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Reminiscences 4
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Mary Lee Brady, Ph.D.

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We want to believe that scholarly writers like Cornell West and Nikki Giovanni on right are teaching youth our story as inclusive rather than exclusive analogies removed from our faith. 

Far too many gifted and talented young men and women have emerged unenlightened after the almost certain horrors that would have emerged if the allies had lost World War II.  And, again as occurred after the Civil War, ... many African-Americans who had "no ancestors in the fight" take for granted their gifts of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness were self-actualized.

                                Urban Fiction Writers

Is that all there is?  Are there any African-Americans outside ghetto lifestyles and values in pursuit of nothingness?  Do all Black women view their fathers and brothers as faithless men, ... angry, mean and mindless? What is the sum total of urban fiction writing during the past fifty years?  Forty years?  Thirty years?  Twenty years?  Ten years?  Five years?  Who cares to wonder if Black writers and artists were helpful or harmful to integrating "the least of us"  in the overall society? 

                           Sacramento Public Library

Courage, faith, hope and love are virtues clearly the opposite of cowardice, disbelief, hopelessness and disdain, ... that far too many writers of African heritage during the past fifty years use as the root of their writings about "the least of us." It is worst than the HIV-AIDS outbreak that has killed hundreds of thousands of victims who could have been or would have been saved had they known or practiced safe sex. 

And, hundreds of thousands more young men and women including thousands of gifted and talented ones might have lived to help "the least of us" if armed with a  safe philosophy of life viewing each other as brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers.  Glorifying degeneracy is not safe or sane for the future.

Some writers dared to suggest that Tupac Shapur, clearly a heathen, ... was the successor to Dr. Martin Luther King a devoted disciple to the teachings of Christ?  Two generations comprising millions of Black youth have now clearly been infected with contagious ignorance and low self-esteem made worst by money making millionaire writers and rappers who have reversed all meanings of goodness to the extent the surreal like cocaine is considered real happiness.

Murder of persons and language has been written as something less than what it is, and the spiritual significance thereto.   So we ask, "Is GOD dead?"  How long can evil or godless behaviors survive?  Can such as we have seen in our own lives be triumphant over the pursuit of goodness?

It has come to past that most urban fiction writers, actors, actresses, rappers and their mothers apparently know little or nothing about real movements that generated their liberties to study, learn and believe or reject the philosophy of life espoused by JESUS.  Many imagine and confuse the trappings of uneducated preachers, organized religion and churches as the essence and totality of a philosophy they never embraced. 

Their total misunderstanding of functional faith allows them to conclude that worship and entertainment is the summary of faith that many thousands of Black men have lived and died by.  And, like a lot White writers and talking heads who never read the great philosophies experienced by humanity, ... they are unable to comprehend real African-American history and culture up from slavery. 

It is not surprising that very few, if any, of the most successful urban fiction writers and artists embrace or are of the movements espoused by Richard Allen, Frederick Douglass, Alexander Crommell, George Washington Williams, E.B.W. Dubois, Booker T. Washington, Kwame N'Krumah, Adam Clayton Powell, Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisholm, Al Sharpton and thousands of other champions for "the least of us."  

And, consequently like James Baldwin and Richard Wright before them, ... they do not know how to tell the stories about real courage, as to how faith is applied, true love spans generations of procreation, and how hope is kept alive. "To whom much is given, much is expected." [Rose Kennedy]. 

Many people of color have the "brain power" but not the spirit that drives and seeks to inspire goodness. It appears to us that Melvin Van Peebles as a playwright (rich old man on the left) earned a lot of money presenting Whites with many reasons as to why the urban Black poor should not be allowed to integrate America's schools and other opportunities for advancement. 

But, he also inspired a lot of gifted and talented Black youth to imitate his method and means of gaining fame and fortune by trashing "the least of us" as undeserving of what many Christians suffered and struggled to obtain. 

In fact, it was his money-making Broadway hit shows in the 1960s-1970s that convinced most New York City intellectuals that Harlem was no place to be somebody; and Robert Moses for the previous 40 years had been absolutely right to not have invested any of the federal, state, local and private redevelopment funds therein.

Some psychologists might describe what happened as self-hatred but would rather believe it was all about taking advantage of the rich market for performing arts that denigrates "the least of us" as compared to the graphic artists that seems to have gone in the opposite direction, ... for less money.  

A Chinese-American college professor was overheard to say, that before the show "I did not have a high opinion of Blacks and after watching I now hold them in even lower regard."  Such was the reaction of hundreds of other non-Black faculty and students after watching a performance of the money-maker production "Noplace to be Somebody"  by playwright Charles Gordone (image on right). 

Affirmative action Black students at Rider College outside Trenton, New Jersey had urged the student activity fund to bring the off-broadway production to a campus that began integrating ghetto born Blacks about ten years before.  The actors down from New York City appeared on stage in blue jeans and openly smoking marijuana to welcome a college audience of youthful Blacks and Whites to characterizations of degenerate attitudes and behaviors, ... openly applauded by Black students and to the utter amazement of many White faculty and staff present.  

Most of the students and faculty had never before seen a stage performance by a cast of Black actors who proved they were not acting but rather were speaking in their natural ghetto language.  

Observation over the years indicate near introvert personalities among strangers such as occurs at a book signing tour wherein near permanent smiles seek to cover deep-seated fears of interacting with the kind of people they have written about less they be challenged to discuss their reasoning. 

Of course, that is nothing new since many or perhaps most writers are former book-worms of introverted personalities.  But since the vast majority of books by and about people of African heritage are being published from such sources it is scary for us to think about the ramifications of millions of White and Black readers imagining African Americans to be as described. 

These writers, with very few exceptions, are not scholars but their influence in describing people of African heritage is far, far more greater and many have even received honorary university degrees though contemptuous of academic disciplines such scholarly sabbaticals to travel and learn before publishing?      

Even in the writing of fiction about courage and tragic endings they seem to know little or nothing about real men like Jack Johnson who made Harlem his beloved home.  

Far too many otherwise gifted and talented are not of the Messianic Christian experience and have not had the Masonic inclination of non-ghetto men since the era of Prince Hall to travel in gaining degrees of knowledge and understanding. 

But, rather like the infamous Jason Blair who duped the New York Times and shamed most striving Black journalists, ... they perceive their ghetto experiences to be worldly values applicable to others of the same color. 

And, the problem is not simply gifted and talented men born in the ghetto but even more so with young women whose imaginations and exaggerations are equally amazing in depths of denigration pursued to get money, ... almost like the most common whores. The young female journalist employed by the Washington Post who wrote blatant lies about a five year old child being injected with heroin by his mother's boyfriend is an example.   

                                        Playwright August Wilson

Writers like August Wilson (deceased) born in 1945 and raised outside the faith of Black fathers with kinfolks in the great Armageddon that raged in the first half of the 20th century.  Like too many ghetto born youth he did not know the kind of Black men that labored in mines, mills and even farms and factories of Pittsburgh, ... never knew or saw beyond the ghetto minded nothingness of a single generation of unenlightened and uneducated menial day workers. 

He lived, listened and observed Black folks in two geographic neighborhoods quite different from the Homestead neighborhood of Josh Gibson on right where men loved baseball and worked in the steel mills, not on garbage trucks.  Josh was nothing like the pathetic character in Wilson's great play "Fences" but though we enjoyed the performance by James Earl Jones, we were disturbed by suggestions and media reviews the play was based on the life of Josh Gibson. 

                                                            Josh Gibson

Josh was widely acknowledged by both Black and White sportswriters  to be one of the greatest hitters in history of baseball; like Babe Ruth, Joe Dimaggio, and Ted Williams. But regretfully his frustrations and ending were not as August Wilson unintentionally depicted him for new generations to remember and admire. 

The irony of it all is the play "fences" made Wilson much more famous than Josh and generated a desire by many unenlightened including White politicians to name the new Pittsburgh museum for African-American heritage and culture in honor and memory of August Wilson rather than Josh or any of hundreds, ...

