TALK TO THE DADDY

Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Friday, October 31, 2008

America: Michael Harper, Claude McKay

Today, the daddy is feeling America. It's getting close to electing its next president. It will be either Sen. John McCain, a white, older somewhat dour individual born into an upper-class military family who became a war hero, or Barack Obama, a black, young, charming intellectual born into a poor family witha mother who used food stamps and a father who was never at home. Yet, he went on to become a professor of law, a State senator, and a United States Senator.

The daddy is thinking about America from the perspectives of African Americans, those who, more than likely, know what it means to come from the lower income level of America, the poor, the despised.

Michael Harper (above, on the right) is a kind of a middle-of- the-roader, something between an academic poet and what I call a people's poet, one who speaks from the perspective of the working man or woman, the oppressed, the ones viewed as "the least of these." His poem "American History" speaks of a piviotal point in American history: the bombing of a church in Alabama in which four black girls were killed. He connects it to the Middle Passage, another painful period in American history.

Claude Mckay (above, on the left) was born in James Hill, Clarendon, Jamaica in 1889 on a family farm. Having heard of the great work of Dr. Booker T. Washington, McKay came to the United States to attend Tuskegee Institute, in Tuskegee, Alabama, the institute developed by Dr. Washington. But the reality of American racism in the South proved to be too much for him. After a few months, he gladly went to Kansas State University to study Agriculture.

In the early 1930's, McKay became attracted to communism, and lived in Russia and France until 1934. Then he came back to the United States, settling in Harlem. There he wrote and became involved with local leaders in the area. And his writing won the respect of younger African American writers, helping to set the stage for the Harlem Renaissance.

American History
by Michael Harper

Those four black girls blown up
in that black church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn't find them.
Can't find what you can't see
Can you?

America
by Claude McKay

Although se feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks in my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breadth of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
He bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand with her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The American Dream: Paul Laurence Dunbar and Georgia Douglas Johnson

Today, the daddy is feeling two great black poets who wrote about America: Georgia Douglas Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Many poets wrote positive poems about America. They marveled at the great American frontier and expanse. They celebrated the American spirit that was full of opportunity and promise. Walt Whitman's "I Sing America" is a good example of such poetry. But not all poets wrote from this perspective.

Many African American poets spoke to the failure of America to live up to its glorified principles of democracy and enticing promises to "the least of these," its African American citizens. But these poets also celebrated those African Americans who fought to make the American dream come true for African Americans and, by doing so, challenged America to make sure its principles and promises continue to be true for all Americans. In this sense, they fought not only for African Americans, but for all Americans, for all times.

Best known for the poem "I Want to Die While You Love Me," Georgia Douglas Johnson wrote poems that were personal, very honest. In the poem "Black Woman," she speaks to the failure of American to live up to its promise for many African Americans-- so much so that she questioned whether a woman should give birth to a back child and have him or her live in such a "cruel" world of white oppression.


Paul Laurence Dunbar is one of America's greatest poets. He may be best known for the poem "We Wear the Mask." But he wrote many great poems that were not viewed highly because they were written in black dialect.

The poem "Frederick Douglas" was written shortly after the death of Frederick Douglas. It was not a eulogy so much as a celebration of Douglas courageous and consistent advocacy for African Americans, his untiring effort to make America a land of liberation and freedom for all Americans.


Black Woman
by Georgia Douglas Johnson

Don’t knock at the door, little child,
I cannot let you in,
You know not what a world this is
Of cruelty and sin.
Wait in the still eternity
Until I come to you,
The world is cruel, cruel, child,
I cannot let you in!

Don’t knock at my heart, little one,
I cannot bear the pain
Of turning deaf-ear to your call
Time and time again!
You do not know the monster men
Inhabiting the earth,
Be still, be still, my precious child,
I must not give you birth!
Frederick Douglass
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

A hush is over all the teeming lists,
And there is pause, a breath-space in the strife;
A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists
And vapors that obscure the sun of life.
And Ethiopia, with bosom torn,
Laments the passing of her noblest born.

She weeps for him a mother's burning tears--
She loved him with a mother's deepest love.
He was her champion thro' direful years,
And held her weal all other ends above.
When Bondage held her bleeding in the dust,
He raised her up and whispered, "Hope and Trust."

For her his voice, a fearless clarion, rung
That broke in warning on the ears of men;
For her the strong bow of his power he strung,
And sent his arrows to the very den
Where grim Oppression held his bloody place
And gloated o'er the mis'ries of a race.

And he was no soft-tongued apologist;
He spoke straightforward, fearlessly uncowed;
The sunlight of his truth dispelled the mist,
And set in bold relief each dark hued cloud;
To sin and crime he gave their proper hue,
And hurled at evil what was evil's due.

Through good and ill report he cleaved his way.
Right onward, with his face set toward the heights,
Nor feared to face the foeman's dread array,--
The lash of scorn, the sting of petty spites.
He dared the lightning in the lightning's track,
And answered thunder with his thunder back.

When men maligned him, and their torrent wrath
In furious imprecations o'er him broke,
He kept his counsel as he kept his path;
'Twas for his race, not for himself he spoke.
He knew the import of his Master's call,
And felt himself too mighty to be small.

No miser in the good he held was he,--
His kindness followed his horizon's rim.
His heart, his talents, and his hands were free
To all who truly needed aught of him.
Where poverty and ignorance were rife,
He gave his bounty as he gave his life.

The place and cause that first aroused his might
Still proved its power until his latest day.
In Freedom's lists and for the aid of Right
Still in the foremost rank he waged the fray;
Wrong lived; his occupation was not gone.
He died in action with his armor on!

We weep for him, but we have touched his hand,
And felt the magic of his presence nigh,
The current that he sent throughout the land,
The kindling spirit of his battle-cry.
O'er all that holds us we shall triumph yet,
And place our banner where his hopes were set!

Oh, Douglass, thou hast passed beyond the shore,
But still thy voice is ringing o'er the gale!
Thou'st taught thy race how high her hopes may soar,
And bade her seek the heights, nor faint, nor fail.
She will not fail, she heeds thy stirring cry,
She knows thy guardian spirit will be nigh,
And, rising from beneath the chast'ning rod,
She stretches out her bleeding hands to God!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Barack Obama and Langston Hughes: Two Patriotic Poems

"Bobby Kennedy, 1968: "Things are moving so fast in race relations a Negro could be president in 40 years. There's no question about it. In the next 40 years, a Negro can achieve the same position that my brother had. Prejudice exists and will continue to, but we have tried to make progress, and we are making progress. We are not going to accept the status quo."
--Robert Kennedy Jr., 1968

I, Too, Sing America

by Langston Hughes

I , too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll sit at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then. Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed.

I, too, am America.

----------------------

Let America Be America Again

by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jennifer Hudson, we hurt with you. We pray justice will be done.

Lynnette and John Louden said "lil Man," their big chiuaha, led them to the SUV parked in their Chicago nieghborhood, in the 1300 block of South Kolin. A child's body was found in the vehicle, the same vehicle the Chicago police had been looking for. Later, Jennifer Hudson identified the body as 7-year old Julan King, her missing nephew.


Jennifer: We hurt with you and your family. We pray that justice will be done.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Jennifer Hudson and a Tragic Family Story

The daddy is feelng a tragic, tragic story. Jennifer Hudson, the singer -actress who started out on American Idol and became a hollywood star based on her Oscar-winning perfromance in the hit movie "Dream Girls."
Now her mother, Darnel Donerson, 57, and her older brother, Jason Hudson, were found shot to death in their home on October 24.

The police are questioning suspect William Belfour, Hudson's brother in-law. In the meantime, Hudson's 7 year old nephew, Julian King, is missing. Jennifer Hudson is offering $100,000 for information that would lead to his return home.

Today, Jennifer blogged on Facebook, asking her fans to pray for little Julian. She said, "Thank you all for your prayers and your calls. Please keep praying for our family and that we get Julian King back home safely. If anyone has any information about his whereabouts please contact the authorities immediately. Here is a picture of Julian and what he was last seen wearing. Once again thank you all for being there for us through this tough time."

The rumor is that the family fought over the ownership of a car. If this is true, the question becomes: Is a car worth the death of two people being shot to death? A cute little seven year old boy being taken from the home?

Have some of us become so immune or de-sensitized to death that we would shoot someone over a car?

Mahalia Jackson: The Daddy Is Feeling You Deep Down in His Soul

"Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them."
--Mahalia Jackson


Today, the daddy is feeling Mahalia Jackson, the greatest and most influential gospel singer ever. You see, today, October 26, is Mahalia Jackson's birthday; and, I tell ya, it makes the daddy wanna go to one of them old sanctified churches, strut up and down the isles banging on a tambourine shouting "Hallelujah!"

Jackson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1911. Like many other black singers, she grew up in the church, singing in a gospel choir.
Like many other blacks who lived "down South," she became sick and tired of the humiliating and unrelenting racial bigotry there and, in 1927, made her way to what blues master Robert Johnson called "Sweet home Chicago," Illinois for a better life, or at least a life free of the straight-up apartheid she experienced in New Orleans.

Jackson was one confident lady. She knew she could sing, but she didn't want to perform for Hollywood or commercial record labels. She wanted to sing for the Lord. So, unlike other great singing talents like Sam Cooke, Johnny Taylor, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding, who started out singing gospel or spirituals but abandoned it for the relatively more popular and more lucrative R&B market, Jackson kept singing gospel and spirituals. Rather than go commercial, she worked menial jobs and sang gospel and what she called "devotional songs" like "Lift Every Voice and Sing" at churches and revival meetings. Eventually, she was known back home in New Orleans and throughout the world as the greatest gospel singer of all times. Indeed, she became the first gospel artist to sell a million copies of a record-- "Move up a little higher."

Jackson loved her some Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He was a major influence on her not only because he, like her, was Baptist but because she saw him as a man on earth that was doing the work for her God upstairs. She loved him because he lived and died for peace and freedom for African Americans living under apartheid in the South and for people of all races and nations. Though she lived in Chicago, whenever Dr. King would phone and ask her to sing at one of his events or at his church in Atlanta, she would say yes without hesitation. And, more than not, he would ask her to sing "Precious Lord," his favorite.

Yes, the daddy loves gospel music and great gospel singers like the Five Blind Boys, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, the Soul Stirrers (Sam Cooke used to be their lead singer), Shirley Caesar and Aretha Franklin, especially her gospel album "Amazing Grace." But most of all, he loves Sister Mahalia Jackson. And, like Dr. King, his favorite song of hers is "Precious Lord," which the daddy is listening to right now.

Sister Mahalia: The daddy is feeling you...deep down in his Soul.
-----------------------------------------------------
To learn more about Mahalia Jackson, check out:
1. The Face of Our Past: Images of Black Women from Colonial America to the Present
Edited by Kathleen Thompson and Hilary Mac Austin
Copyright1999, Indiana University Press.
2. Watch the film about her:
"Mahalia Jackson: The Power and the Glory - The Life and Music of the World's Greatest Gospel Singer."
3. Check her out singing "Didn't it rain" on YouTube.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Barack Obama: Another Man of Hope

Today, the daddy is answering a request to re-post an article that he wrote that compares Barack Obama to Bobby Kennedy. Okay, anon, Obama volunteer, here you go.

Barack Obama: Another Man of Hope
by Mac Walton, aka, MacDaddy

Yes, a tall, skinny guy with a funny name is running for president of the United States.

Yes, he appeals to loyal blacks, Latinos, idealistic youth, liberals, progressives, committed
unions, and thinking independents. And, yes, when he speaks, those within earshot of him begin to clap hands, stump their feet and chant to the top of their lungs. And, when the tall skinny kid with the funny name begins to weave a tale of patriotism, hard work, hopes and dreams, when his voice rises to a crescendo like a Lucian Pavarotti aria ending in the high C's, young girls in pretty dresses jump out of their seats and begin to dance deliriously, spinning like couples at a Saturday night hoedown in rural Tennessee.

"We can hope once we realize we have more in common than we have apart. We can change once we know that we have the true power: that power comes not from the top but from the ground up. We can take back White House and take back the country once we know that true power comes from us. When you say, "Yes, we can! Yes, we can! Yes, we can!"


But back in the day, another young US senator ran for president of the United States. No, he wasn't especially tall, and he didn't have a funny name. But, like the skinny kid, he had above-average intelligence, a calming effect upon everyone he met, and an absolutely disarming smile. He was the charmer

Like the tall, skinny kid with the funny name, the charmer believed in change-- change in terms of getting out of a war into which we never should have gotten involved in the first place, and change in developing a mindset where we only go to war as a last resort. Whereas the skinny kid wants to get out of Iraq, the charmer wanted to end our invasion and occupation of Vietnam. Like the skinny kid, the charmer wanted to take funding used to purchase planes and guns and to burn down villages and redirect those monies toward rebuilding America: improving education, putting Americans back to work, improving its neglected infrastructure...healing its racial and moral wounds.

The charmer viewed our propensity for war as going far beyond politics or greed. On Face the Nation, November 26, 1967, he clearly framed our illegal occupation in Vietnam as a moral issue:

"Do we have the right here in the United States to say that we’re going to kill tens of thousands, make millions of people, as we have, refugees, kill women and children, as we have? I very seriously question whether we have that right...When we use napalm, when a village is destroyed and civilians are killed, this is a moral obligation and a moral responsibility for us here in the United States." (
The Last Good Campaign, by Thurston Clarke).

Like the tall skinny kid with the funny name, the charmer saw past religion, race, gender and class to a promising and prosperous future for America.

"For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked for us. The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American society."

In his own way, the charmer was agreeing with the tall, skinny kid with the funny name: "Yes, we can! Yes, we can!

But they say all good things must come to an end. The charmer was assassinated in 1968. Still, if the charmer were around today, he would say to the tall, skinny kid with the funny name the same thing that his brother, Senator Ted Kennedy, said: "Well done, my son. Well done."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Another Stay of Execution for Troy Davis

The daddy has just learned of another stay of execution for Troy Davis. Here is the article:

Another 11th-hour stay for US death row inmate Troy Davis

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Troy Davis, a black American who has spent 17 years on death row for the murder of a white policeman, was Friday granted a stay of execution, three days before he was due to be put to death, court documents showed.

"Upon our thorough review of the record, we conclude that Davis has met the burden for a provisional stay of execution," said the decision taken by three judges sitting on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in the southern state of Georgia, a copy of which was sent to AFP.

Davis, 40, was scheduled to die Monday at 7 pm (2300 GMT) by lethal injection for the 1989 killing of 27-year-old white policeman Mark Allan MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia.

He has repeatedly claimed he did not kill McPhail and seven out of nine witnesses who gave evidence at his trial in 1991 have recanted or changed their testimony, which was the backbone of the prosecution's case in the absence of a murder weapon, fingerprints and DNA.

Other witnesses have since identified another man as the shooter -- a state's witness who testified against Davis.

The appeals court on Friday gave Davis' lawyers 15 days to file documents with the court, supporting defense claims that Davis is being wrongfully held in prison.

The court will then have 10 days to decide if the case of the long-time deathrow inmate should go back before a lower court, which could order a new trial.

Friday's stay of execution "means there will be more litigation, but not necessarily a new trial," which Davis, his lawyers and supporters have been pressing for, Sara Totonchi head of Georgians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, told AFP.

The stay announced Friday was the third for Davis, who was originally sentenced to die in July last year, only to be granted a last-minute stay of execution then by the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole.

Last month, the same parole board denied Davis clemency, putting him back on the path to execution.

Then, with less than two hours to go before he was due to die on September 23, the US Supreme Court granted him his second stay of execution.

"I can't imagine the emotional roller coaster Troy Davis is going through," Sara, who is also head of Davis' support committee, told AFP Friday.

Davis' case has triggered an international outcry as well as support rallies and petitions in Georgia.

A petition signed by 140,000 people was delivered to the Georgia parole board on Friday, hours before the stay of execution was announced.

The French presidency of the European Union, whose 27 member states oppose the use of capital punishment anywhere in the world, appealed Wednesday for Davis's death sentence to be commuted.

Former US president Jimmy Carter, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu of South Africa and Pope Benedict XVI have also spoken out against the execution.

Rights group Amnesty International hailed the decision to grant Davis yet another stay of execution, but slammed the US judicial system for overlooking issues that could prove the inmate's innocence.

"Until this point, the compelling issues in this case have been virtually ignored, leaving Georgia vulnerable to the possibility of killing an innocent man," Amnesty International USA said in a statement.

Last month, Amnesty accused the state of Georgia of "trying to ram through" Davis' execution.

A pardon from the state would spare Davis' life.

Troubling Questions Surround the Troy Davis Execution

Today, the daddy is feeling the recent commentary by Barry Scheck, a well-known and highly respected lawyer. He is also the lawyer who started The Innocence Project, an organization which advocates for prisoners and has helped free many prisoners from execution by the State. His comments on the Troy Davis case and his impending execution, which is scheduled for this coming Monday:

Troubling Question Surround the Troy Davis Execution

by Barry Scheck

By now, hopefully many people have heard about Troy Davis, who is set to be executed Monday in Georgia for the murder of a police officer in Savannah. Investigations conducted since his 1991 conviction have produced disturbing affidavits showing that seven of the nine key witnesses who testified against Davis now recant their trial testimony, claiming they were coerced to lie by Savannah police. Despite the seriousness of these allegations and the sheer number of recantations, Georgia courts and state officials have not only been unwilling to stay his execution, but they have even refused to hold a hearing with live, sworn testimony to assess the credibility of the recanting witnesses.

What most people don't know is why Davis can't get a full hearing on the new evidence -- and just how ridiculously far four judges of the Georgia Supreme Court have gone (there were three dissenters) to avoid reviewing post-conviction evidence of innocence.

The recantation of a witness alone does not and should not automatically result in a conviction being vacated -- recantation evidence is treated with caution by courts because, after all, the witness is saying he or she once lied under oath, so how can one be so sure they are not just lying again? Nonetheless, many wrongful convictions have been overturned because a recanting witness, testifying in person and under oath before a judge, is found to be credible and the reason for the recantation - often a claim that the original trial testimony was coerced - is found to be persuasive. But in Georgia the recanting witnesses don't get to testify because the state's courts have created an extraordinary Catch-22 rule -- the "purest fabrication" doctrine - that arbitrarily denies evidentiary hearings even when extremely persuasive recantation affidavits have been submitted.

The "purest fabrication" doctrine means that post-conviction hearings don't have to be held to evaluate the credibility of recanting witnesses unless the defendant can show, by extrinsic proof before the hearing is held, that the original testimony was absolutely false. The example cited by the Georgia Supreme Court in the Davis case is a recanting witness who testified at trial that he was an accomplice to a murder but can now show, to support his recantation, that he was incarcerated in another county at the time of the crime. Needless to say, in cases with that kind of extrinsic, objective evidence that the recanting witness gave false testimony, hearings are superfluous. In short, the "purest fabrication" doctrine allows Georgia courts to duck inexcusably the most troubling, serious, and controversial recantation cases, the ones that cry out for judges to make fair and full assessments of witness credibility and claims of police coercion, if only to buttress public confidence in the system.

What's left of the evidence against Troy Davis inspires little confidence. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. The case turned on the testimony of two jailhouse snitches, who have both recanted, and seven eyewitnesses, five of whom recanted. The steady drumbeat of DNA exonerations in recent years -- 223 people who served more than 2,500 combined years in prison for crimes they didn't commit -- shows that eyewitnesses can get it wrong and jailhouse snitches lie. More than 75% of these wrongful convictions involved eyewitness misidentification; 15% involved jailhouse snitches. Because DNA revealed the truth in those cases, they didn't rely on recanted testimony, although there were recantations in some of them. But DNA testing is an option in just 10% of all criminal cases. When DNA testing cannot be conducted, innocent prisoners rely on other evidence -- including credible witness recantations - to secure their exonerations.

The Innocence Project, which I co-founded with Peter Neufeld in 1992, advocates for legislation that improves the accuracy of the criminal justice system -- protecting the innocent and helping apprehend the guilty -- by addressing the root causes of the problem. Georgia lawmakers are currently considering reforms to eyewitness identification procedures in the state, but any reforms will come too late too late to help Troy Davis and other people who have already been convicted. We need to reform our criminal justice system to prevent wrongful convictions, but our courts must also be able and willing to examine new evidence of innocence when it is discovered, even when it requires making credibility judgments about recanting witnesses.

If we've learned anything from all these DNA exonerations nationwide, it's that our system makes mistakes. Georgia officials should stop Troy Davis' execution and give him a full hearing -- before carrying out a sentence they can never reverse.

--------

Note from the daddy: If you believe Troy Davis is innocent and will be wrongly executed, please act now.

Contact Carlo Musso. Dr. Musso's company has a contract with the GA Department of Corrections (GDC) to participate in executions. GDC policy dictates that two doctors must be present to allow for an execution to be carried out. This is of course in addition to the other medical professionals who facilitate executions including nurses that prepare the IVs through which poison will flow to Troy Davis' veins.

Please take a moment to send a letter (sample below) to Dr. Musso, president of Rainbow Medical Associates and ask him to remember his humanity and decide NOT to participate in the execution of a man who may be innocent.

The American Medical Associate Code of Medical Ethics explicitly provide that "A physician, as a member of the profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a state execution." With these letters, we can remind Dr. Musso of his oath to facilitate healing, not killing.

You can fax Dr. Musso the letter on (770) 692-4754.

You can send the letter to him via the Internet: copy and paste the letter in their online contact form

Here is the sample letter:


SAMPLE LETTER

October 16, 2008
Carlo Musso, MD.
President, Rainbow Medical Associates
c/o CorrectHealth
9020 Peridot Parkway
Stockbridge, GA 30281

Dear Dr. Musso,

We are writing today to urge you and your company, Rainbow Medical Associates, to decline involvement with the pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis on October 27, 2008 at 7:00pm at Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia.

The execution of Troy Davis would be immoral and wrong. Almost all of the witnesses against him have recanted or changed their stories and no physical evidence was used to convict him. The courts and the parole board have failed to use their power to prevent this imminent miscarriage of justice. However, Troy Davis' execution cannot take place unless human beings participate. You can refuse to help the state of Georgia put Troy Davis to death.

The American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics explicitly provides that "A physician, as a member of the profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a state execution." We implore you to remember your humanity and respect you and your firm's oath to facilitate healing, not killing.

We thank you in advance for choosing not to participate in the execution of a man who may well be innocent. Such an act would be irreversible, immoral and deeply damaging to the reputation of our state and the confidence in our justice system.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address
Email or Phone Number

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Paul Robeson: A Man, a Mighty Man

A Man, a Mighty Man
by Mac Walton, aka, MacDaddy

“I’m going to sing wherever the people want me to sing…

I’m not going to be frightened by crosses burning in Peekskill or anywhere else.”
-Paul Robeson

The more warmly the rest of the world embraced you,
The tighter the US pulled a rope around your neck.
The more the black press abandoned you,
The more defiant you became.
Now free of McCarthy, they claim you,
Even buy stamps in your name.
But the sons and daughters of Malcolm ask:
"Where were you when McCarthy came?"

The daddy feels that Robeson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm to be three of our greatest leaders. Thanks to the folks over at the blog Concrete Loop, you can get a good idea of the physical and intellectual skills as the character that made him such a great African African American leader and a man with an unconquerable spirit, a role model for us all.

BLACK HISTORY SPOTLIGHT: PAUL ROBESON
Thursday, October 23, 2008

PAUL ROBESON (1898 – 1976) was an actor, athlete, civil rights activist, singer and one of the most gifted men of the 20 century.

Born on April 9, 1898, in Princeton, New Jersey, Paul was the eighth child of Quaker abolitionist Maria Luisa Bustill and former slave and minister William Drew Robeson.

In 1915, Robeson graduated high school and received a scholarship to Rutgers College. He was the third black student accepted and the only black student during his time on campus. He excelled academically, becoming a junior-year Phi Beta Kappa, a champion debater, class valedictorian and gaining admission into Cap and Skull, Rutgers’ honor society in 1919. He also triumphed on the athletic field, earning 15 varsity letters in football, baseball, basketball and track. He was named All-American twice in football (1917 and 1918).

While trying out for the football team, Robeson faced savage physical punishment when a senior member of the team crushed his hand with a cleated foot, tearing off fingernails. Coach Walter Camp later described Robeson as “the greatest to ever trot the gridiron”. Later in his life, though, when the U.S. government stopped him from traveling abroad, Robeson’s name was retroactively struck from the roster of the 1917 and 1918 All-America football teams.

To read the complete story, click here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Really Makes America Great: Two Poems

Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1803. He was a poet, essayist, philosopher, and minister. He is best known for "Essays, First and Second Series (1841, 1844), which includes the brilliant essay on "Self-Reliance." Indeed, His essays read like poetry. He was like a James Baldwin of the 19th century. The dude could rap.

Emerson was heavily into transcendentalism, the idea that our world on earth is a microcosm of the entire universe. And though his poetry was viewed as harsh and "didactic" (That's academic talk for preachy. Hey, he was a minister. What did you expect?), most of it was very good. The poem "A Nation's Strength" suggests that a nation's best resource is not money or armaments but its people.

Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri in 1902. Highly associated with the Harlem Renaissance, a period of great outpouring of African American writing, Hughes was a prolific writer. He wrote songs, plays, children's books and columns for black newspapers like the Chicago, but he was best known as a poet. Highly criticized back in the day as a radical or communist sympathizer, or (by black critics) as a writer who glorified the black poor and ignorant, he is celebrated today as one of America's greatest poets. "Let America Be America Again" suggests that the greatness in America lies in its indefatigable spirit, a quality that sorely needs to be reawakened. In content and tone, it reminds the daddy of Walt Whitman's famous poem "I Hear America Singing."

A Nation's Strength
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

What makes a nation's pillars high
And it's foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?

It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.

Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.

And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.

Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor's sake
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
-------------------------

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!

Four Crazy Poems for a Rainy Day

"Outside of the killings, Washington [D.C.] actually has a very low crime rate."
-(D)Marion Barry"
"I haven't committed a crime. Wh
at I did was fail to comply with the law."
-(D)David Dinkins
"And now, will y'all stand up and be recognized."
-(D)Gib Lewis, to a group of handicapped people in wheelchairs

Today, the daddy is affected by the weather. It's raining and the wind is blowing, whistling through the trees. It's damp and dark. And the daddy is feeling like writing something weird. How about four short, crazy poems for a damp, dark, windy and rainy day?

