reflect his aspirations. In an obituary he penned for himself shortly before his death, John Henrik Clarke noted “little black Alabama boys were not fully licensed to imagine themselves as conduits of social and political change. …they called me ‘bubba’ and because I had the mind to do so, I decided to add the ‘e’ to the family name ‘Clark’ and change the spelling of ‘Henry’ to ‘Henrik,’ after the Scandinavian rebel playwright, Henrik Ibsen.

I like his spunk and the social issues he addressed in ‘A Doll’s House.’ …My daddy wanted me to be a farmer; feel the smoothness of Alabama clay and become one of the first blacks in my town to own land. But, I was worried about my history being caked with that southern clay and I subscribed to a different kind of teaching and learning in my bones and in my spirit.”

Body and soul, John Henrik Clarke was a true champion of Black people. He bequeathed us a magnificent legacy of accomplishment and inspiration borne out of the earnest commitment of one irrepressible young man to make a difference in the daily and historical lives of his people. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

Viva, John Henrik Clarke!

Resource: Black College Online

http://johntwills.com

Listen to internet radio with John T Willschronicles on Blog Talk Radio


Have Hoodie Will Commit Crime

“I feel that we as Americans are all equal and held together by a common thread. Like a treasured beaded necklace of different colors held together on a string, Held together by our necessities, our circumstances, and our humanity. Every color helps to make the necklace beautiful. We can never be a separate entity! Americans of all colors are so integrated that if we hurt one, we hurt all. Just like that necklace of treasured beads, leave one out and the gap is seen, break the chain and many of us are lost.”

The hardest thing in man’s mind is to be tolerant of another or to keep an open mind. In order to tolerate someone or something we have to step out of our comfort zone. We judge without thought when something or someone is different. As long as we (Black) people have been a part of American society, you would assume we would be a value to America. Though we strive to be like our White counterparts, accepted unconditionally we are still fighting. We fight for the label of Colored, Black, Negro, and African-American.

I sometimes wonder if we engage in a losing battle because the battle is not against ‘us’ per say, but against the inner sense of shame, the shame of Slavery. Shame for an action is hard to wipe away. You can apologize but as long as the object which causes the shame is persistently in sight, the shame remains and becomes an irritant. Something you want to get rid of and eventually the irritant turns to anger and the anger causes you to lash out. We, if only seen as a ‘casing’ or a vessel cannot change, as a thinking individual we can cause enormous changes. Just look at the profiling of the unfortunate hoodie in the media lately. In place of the word, ‘Black man’ read hoodie.

The hoodie, its sleeves worn by every age, sex, religion and racial ethnicity, singled out as a troublemaker, a deviant. Even though it comes in every color, fashioned from various material, is designed, made, bought, and sold in malls as well as major outlet stores all across the world, is still profiled as the accessory to theft and considered an outfit for the degenerate. Who cares that the hoodie, seen on the backs of individuals in every profession, worn in the highest halls of education, laying across the seats of chairs in the White House, it is now a symbol for all that is bad in the world, much like the Black man.

Recently, I impatiently watched the news to view a certain pumped-up segment. The announcer, constantly harping about a thief caught on tape and our impending surprise on what the thief was wearing, had gotten my attention. It would be shocking, right? Wrong. I had hoped to see some man in a tutu dragging out a flat screen while fighting off a pit bull, but of course, it was the obvious. Wait for the shocker….it was a guy in a hoodie! What really made me think WTH, the interviewed owner in the piece says, ‘I didn’t want to call in and be accused of racial profiling by saying the guy wore a hoodie’. What?

So, only Black people wear this item of clothing? Anyone with one eye could see the person was Black, just say a Black guy is robbing my car and don’t bring up the hoodie. What a shame. Poor hoodies cannot get a break lately. No one is trying to learn the real essence of the hoodie or the Black man. The profile, both a cancerous malignancy formed in error is set and there it stays. As with any race there are deviants and threats to society. Why pick on the Black race as a whole and label us as worthless.

The fight for racial and social equalization continues and will continue as long as man breathes. We are a selfish entity believing we are better than another is because of our perceived ‘place’ in life. Our unification should grow because of our differences and if we were honest with ourselves, we would see our differences are only skin-deep. In religion, anyone can choose which path to follow. In education, we can all go as far as we choose. In sexual orientation, again it is a preference.

In our choice of occupation, whether or not to be a parent, or who to marry, these all are options. Much of the tension in the world boils down to the color of a person’s skin. Of all the races, I believe the dark skinned are the least tolerated, especially the American Blacks. How many times have we been the scapegoat as kidnapper, murder, or thief without reason? How many times have we been judged as sell-outs or ignorant because of skin color?

In the American multi-racial history book Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History chapter three is titled Voices of Change and has a section dedicated to activism and the people who stepped out to confront the injustices directed at people of specific ethnicities. The author begins the chapter with a small bit of history pertaining to members of her family.

