Monday, February 04, 2008


My First Memory

My first memory of a Radical Blackness was in Headstart or in some early point during my time at Price Elementary School when they held a celebration during Black HIstory Month to commemorate the making of MLK's birthday into a federal holiday. As we endted the auditorium, I saw the emblazoned, life-sized figures of Black faces hanging on posters from the ceiling: Bill Cosby, Angela Davis, Lena Horne, and Maya Angelou are some that I remember. These were beautiful black faces, and the auditorium reverbrated as the sound of Stevie Wonder's voice bounced off the wall as he sang "Happy Birthday," his tribute to Dr. King. It was Black pride and Black assertiveness in a school where most of the children's faces were of color- either black or brown.

My Elementary school was a beautiful school as I remember. It seemed either grey or light green on the outside, contrasting the off white and colorful murals on the side walks with a welcoming asphald playground where I used to swing and play house in the monkey bars. I never climbed just to climb. I was different. Inside was good as were sheltered by mostly endearing black faces with an occassional white one appearing, such as Aunt Johnnie's good friend and my teacher for one year while I was there at Price, Mrs. Bull. It was especially the case for me, as my Aunt Johnnie was given care for my tutelage from the time I was three years old-- from Head Start to first grade. This has led to the wicked side of me-- my vanity and somewhat snobbishness. I did feel special during my time there at Price, and I was taken care of by my aunts and the others there around me. I felt like an exception. I loved school, and even more so I loved learning.

My childhood was shrouded in some magical cloud where I spent the considerable part of my time -- in the libraries, museums, and engaged intellectually, pondering the things of the world. There was an excited energy around my youth, from my parents involvement in and the immediacy of the Jackson and Washington campaings and my aunts and grandmother's participation in the Chicago Teacher's Union. Although they were not dyed-in - the-wool progressives, this involvement on their part allowed me a premature taste of the ideology and the vision and the urgency of Blackpride and its commitment to progressive struggle. I dont know how much of my awareness was due to their involvement and how much was just my being there in Chicago. The entire city was possessed by an energy and a zeal that was daily fed to the masses of people-- on television, through social activist networks, and through word of mouth interaction.

I remember the elation of Washington's election as mayor and I remember the intense sadness and futile loss of his death. I remmeber the power and vision of Jesse Jackson's bid for presidency and the unity felt in his political message. The beauty of that time was real and inspiring and the legacy of those people in progressive movement created the context and the background for my political development and my growth as a human being concerned with the welfare of humanity and the eradication of oppression for people across the globe.

My background is spotted with movments of progressivisim and elements that provide a backdrop for my formation as a person of consciousness. My mother and other members of my family were involved with the Frank London Brown Historical Society, which sounds like a very progressive group that met periodically to host discussions on issues of the black community, black history, and the legacy of progressive struggle, and hosted very notable figures that addressed the group and had ties to several celebrity figures that were local. Not only was my mother present in the organization, but also Aunt Johnnie, Uncle Archie, and Cousin Fannie. My mother's participation ended when the organization was raided. Government crackdowns on progressive entities brought my mother's enlightnment to a halt. I know absolutely nothing else about this organization, not even whether it is still in existence.

My Uncle Archie, who was a member of the group, was apparently a friend and neighbor of Dick Gregory's. My Uncle Donald was tied to, if not a member of, the Black Panther Party. My uncle is very a very progressive-oriented man- he gave me a copy of Langston Hughes' "I Wonder as I Wander" when I was thirteen years old. That book enlightened me in many ways and opened my eyes to the world as I learned about the Chinese and watermelons floating down the Mekong River, and Russian peasants in Tashkent sipping from a communal bowl of tea.....

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