The daddy has lots of friends and associates, people with whom he hangs at coffee shops, cafes, and bars. The following short digs are stolen from conversations with them: an independent male voter, a female social worker on the Bush foreign policy, a father talking to his son, a homeless guy begging for change. Between begging, he stumbles out of the cold to have coffee at our table (He probably sits at our table, because we are the only ones who speak to him).

Politics: An Independent Voter Speaks


Play with my sex organs all you want.
But don't fuck with my mind.

The Bush Expansionist, Violent Foreign Policies,
A Lesbian Analysis:


A stiff prick
has no conscience.

A Comment on Professional Wrestling

Father:

Son,
Which would you like to see,
the circus in Apple Valley,
or professional wrestling
downtown?

Son:

Daddy,
I wanna see the clowns
downtown.

The Wise Old Man

The old man stopped three college students.
"Excuse me. I'm here from old Kentuck.
Would you please spare a buck."

One student said, "No way, Jose!
I'm not giving you a buck.
Boy, are you out of luck!"

"Well," said the old man, straightening his tam.
"That make me better off than you.

At least I know who I am."

The daddy loves hanging out with eccentric people. They seem to always have something funny or wise to say. And they give him great writing material.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Note: The cartoon comes from Tom Toles, editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning in 1990. His cartoons appear in the newspaper every day except Saturday.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

John McCain, John Kerry's Friendship-- A Dream Deferred

In "A Dream Deferred," the great poet Langston Hughes asks:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Today, the daddy is reflecting on friendships: how they can be constant and stabilizing or dynamic and changing; how they can jel and grow ever "syrupy sweet" over a lifetime or suddenly change--how beautiful memories carefully nurtured over decades can "explode" into the stratosphere and, for all practical purposes, exist no more. Want an example? Take the friendship between Sen. John McCain and Sen. John Kerry, two celebrated veterans of the Vietnam war, two long-time friends in the U.S. senate.

Yes, once upon a time, Sen. John McCain and Sen. John Kerry were the closest of friends. Indeed, Kerry once said that serving in the senate alongside fellow veteran and close friend McCain was "one of my greatest joys." Once upon a time, McCain and Kerry took turns defending each other from the comments of rivals and foes, regardless of political party or presidential administration. So much so that, in 2004, in his run for president, Kerry toyed with the idea of placing Republican McCain on the Democratic ticket as his VP. But since 2004, things have changed.

Now, the relationship is strained. During the democratic nation convention, Kerry, in perhaps his most passionate speech ever, called out McCain as a flip-flopper on tax cuts and a cheerleader for Bush's failed Iraq war policies. He also blasted McCain for resorting to the same ugly personal attacks that sank his own presidential ambitions.

In a recent interview, Kerry, a Senior Adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, said:

"I'll always consider McCain a friend, but he's very different from the man I once knew...This John McCain has taken on a negative tone. He's lurching from one issue to another, from one place to another. He's talked about having a steady hand on the tiller, but he's had anything but a steady hand."


There are several ways to look at this development: John Kerry could be viewed as a traitor to a fellow veteran and a friend. Two, both Kerry and McCain could be viewed as "just playing party politics." In other words, in a close political race, politicians say things that they don't necessarily mean to win an election. McCain had to move farther to the right wing of his party to win; and Kerry, as an adviser to Obama, had to say negative things about McCain. So what? It's just politics.

But whether this is politics or not, whether Kerry is a traitor to a senate colleague and close friendship or not, one thing is certain: this development must be sobering and painful for both. The friendship was real, the respect mutual.


Another thing that is certain is that Kerry told the truth. McCain, in Reaganese fashion, supports a lowering of taxes on the richest Americans and a reduction of services on the less well-off. Like Bush, he supports a continued war in Iraq. The only difference is that he wanted more U.S. troops there from the start. And he has flip flopped on many of the positions that he took in 2000, positions that beefed up his unwarranted but widespread image as a maverick (Sorry, Governor Palin). And, sadly, it doesn't look like this relationship will be repaired anytime soon, if ever.

Have you had a dream of a close friendship that exploded into small pieces and exists no more?

The Troy Davis Case: An Update

Today, the daddy is feeling the Troy Davis case. The daddy has been blogging about this case for some time. But so has the villager over at Electronic Village, an informative and influential blog the daddy visits everyday. The villager posted this update on his blog and gave me permission to post it here. Thanks, villager.

Execution of Troy Davis

As you may already know, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Troy Davis' case. Hence, Georgia Department of Corrections re-scheduled the execution for October 27, 2008.

Many of us believe that Troy Davis was improperly convicted. Davis is Black, and he is accused of killing a white police officer, Mark MacPhail, in Savannah, Ga., in 1989. There is no physical evidence linking him to the crime--no murder weapon, no fingerprints or DNA, no tests showing gunpowder residue.

Davis was convicted entirely because of eyewitness testimony. But seven of the nine witnesses who testified against Davis have since recanted, with many saying they were coerced by police who were frantic to pin the murder of a fellow officer on someone. Of the two witnesses who stick to their stories, one at first couldn't identify Davis for police, and the other, Sylvester Coles, was initially the cops' prime suspect. In the years since, five people have come forward to say they heard Coles admit he killed MacPhail.

The Atlanta district attorney sees it differently.

If you believe Troy Davis is innocent and will be wrongly executed, please act now.

Contact Carlo Musso. Dr. Musso's company has a contract with the GA Department of Corrections (GDC) to participate in executions. GDC policy dictates that two doctors must be present to allow for an execution to be carried out. This is of course in addition to the other medical professionals who facilitate executions including nurses that prepare the IVs through which poison will flow to Troy Davis' veins.