These members (father and cousin) fought and succeeded in the desegregation of what is now Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas. How many of us cannot find a single member of our family who has participated in the formation of history? It should not matter the color of your skin or your belief system we have all voiced and accomplished a change.

Being part of a cause means more than marching and shouting to have personal wishes met. It is a chance to make a change in behavior and thought patterns in areas from equal rights in housing, education, socialization, sexual orientation and the donning of an item of clothing.

By Ey Wade

About the Author: Ey Wade considers herself to be a caged in frustrated author of thought provoking, mind bending eBooks, an occasional step-in parent, a fountain of knowledge, and ready to share. She is the author of Beads on a String-America’s Racially Intertwined Biographical History a celebration of the accomplishments and contributions of all races to America’s illustrious growth and history.

http://amzn.to/BeadsUs
http://wade-inpublishing.com
http://johntwills.com

 


A Must Read Novel

I am very fortunate or maybe I should say blessed to have been chosen to channel the story within the pages of the epic novel “Just a Season”.  It chronicles what has been called a contemporary “Roots” with the emotion of “The Color Purple” that will cause you to see the world through new eyes. Another reviewer said, “This is the stuff movies are made of… I have not read anything that so succinctly chronicles an African American story.” I was very pleased and honored to have receive that kind of acclaim.

Just a Season is the predecessor to Legacy – A New Season that will be released very soon. It’s been several years since Just a Season, and it’s time to move on. Generations have come and gone, life is bearable after all, and hope lives in a little boy and in a man who almost lost all hope.

It’s been said that there are no words that have not been spoken and no stories that have never been told but there are some you cannot forget. “Legacy” – A New Seasonis the perfect compliment to that statement and the continuation of Just a Season.  It is a stand-alone story rich in history on a subject rarely explained to children of this generation – the African American struggle.

This long awaited squeal to the epic novel Just a Season will take you on an awe inspiring journey through the African-American Diaspora, as told by a grandfather to his grandson in the oral African tradition at a time when America changed forever.

I want to share the being of the story which I have been told will capture you from the first page transporting you into John’s word. It is a luminous story into the life of a man who, in the midst of pain and loss, journeys back in time to reexamine all the important people, circumstances, and intellectual fervor that contributed to the richness of his life. What follows is the prelude that I hope you will enjoy. Oh, did I tell you that Just a Season is a must read novel…

__________________________________________

Prelude

A season is a time characterized by a particular circumstance, suitable to an indefinite period of time associated with a divine phenomenon that some call life. One of the first things I learned in this life was that it is a journey. During this passage through time I have come to realize that there are milestones, mountains, and valleys that everyone will encounter. Today, I have to face a valley and it’s excruciating. It’s June 28th, a day that I once celebrated as a very special day. Now, it’s filled with sorrow. The reason this day is different from all others is because I have come to the cemetery at Friendly Church.

Normally it’s hot and humid as summer begins, but not so today. It’s a cool gray day with the sky slightly overcast. I hear the echo of birds chirping from a distance. There is also a mist or a light fog hovering very near the ground that gives the aura of a mystical setting.  This is a place where many of my family members who have passed away rest for eternity.  Some have been resting here for over a hundred years. I have grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, a sister, and many friends here as well. The cemetery is in the most tranquil of places secluded from the rest of the world, very peaceful and beautiful, almost like being near the gateway of heaven.

My heart aches today because I have come here on what would have been my son’s birthday. This is a very hard thing for me to do as the natural order suggests it should be the other way around. Another difficulty is that this is the first time I will see his headstone that was put in place just a few days ago. Although I know what it should look like, it’s going to be hard to actually see it. It will indicate the finality of losing the dearest of all human beings.  It’s hard to imagine what the rest of my life will be like without my precious son.

As I pass Granddaddy’s gravesite, I stop to say hello. After a brief moment, I continue in the direction of my son’s resting place. As I get closer, I begin to receive a rush of emotion to the point that my movements slow as the sight comes into view. I can now see his name clearly and I whisper “God why did you take him?” I become numb as I finally arrive at his gravesite, overwhelmed with this never before known emotion. This is something I never thought I would ever have to do, but here I am!!!

Suddenly, the sky begins to clear somewhat, as I now feel the sun’s rays from above.  At this very moment, I receive an epiphany upon reading the dates inscribed on the stone.  1981 – 2001. What does this really mean? The beginning and the end, surely, but in the final analysis it is just a tiny little dash that represents the whole life of a person. I fall to my knees realizing the profound impact of that thought causing me to look to the heavens and wonder. If someone, for whatever reason, were to tell the story concealed within my dash.   What might they say?

Chapter One

The story begins in late November 1951 on a clear sunny Sunday afternoon. It was fairly cool for an autumn day and as it was the custom in the Reid family, everyone had gone to church early to give praise to the Lord. This was a special day for this family. It was a special day because of their anticipation of a new member into the family. So it was a great, great feeling of joy and excitement that filled their home. Ruth and Josie did not attend church this day, because Josie was overdue and expecting to give birth at anytime.