... (like Dorothy Height and Nancy Harriette Hemings Butler Lee) who mattered far more in the history of Black folks in and around Pittsburgh dating back to before the civil war, ... when Revered Lewis Woodson, Dr. Martin Delaney and others made Mother Bethel AME Church in Lower Hill District the headquarters for western abolitionist movement that Wilson fans apparently never knew or cared to remember for benefit of new generations.  How any group of Black scholars could skip over men like Robert L. Vann is reflective of our concern the artistic community values and views over-shadow Messianic Christian focused on generations of goodness, not just the here and now.

                                                             Robert L. Vann

The divide is not about religious attitudes but rather that of values about life!  The artistic community tend to be people who think and act as though nothing matters before or after their own lives, and reason thus that money and fame is the essence of living a good life.  It is far more African in origin than most realize.

There are many people of African and other heritages who do not give a damn about linkages between the past, present and future beyond their lives.   Shaka Zulu, Mobutu, Samuel Doe, and thousands, maybe millions of souls before them who reasoned "nothingness" after them.

James Earl Jones in his portrayal of the evil Thulsa Doom in the great Arnold Swartzenegger movie Konan the Barbarian released in 1982, ... gives a brilliant characterization of people who seek glory of nothingness induced by narcotic behavior to believe what is otherwise viewed as evil is reasoned to be good.  The screenwriter of this great fiction made into an award winning movie for youth to enjoy, ... but did not fail to distinguish good from evil while including money making elements of violence and sex.                                            

What Wilson saw and wrote about is not at all representative samplings of the estimated 500,000 African-Americans that lived in the Pittsburgh region by ending of World War II in year 1945 with over 100 legitimate churches having Sunday Schools, gospel choirs, annual picnics, pastors, deacons and trustees, two professional baseball teams (Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Greys).  Indeed, upwards of 50,000 young Black men and women from families in the region served honorably in World War II and were nothing at all like the characters of nothingness observed and depicted by August Wilson plays.

It hurts more than a little to realize millions of White and Black readers imagine that most if not all Black men in the two decades of 1960-1980 were as described in Wilson's plays. And, to make our feelings worst is realization that many academicians in University of Pittsburgh and other institutions cite his writings as a gospel for new generations of students to digest.   

Many writers like August Wilson Keitel were and are people whose parents and ancestors contributed absolutely nothing in the struggles by African-Americans to achieve dignity and respect in America; and, consequently have nothing to draw upon as a human resource testimony.  They never knew or likely ignored how and why John F. Kennedy in places like Pittsburgh won the votes of most African-Americans in the electorate; not because he was a democrat but rather the man had a plan that included rather than excluded "the least of us." 

It was not liberalism, but Christian doctrine they embraced. Our concern is that youth should know that poor African-Americans in Pittsburgh region were always far more than eyes and hears outside the faith could ever see or hears.  August Wilson was born of a mother of African heritage and father of German Jewish ancestry who saw and heard a very different Hill District from that of most Black mothers and fathers up from the cotton curtain states dating back to at least the pre-Civil War era.  Those of us born and raised in African-American families in the region dare not remain silent to allow a gifted fiction writer to rewrite the history of our grandparents, fathers, mothers, siblings and friends who strived and made strides UP the old fashioned way of faith, hope, love and a lot hard work in the homes, schools, workplaces and ball fields.

                               Pittsburgh's Hill District

Wilson's writings describe the very bottom of "least of us" in the Pittsburgh region that I was born into and knew as a place where the typical Black man was much more than August would have been able to observe.  His absence of a legitimately recognized father and roots among African-Americans meant that he did not frequent or observe their rituals in the Black churches, Masonic and Elk Lodges, American Legion Halls, Baseball Teams, Mills, Mines and ninety-nine zip code areas outside the least productive one he lived in. 

Wilson is not alone in that reality which far too many young men and women ignore in the course of procreating boys without family ties and roots beyond the mother. Father visions and views are needed by boys far more than simply child support payments to the mother. Lacking knowledge or caring about their own paternal ancestry, it is unlikely that a mother and child would care about others such as the Kennedys.  It is unimaginable that any of Wilson's characters would know about recue of  Lt(jg) John F. Kennedy or view such to be significant in their own daily lives.  Indeed, boys inherit their sense of moral worth (faith, hope and love) from mothers but gleam their attributes of courage from relationships with fathers, ... with very few exceptions.

         

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