Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sunday Sermonette: Edwin Hawkins and The Edwin Hawkins Singers -- "I Believe"

This song -- commissioned by pre-war singer/actress Jane Froman in 1953 for her tv show The Jane Froman Show as a response to the Korean War -- was the first hit song ever introduced on television. She said wanted to give people hope.  I don't know if it worked but it's a popular and enduring song that transcends genres.  Everyone -- and I mean everyone -- has covered it, from Elvis Presley to Frank Sinatra to Mahalia Jackson to Dolly Parton. 

Interestingly, Ms. Froman -- an educated Midwesterner (from Columbia, Missouri), a classically trained vocalist (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music), a genuine Hollywood movie star and a chronic stutterer  -- has not one but three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

I've heard this song before, quite a lot. I don't like it or dislike it.  It's just there, like pleasant aural wallpaper.  Kinda pre-hippyish in this deliberate way that's so sincere, it's not schmaltzy at all. 

It's like that song Misty: You know it even if you think you don't know it. You don't quite know how you know it or when you learned it. It's just there, stuck in your head, like an earworm you carried into the world at birth.

What better gospel choir to do this song justice than the iconic Edwin Hawkins Singers?

Listen in and be blessed.
I believe for every drop of rain that falls
A flower grows,
I believe that somewhere in the darkest night
A candle glows,
I believe for everyone who goes astray,
Someone will come to show the way,
I believe, I believe.

I believe above the storm a smallest prayer
Will still be heard,
I believe that someone in the great somewhere
Hears every word,
Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
Then I know why,
I believe.

Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
Or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
Then I know why,
I believe.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Quote of the Day -- from Ta-Nehisi Coates, on Mike Brown

And if Michael Brown was not angelic, I was practically demonic. I had my first drink when I was 11. I once brawled in the cafeteria after getting hit in the head with a steel trash can. In my junior year I failed five out of seven classes. By the time I graduated from high school, I had been arrested for assaulting a teacher and been kicked out of school (twice.) And yet no one who knew me thought I had the least bit of thug in me. That is because I also read a lot of books, loved my Commodore 64, and ghostwrote love notes for my friends. In other words, I was a human being. A large number of American teenagers live exactly like Michael Brown. Very few of them are shot in the head and left to bake on the pavement.” 

                         —  Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

That brother in last night's Ferguson City Council meeting, though...

Say what you will about what may or may not have happened a month and a day ago in Ferguson, Missouri -- one thing is frightfully clear, to anyone that's actually paying attention to any of this: there is NO going back to the way things used to be.

Just look at this brother right here at last night's city council meeting.  He is on fire. 

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Mike Brown -- One Month Later

One month ago in a place that hardly anyone had ever heard of,  police officer Darren Wilson shot Mike Brown multiple times at close range in broad daylight -- and then proceeded to blow his brains out.  According to several eyewitnesses, Mike Brown -- a college-bound high school graduate -- had both of his hands up when he was murdered. Officer Wilson never called in to report the shooting and he never called for an ambulance. Mike Brown's body laid in the street where he fell for more than 4 hours. Eventually, an unmarked black SUV came and took his body away.

At this juncture, I should probably tell you that the population of Ferguson (a suburb of St. Louis) is about 21,000 and 70% black. Out of 53 cops, only 3 are black. The mayor and five of the six city council members are white.  Ticketing, arresting and otherwise harassing black folk is big business for Ferguson. More on that some other time.

Let's be clear: Officer Wilson never called in to report the shooting because they turned it over to St. Louis county police almost immediately.  Oh, but that didn't stop them from turning over an incident report and video in which Mike Brown is allegedly guilty of stealing cigars.  (Nevermind Fox News and their idiocy. Cue Kevin Sorbo and his racist rant about Ferguson.) Interestingly, the store didn't call the cops -- a customer did.

Watch your back, black folk: customers can get you killed. Just ask John Crawford -- a few days before Mike Brown's murder, he was shot 10 times while holding a toy gun in Wal-Mart as he chatted on the phone with his girlfriend, who was in another section of the store.  Ronald Ritchie, an ex-Marine (that's not true), called 911 while his wife April (who had a broken ankle and was on the phone with her mother) trailed behind Mr. Crawford in a Wal-Mart scooter at what she described as a "safe distance", waving people away from him.  No one else in the store was alarmed by Mr. Crawford. A month later, Ronald Ritchie completely changed his story.

The kicker is that Ohio is a right to carry state.  That means you can openly carry a firearm in public.

Right about now, the attorney general of Ohio is hoping that this case goes away so no one's career gets tanked and those cops and yes, you too,  Mr. Ritchie -- because this is all your fault -- don't get sued into oblivion and see some serious jail time for murder.  As far as I'm concerned, the rest of his natural life wouldn't be long enough.

But I digress.

Cops arrived on the scene that afternoon with assault rifles because angry residents refused to disperse, and wanted answers.  That's when everything went beserk and suddenly, Ferguson was on full blast. Twitter was on fire with moment to moment updates as everything unraveled, from photos of German shepherds attacking black folk to a militarized police presence to the barricade that ultimately shut the police out of the neighborhood after the cops deliberately destroyed Mike Brown's memorial. And that was the first day.

Officer Wilson was secreted away immediately and his identity was withheld by the Ferguson police department for almost a week. Apparently, this was long enough for him to erase any unsavory tidbits on his social media and hide with his family in "a safe place" -- with pay and benefits, of course. 

What's the upshot?
  1. The Ferguson Police Department is facing a federal civil rights investigation, headed by Attorney General Eric Holder.  And what they've found so far is pretty disturbing.
  2. The Ferguson City Council (which met for the first time today since Mike Brown's murder) is assembling their first ever police department review board.
  3. Black folk in Ferguson have been holding a slew of voter registration rallies.
Know justice, know peace.

Oh -- and about that Ferguson City Council meeting...