The Reid residence was Granddaddy’s house, where friends and family gathered after church for dinner most Sundays. Granddaddy was the anchor and his home was viewed as a welcoming sanctuary to all who came. Granddaddy and his family lived on a farm of about two hundred acres. In a time when living was tough in this very segregated rural area of Maryland, it was even harder being a sharecropper. In fact, this was really just a step above slavery and not much of a step, I might add.

This was a very small family, tightly woven together, and built on faith. The Reid family was proud, respected, and well known in this community. The family’s core was Sylvanus, affectionately called Vanus, but to me he was Granddaddy. A quiet hard working family minded man. He married Miss Gladys in the mid nineteen twenties and had lived on this place since then. Although they did not own the farm nor did they have very many material possessions, they were rich in love and strong in faith. The farm was all they knew and this family was their life.

Granddaddy was a proud man who commanded respect by his mere presence. He was strong, and had to be, because of his life’s existence. He believed the event about to take place would be the blessing for which he had long dreamed. To him this was a bright beacon of hope. He believed firmly that faith was being sure of what you hoped for and certain of what you could not see. Granddaddy conceived this understanding, maybe through a vision, that this child would be key to the future of his family. He had very high hopes that this event would bring the gift for which he had long waited.

Miss Gladys, his beloved wife, was a good Christian woman and a real fighter. She was known throughout the community as Big Momma, and Big Momma was something else. If that’s the way she saw it, that’s the way it ought ta be. She would always say, “I’m like a blue hen chicken, I cluck but I never sit.” I don’t think anyone really understood what she meant by that, but she was the boss. Well, she was the boss to everyone but Granddaddy.

Their union produced one son, Sonny, who was Ruth’s husband. They had three children. Their names were Effie, Dottie, and Buddy. Martha, their oldest daughter had one child, a son, whose name was Willie. Then there was Josie, the youngest of Granddaddy’s children. Which meant, as the baby of the family she was special. Oh yeah, there was also a child Granddaddy raised whose name was Lilly and this was pretty much the Reid family.  Also present on this day was Martha’s boyfriend Lonnie, as he was on most weekends. The gathering on this day also included a few of the good church folk who came by after the church service.

If you love history and want to know our story visit http://johntwills.com for more information and to purchase the novels. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…


WHOSE THE BLAME?

I’m someone who believes “Knowledge is power and that power produces an understanding that education is the single most important ingredient necessary to neutralize those forces that breed poverty and despair.”

With that said, I read an article on the Urban Source blog that spoke to the issue of how the educational system has failed the black male for three reasons. Before I continue I want to give credit to the written for this profoundly enlightening piece, which I wanted to add a thought or two and share with you.

The article began with this statement: “This article is going to make many people mad but I ask you to just think about what I am saying. The First, Parents are not involved in the education process. Second, Instead of praising education we marginalize it as African Americans. Third, we accept mediocrity as the standard in the Black community.” I will capture and quote parts of the article because I think the writer was on point.

It was this point that got my attention and feel it deserving of our attention. “How can a single parent, who works 45 to 50 hours a week at a full time job, cook, clean, and still have time to help with a child’s homework. Since most of our boys are being raised by, under educated women – education is not instilled in them.” Hmmm! I can’t say I completely agree with that but it could be argued.

The author went further adding; “Look at the Statistics 65% percent of the prison population are black males. Out of that 65%, 80% do not have a G.E.D. and, 74% percent come from single parent households. Here is where the marginalization comes into play with a lot of or boys. Instead of saying, you have a one percent chance of going to the NBA or NFL… let us become an Engineer or Doctor the parents’ pushes the black male to a less than realistic dream.”

You can’t argue with numbers. We all know the prison industrial complex was and is designed to be the “New Jim Crow”. Actually,  it goes beyond that and I will say it – “Slavery”. We know that this concept is as American as apple pie and has been used effectively since the nation was born. Now, the problem, as I see it, rests solely on the foundation of the home and the dysfunction within our community. Somehow a proud race of people has become confused and fooled.

“… It is not the people who call you nigger that’s racist but, it is the people who lower standards and give us a handout that are they true racist. …Let’s stop saying the Pinnacle of success is LIL Wayne or Lebron James, because to be honest they are not – they keep us entertained and black people loved to be entertained. We are better than that our ancestors who taught the Greeks math. We built the pyramids. We need to get back to basics – it starts at home. We need to stop failing our boys. It is easier to build a man than fix a broken one.”

This kind of thinking and truth is not rare among us, and there are many black men who are holding it down. The system, wink, has used the ol’ divide and conquer strategy throughout time against naive people. Ladies, if you say or don’t believe you need a man. Your children do!!!

We should have listened to Dr. Woodson, Malcolm, Martin, and Garvey – and if we had we would know that we are better than that. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

http://johntwills.com

 

 


%d bloggers like this: