Wednesday, October 01, 2003

The caption reads, “Driver, bicyclist shot near Richmond Park ... .”

This would be 4th Street Park in the heart of the Iron Triangle. If the time of the incident is correct, I visited that park within two hours after the police and emergency helicopter had gone away. I went there to find one of the players I’d like to involve in a new plan to begin to build an infrastructure upon which a new Barbara Alexander Academy can rise. He was not in the community center as I’d been led to believe, so I climbed back into my car and returned to my office in El Cerrito, totally unaware of the drama that had taken place only hours before. I also realized – as I read this morning’s front page -- that this has become so commonplace in my life and in the lives of this community, that it is almost a non-event. Lives are snuffed out so casually in this culture of violence that we’ve trained ourselves to ignore the body count in order to maintain any semblance of sanity.

I read further:

“…This is bad, and it’s not going to stop here, either. ‘You shoot my cousin, well, I’m going to shoot you.’ And it’s over nothing,” Evans said. Maybe Friday night there will be another shooting, maybe later tonight, maybe the night after that. You never know. I don’t understand it… .”

Closed my eyes and remembered other places, other times. That cold February in Chicago where I met for the first time a contingent of the Blackstone Rangers. It was a meeting of the National Black Caucus at the Hotel Windemere. Young Jessye Jackson, head of Operation Breadbasket, was the inspiring lunchtime speaker and he’d brought along a group of these young men as a kind of honor guard. These were young men with a purpose. They were clearly proud young black nationalists. They wore the uniform and walked the walk. They were brought in from the streets by a caring community of elders at a critical time in their development

Thought of the Black Panthers, a group I was more familiar with, and had some affiliation with from time to time. They, too, were young people with a purpose. They, too, were proud black nationalists who wore the uniform and walked the walk.

Also realized today that most ordinary folks might not really see any differences between those earlier groups and what’s occurring on the streets of today. The differences are monumental. Those kids came out of a culture of hope, and they had the audacity to create their own opportunities for bringing change and against all odds.

What we have now – and what is being perceived as “crime in the streets” is in reality a leaderless revolution born of hopelessness and despair.

Written on the plane coming home from Chicago way back when:
Little Boy Black

Little Boy Black, Little Boy Black
City streets callin’ my little boy back
Once ‘roun’ the trashcan, twice 'roun' the pole
A foot in the gutter, a look down a hole
Little Boy... Little Boy Black

Little Boy Black, Little Boy Black
Evenin’s a’comin’ , will momma get back?
Another long day of being unseen
A momma too weary to fuss, “where you been?”
You’re such a little boy,
Little Boy Black

Little Boy Black, Little Boy Black
When will the judge let your daddy come back?
Once ‘roun’ the bottle, twice 'roun' the drunk
Asleep in the gutter rolled by a spunky little boy
Naughty Boy Black!

Little Boy Black, beautiful black!
All grown up now, to war and back
A lifetime now of being unseen
Not even a country to ask, “where you been?”
You’re such a lonely boy,
Lonely Boy Black

Little Boy Black, Little Boy Black
Angry, they call you! A militant Black.
Quick! Down the alley, duck behind the trees!
Dead in the gutter by the guns of police …
Bloody Boy!
Bloody Boy Black!

Little Boy Black, Little Boy Black
City streets callin’ my little boy back
Once ‘roun’ the headstone, twice 'roun' the grave
Hate may avenge you but only lovin’ can save
All the little boys,
Boys Black.