On The Issue of Talent and Race

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Recently, I shared a news article that highlighted the posting oftwo of our newest appointed City Councilors. The pitch of the article was to suggest we are breaking barriers by electing our first person of color to a political seat in the city’s government.

Ironically and thankfully there was little push back to my share and far more support, though I do have to bring attention to the commentary that did evolve. In order to get there I have to tell a story.

When I was twelve my family traveled to the East Coast, where we stayed with my cousins. God love my cousins but I really didn’t know them and I certainly wasn’t aware of their cultural views. One night my cousin of same age and I took a walk about the corner store where we encountered some black kids hanging out, just being teenagers. I asked my cousin if he knew them and he said no and in doing so dropped the ‘n’ word, that being the first time I had heard it in direct context as it impacted my life. I felt immediately nervous and couldn’t get past it the remainder of the night. I clearly knew my cousin’s views as we returned from the store and I felt fear for the first time in my life.

The next day, our family toured Harlem. I turned to my mom in the back seat and said, as a naive 12 year old, ‘those were the kids I saw last night.’ She told me of course they could not have been, and I said to her, ‘yes, mom, the same black kids on the corner.’

My mother then turned to me and said, ‘Listen to me, you didn’t see those kids last night and you certainly didn’t see those ‘black kids’ on the corner, you saw kids last night, and they were different kids from a different neighborhood.’ The point she was making of course is that I saw kids, playing on the corner, just people, the significance of color in my mom’s mind and her lesson to me was that it didn’t hold any bearing. She was telling me they are human beings just like anyone else in our world.

So why do I struggle today with the reality that yes, the skill set they bring to their position ought to be precedent?

I raise this issue because when my mother told me that story, it was 1972 and we were in the midst of racial turmoil. The Civil Rights Act was meant to begin to create an alliance between people of all walks of life. Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. did say, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” So yes I agree 100 %.

The issue I cannot agree with is that nearly 50 years later, we are still fighting to acknowledge that people need to be judged by the content of their character. It seems we still live in a society that will not allow that mindset to grow.

We must continue to grow. Congratulations to our two newest members of the City Council – May your contributions be filled with promise and fortune to continue to move this beautiful community in the right direction.

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Pachelbel’s Dream

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When I was just a kid,

I watched a movie,

about a choir,

a group of talented expectations

each one that had reason,

though the focus upon one another.

 

They all grew up together,

lived similar lives,

went to the lake in the summer,

played games meant to

out wit one another.

 

This one day, during a storm,

one of them slipped

why does it always have to be

the tougher of the two

he let go

leaving just the one to hang on.

 

The moment left him changed

he never went back

always found himself to be

the easy one to blame,

it was just a boat on a lake for crying out loud

how can mystery be so powerful.

 

Anyway, a story began to be told

and a song could be heard

a life of its own,

and ironically he heard it resonate

one day

after meeting her,

she was so beautiful

and he knew it to be true

 

he sang the melody of her elegance

inside the irony of a cemetery

all the way home,

he’d found a new life

and she was his muse

long before he might ever know

the mystique of a woman’s touch.

 

Until he might one day understand her beauty,

he left his fantasy in a place he’d call Pachelbel

 

his dream.

A Nostalgic Christmas Fairy Tale

We met in a college football atmosphere,

eyes locked immediate intrigue,

the sort you might not remind anyone

for it is meant to be a

quiet recall,

a soft memory

when everyone else went home.

 

There’s no one left to remember,

except perhaps

her,

the snowball fight,

the falling flakes

as big as night

Hennepin avenue forever,

we would run into each other’s arms

this sort of love

thing neither understood,

nor would either try to

recall another season.

 

We were playing soul-mates

while cars drove by,

people glanced and imagined

two people in love

playing in the snow,

a winter’s night,

a quiet recall,

I remember being with you,

so now the memory is left me blue.

 

I would say Happy Xmas around now

for we’ll never recall just when and how.

I Remember John Lennon

Lennon

I’m listening to ‘Mind Games’ right now. I woke this morning imagining I would write about John Lennon, this being the 38th year since he was gunned down outside the Dakota in New York City. I’ve since visited the site many times over the years, and every time there is an ominous takeaway that speaks to the terror of that single night.