Please take a moment to send a letter (sample below) to Dr. Musso, president of Rainbow Medical Associates and ask him to remember his humanity and decide NOT to participate in the execution of a man who may be innocent.

The American Medical Associate Code of Medical Ethics explicitly provide that "A physician, as a member of the profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a state execution." With these letters, we can remind Dr. Musso of his oath to facilitate healing, not killing.

You can fax Dr. Musso the letter on (770) 692-4754.

You can send the letter to him via the Internet: copy and paste the letter in their online contact form

Here is the sample letter:



SAMPLE LETTER

October 16, 2008
Carlo Musso, MD.
President, Rainbow Medical Associates
c/o CorrectHealth
9020 Peridot Parkway
Stockbridge, GA 30281

Dear Dr. Musso,

We are writing today to urge you and your company, Rainbow Medical Associates, to decline involvement with the pending execution of Troy Anthony Davis on October 27, 2008 at 7:00pm at Georgia Diagnostic & Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia.

The execution of Troy Davis would be immoral and wrong. Almost all of the witnesses against him have recanted or changed their stories and no physical evidence was used to convict him. The courts and the parole board have failed to use their power to prevent this imminent miscarriage of justice. However, Troy Davis' execution cannot take place unless human beings participate. You can refuse to help the state of Georgia put Troy Davis to death.

The American Medical Association Code of Medical Ethics explicitly provides that "A physician, as a member of the profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a state execution." We implore you to remember your humanity and respect you and your firm's oath to facilitate healing, not killing.

We thank you in advance for choosing not to participate in the execution of a man who may well be innocent. Such an act would be irreversible, immoral and deeply damaging to the reputation of our state and the confidence in our justice system.

Sincerely,
Your Name
Address
Email or Phone Number

Sunday, October 19, 2008

James Baldwin to White Racists--Know Your History: The Pain You've Brought to Others, to Yourselves

"I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hates is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain."
--James Baldwin
"James Joyce is right about history being a nightmare. But it may be that nightmare from which no one can awaken. People are trapped in history, and history is trapped in them."

--James Baldwin


Today, the daddy is meditating on the anger that a certain core of white Americans have about Barack Obama, and the very real possibility that he, a black man, could be the next president of the United States. You can go on YouTube and hear them make all kinds of excuses ("I don't trust him." "He's Arab." "If he gets in, the blacks are going to take over." "This is a white, Christian nation, etc.). Deep down, they are racists; and, as racists, they balk at the thought that they, white people, who belong to a supposedly superior race, are being ruled by a person from a supposedly inferior one-- even if that person is only "half black."

After surfing and lurking around some white blogs, the daddy checked came across a great black blog called Aunt Jemima's Revenge. On it, the blogger, after venting her frustration with white hostility to the thought of a black U.S. president, said bluntly that some white Americans need to "take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror." The blogger is right of course, but isn't it easier for any of us to look at others than ourselves? And how can white racists look at themselves without bringing into their thought patterns the racist images, ideas and white supremacist values which lie so deeply embedded in their psyche? Aren't they, like all of us, in the final analysis (and with no pun intended here) "slaves" to their history?

To understand today, study yesterday

The most profound truth speaker on race in the late 1950's and 1960's-- and perhaps ever-- was novelist, essayist, social critic and political activist James Baldwin. When it comes to race, no one spoke more thoughtfully, or more eloquently, about both black and white America's failure to address race honestly so that it could one day transcend it. In an address at a black university, he said that, In America, the rich exist, the poor subsist, but none really live, because they stubbornly refuse to address their history: who they are and how they became to who they are. But it is in the essay "Unmentionable Names, Unspeakable Crimes" that Baldwin best addresses white racism.

Like the black blogger, Baldwin, too, says white America needs to take a good, hard look at itself. However, he said that what keeps them from doing so is guilt.

"Whatever they bring to one another, it is certainly not freedom from guilt...The guilt remains, more deeply rooted, more securely lodged, than the oldest of old trees; and it can be unutterably exhausting to deal with people who, with a really dazzling ingenuity, a tireless agility, are perpetually defending themselves against charges which one has not made. One does not have to make them. The record is there for all to read. It resounds all over the world. It might as well be written in the sky."

According to Baldwin, it is this guilt that keeps white America from looking honestly at itself, from addressing its history, and from seeing in that history the lingering racism of today. He states:

"The fact that Americans, white Americans, have not yet been able to do this- to face their history, to change their lives-hideously menaces this country. Indeed, it menaces the entire world. For history, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On- the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously con- trolled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be other- wise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations...And it is with great pain and terror that one begins to realize this. In great pain and terror, one begins to assess the history which has placed one where one is, and formed one's point of view. In great pain and terror, because, thereafter, one enters into battle with that historical creation, oneself, and attempts to recreate oneself according to a principle more humane and more liberating; one begins the attempt to achieve a level of personal maturity and freedom which robs history of its tyrannical power, and also changes history."

The daddy should note here that Baldwin does not seem to be trying to make whites feel bad or guilt trip them. In fact, he seems empathetic toward whites who are caught up in a history based on violence and lies and, seemingly, their evident desire to rationalize or justify it, but yet refuse to examine that history more closely, a refusal that makes them appear pathetically "incoherent:"

"This is the place in which, it seems to me, most white Americans find themselves. They are dimly, or vividly, aware that the history they have fed themselves is mainly a lie, but they do not know how to release themselves from it, and they suffer enormously from the resulting personal incoherence. This incoherence is heard nowhere more plainly than in those stammering, terrified dialogues white Americans sometimes entertain with that black conscience, the black man in America. The nature of this stammering can be reduced to a plea: Do not blame me. I was not there. I did not do it. My history has nothing to do with Europe or the slave trade. Anyway, it was your chiefs who sold you to me. I was not present on the middle passage. I am not responsible for the textile mills of Manchester, or the cotton fields of Mississippi. Besides, consider how the English, too, suffered in those mills and in those awful cities! I, also, despise the governors of Southern states and the sheriffs of Southern counties; and I also want your child to have a decent education and rise as high as his capabilities will permit. I have nothing against you, nothing/ What have you got against me? What do you want? But, on the same day, in another gathering, and in the most private chamber of his heart always, he, the white man, remains proud of that history for which he does not wish to pay, and from which, materially, he has profited so much."

Listen, the daddy harbors no illusion that white racists who attend Gov. Sarah Palin are going to rush to Barnes & Nobles, go right to the African American section and pick up either "The Fire Next Time" or "Notes of a Native Son," two books from which they could profit greatly. Though he believes that many white Americans have transcended racism, he recognizes that there will always be a core group of white American racists who, by refusing to look at history, will be left behind by it. But he also believes that those of us who do look at history, who have transcended white racist history, owe it to those who are even vaguely interested to let them know how we feel: to tell them a story, to point them to a source that, along with other events such as an Obama presidency, will, hopefully, help them to see that, ultimately, the greatest victims of racism may be racists themselves. After all, to be so racist as to choose to remain ignorant is surely to be a victim.

The choice to remain a victim is about more than not knowing about another race or ethnic group. That choice is, ultimately, about a decision to remain in a prison devoid of intellectual curiosity or interest in the rest of the world. History, after all, is not just about the history of any one particular group but all of humanity. People's historian John Henrik Clarke perhaps said it best:

"The Events which transpired five thousand years ago; five years ago or five minutes ago, have determined what will happen five minutes from now; five years from now or five thousand years from now. All history is a current event."

For white racists, for all of us, Baldwin's essay "Unmentionable Names, Unspeakable Crimes" may be a good place to start.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Levi Stubbs Left Us, But What He Represents Remains

"It is not only a tremendous personal loss for me, but for the Motown family, and people all over the world who were touched by his rare voice and remarkable spirit. Levi was the greatest interpreter of songs I've ever heard."
--Barry Gordy, founder of Motown

Today, the daddy is still feeling the death of Levi Stubbs. Yes, he is feeling the sadness about his death. But he is feeling something else: what Levi Stubbs life says about us as parents, as African-Americans, as Americans.

Levi is gone. He died at the age of 72 from cancer and a host of illnesses. But in another way, he is still with us. Don't believe me? Tell you what: when you go to your parent's house this thanksgiving, check out their record collection. I bet you'll see an album or CD of the Four Tops.

Don't want to wait that long? Then check out the R&B section of the nearest record shop. You'll see a number of Four Top CDs displayed prominently.

Too lazy to get out of the house? Check You Tube. They're there. You'll no doubt see them perform hits like "Baby, I need your loving," "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch," or "Just ask the lonely," the daddy's favorite. But there's another way that Levi and the Four Tops are still with us.

Levi and The Four Tops represent a legacy of political and personal struggles of African Americans to beat the odds, to succeed as individuals and as a people in the face of American oppression. Levi didn't come from a privileged family like, say, Sen. John McCain. Levi and his three buddies came from inner-city black communities during the fifties and early sixties, a time when crime wasn't so bad, when kids hung out under street lights near the houses or in their front yards.

In their front yards, girls danced to Martha and the Vandellas and James Brown blaring out of a living-room window. Under street lights, boys sang doo wop, honing their harmonizing skills and practicing steps for the next singing contest. Levi and the Four Tops represent a time and a place in America when making music was not more or less a modeling contest of privileged whites or middle class black rappers seeking fame by bragging about violence and calling women names to get some kind of rep in a phony thug culture.


Making music, above all, was an expression or outcome of the values that were inculcated in black kids by their parents and their community: Hard work, cooperation, and excellence. Put another way, Levi and the Four Tops, as well as the singers, producers, choreographers and studio musicians at Motown, the label under which they sang, were as American as sweet potato pie.
And, despite the emotive utterances, teenage angst and phony hip hop that passes for talent on commercial radio these days, the true talent in R&B, hip hop, jazz, gospel and blues is still there in black communities; and it's still there, because black parents are still bearing and rearing Smokey Robinsons, Pervis Jacksons (leader of the group called The Spinners), Diana Ross's, Mary Wells, Marthas, Isa
Aac Hayes, James Browns, Otis Reddings and Levi Stubbs. More importantly, despite increasing violence and decreasing paychecks and dwindling home equity in some neighborhoods, those black parents are inculcating the same core values that their children will need to be successful: work hard, cooperate, believe in excellence and believe in yourself.

Because of crime and other factors, you don't see them under street lights or even in the front yard at night. Most likely, the boys are in a basement, their makeshift studio, the girls in their bedroom, their impromptu stage and dance floor.

Can you hear them singing? Can you hear them stepping in unisom? Can you see the next Diana Ross? The next Ella Fitzgerald? The next Smokey Robinson? The next Levi Stubbs?

Can you see the American in them-- and in you?