I look up at the building itself – the one with gargoyles streaming the rooftops, a structuredakota my mom always said was her favorite building in the city, and I look for the white shutters, the flats that represent Yoko’s property, and I think that very possibly she is in there right now. Hers is a private world, deservedly so given the circumstances.

Not minutes before I sat down to this idea, I received the above picture of John Lennon on my timeline from my dear friend John. The timing was important, because 38 years ago on this night, I walked into my job at the health care center where he and I worked, and he approached me as we were changing shifts and told me the news. See I didn’t hear it from Howard Cosell on Monday Night Football, or on any of the airwaves on my car radio. I was listening to a tape – it was probably a Lennon song.

I lived and breathed John Lennon as a young adult. I dressed like him, people told me I had his look, so I bought the glasses, grew out my hair, still have an old pair of aviator frames I’d like to repair some day in his honor of course. I truly believed I was going to meet him someday. I grew up with the Beatles and slowly my love for their music evolved into being completely taken by Lennon because of his lyrical prowess. He spoke to the world, he spoke to the family, he spoke to woman, he spoke to children, he spoke to me.

I think one of the things that fascinated me the most about Lennon at that time – I was 21 years old – was how he had turned his life around and was again producing music that was relevant to the society around him. This time it was about family. He had just produced Double Fantasy, and I sent it to my brother for Christmas, because all it spoke of was love and harmony, and that was something I thought everyone was in need of, badly. Three weeks later he was dead on the street, a statistic, a victim of a Saturday night special in the hands of a sick, psychotic, fan.

That night in the mental health ward of the hospital I worked in all I did was watch the news. I can remember walking in the door of the hospital, I have dreams about it today, because the whole night was surreal. This man, who I idolized was suddenly gone, and all of his words were now left to memory. All we could do is replay his magic and imagine. My friend John, told me the news, gave me a hug, and walked out into the night, his shift over, and mine just beginning. No one could know the impact this night might and would have on so many lives in the years to come.

Today is significant to me I suppose because for the first time in a long while, I’m thinking about not only the circumstances around his death, but also what his loss has left us with for the last three decades. The simple fact is he was killed by a gunman who had no business carrying the weapon he had, especially not on the streets of Manhattan. johnposter1His whole purpose was to destroy the life of another human being, but not just anyone, only a person at the time who was passionately speaking of the concept of love.

There are people who will remind me of John Lennon’s abusive past – there is history, and it cannot be denied; however, I’m reminded of the concept of forgiveness, and again love. I look at the life of John Lennon, and I realize a person of his capacity was capable of recreating and mending his world, and not for just his own benefit, but more importantly for the benefit of those who endeared him, who believed his message was whole, and he was consumed with trying – attempting to right the wrongs he had created in his own personal life. He spoke to such are the dynamics of the human condition, and I listened with my heart and soul. Having lived a life of misgivings myself, I needed hope like anyone else.

I remember a couple of days went by and I hadn’t cried. Christmas was nearing now, and the holidays were upon us.happy xmas I remember being lost, still clinging on to something that no longer existed, wondering if it were possible that somehow all of this were really a dream. I suppose I felt the way young adults did who were my age when JFK died, or MLK Jr., Malcolm X, RFK – countless mentors in our lives who were cut down by assassins with no regard for human life beyond their own.

I was driving out of a Shop-Ko store in my hometown when ‘Happy Xmas’ came on the radio. My eyes began to water and I knew I wasn’t going to navigate onto the highway so I pulled my car over and I listened to the song and I cried. I remember I cried hard, because all of that emotion I had been holding onto in grief and confusion suddenly poured out of me. It was snowing out, and thankfully I wasn’t visible to anyone. I was just a car in the parking lot, but I stayed there for a long time. I remember at that point twisting the dial on the radio and it wasn’t difficult to find the song again and again all day, all afternoon, all evening … we were all simply lost.

So today, I’m listening to Happy Xmas again, having visited the Dakota in New York, having walked through Central Park and paused by Strawberry Fields, having continued to write with a passion that John Lennon taught me when I was a young and misguided youth willing to make many mistakes in the future that are now the baggage of my time. But there is a message I do forever hold dear to my heart and soul

“It matters not who you love, where you love, why you love, when you love or how you love, it matters only that you love.” – John Lennon

I listen to his words, and I am grateful. I believe.

Happy Xmas everyone.

… and Love.


photography – various sources on the internet

Coming Home Again

When I was twelve, I found a copy of Thomas Wolfe’s classic, You Can’t Go Home Again, I remember being profoundly impacted by the title. Just the words alone made me wonder about home, and in my 12 year old mind I thought of my cousin Billy, who had just passed weeks earlier in a tragic car accident. He was a close friend, a cousin, and a model of a human being whom I aspired to, but whose magic had departed at an early age.

At Billy’s passing, the tragedy effectively shut me down, I was a ghost of myself for the next few months, and really didn’t have any clue what life meant to me anymore. I only knew that my cousin was gone, and I could no longer count on him to be there next to me as a child growing up in a confusing world. What used to be important to me suddenly didn’t matter. We were embroiled in the Vietnam war, and now all I paid attention to were the names scrolled on the news of the dead U.S. servicemen. Somehow I related that to my own loss.

President Nixon would resign in six months, Spiro Agnew already convicted, the political world that my mother paid attention to with every pundit’s prognostication began to have meaning in my life. I was raised in the 60’s so I already had experienced the loss of the Kennedy’s, MLK Jr., Malcolm X and countless others through the eyes of my older siblings and parents. Yet, as things settled, I kept still trying to figure out what Wolfe meant with that engaging title. So, I read the book.

I remember being fascinated with how fiction would somehow expose reality, how the community didn’t respond well to the writer’s focus, and the meaning began to take shape. For the next few years, my life evolved as a child turned troubled teenager in the city of Wausau, WI. I attended three different high schools, had academic struggles, dabbled in alcohol and drugs and was generally a classic mixed up kid with a lot of baggage that followed me until I could finally leave town. I moved to the twin cities and slowly carved out a world for myself.

Tonight, I return to Wausau four decades after I left, though I have been here many times since, I now have a better understanding of Thomas Wolfe’s meaning when he wrote his book. He didn’t necessarily intend to suggest he was ostracized or banished from his community, really more likely he was acknowledging that change is inevitable and we all must be prepared to accept the challenges that life might have in store for us.

Tonight, I drove into my hometown in the middle of a snowstorm. I drove past city markings familiar to my childhood, and realized while the snow fell as regularly as it did when I was twelve years old. I remember burying my cousin Billy in Minneapolis while snow gathered on the treetops along the winding roads around Lake Calhoun as we caravanned to the cemetery to pay our respects. I looked down 28th avenue as we drove into town, my home 40 years earlier, my life now settling into an early autumn. I realized I could come home again.

Diana Ross singing at Rockefeller Center

I was watching a Christmas special on NBC tonight – the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center – the Rock as it is referred to. I was entertained by the singers and circumstance, and then suddenly, Diana Ross took the stage. I was stunned. Her voice carries over the decades of my life. In the 60’s she became the iconic singer she is with the Supremes, a fiery voice that would carry a wonderful spirit throughout my life.

Tonight watching Diana sing standards didn’t necessarily make me feel old. It helped me realize the beauty of music and how it carries us through all the experiences in our life, the ups and downs, the learning moments, the tragedies, and finally the hope we all might have that such energy is a gift.

Diana Ross is a gift to my life, and tonight she moved me. What a beautiful person.

when the words don’t matter

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Sitting by the shoreline,

the water fairly calm,

a sharp breeze enough to

suggest only the time of year.

 

watching seagulls swift past

the eery history of the mast

wondering just when waters

would ever tell me a secret.

 

I could listen for hours

while the sun began to dance

along soft waves of yesterday

sounds around me airily fast.

 

the birds, their legacy staid

by waning summer’s crying lead

in the autumn of these days,

the ones reminding time away.

 

I listen to Bob Dylan, a surreal croon

speaking of wanting ways

wishing time would forever sway,

‘Blood on the Tracks’ seems to say …

 

Inside this visual macabre

Our surreal horizon rob.