Sunday, March 9, 2014

Poem Honoring Chokwe Lumumba

“Free the Land Man (For Chokwe Lumumba)”
by C. Liegh McInnis

Just like a river that knows where it’s going,
your feet have kept you like the Wise Men
headed for the North star.
There was no fat cat with pockets full enough.
There was no pot hole deep enough.
There was no curve, bend, or speed bump in the road
to keep you from arriving at your destination.
You are a steamroller grinding angry asphalt into smooth street,
making rough roads ready for revolution to ride to town.
You are the cement foundation upon which we build our freedom house.
You are the forest of fruit from which we may find
nourishment from the fangs of poverty.
You are the fortified fortress that protects us from the vandals of industry.
You are the ocean of hope in which we swim to safety.
A Detroit demolition man destroying the dragons of self-hate so
that self-determination can fertilize the community into a bouquet of spring flowers.

Better than Superman,
you be Free-the-Land Man.
Able to leap skyscrapers of injustice in a single bound
and slam dunk the lies about us through the hoop of truth.
Able to slay slimy Judges with a lightning rod of litigation
Faster than a speeding bullet,
you erased the “t” from can’t, making us a city of can.
And stronger than a locomotive,
you broke through the barriers
that have kept us herded like cattle,
unshackling our dreams from the dungeon of Dixicrats
A liberation lawyer willing to lumberjack the liars
who attempt to lay waste to the lives of rainbow children.
More than a mouthpiece for a moment,
You welded words into stainless steel
to slash the noose of oppression from the wretched of the earth.
Even when bad times became storm clouds blocking the sun,
you were a lighthouse leading people to the land of liberty.
Whether it’s planting proper seeds into your sons
so that they can sprout into life-giving trees,
or being an architect for your daughter
giving her the blueprint of properly engineered manhood,
you are a brick wall that protects all families
from the wolves, thieves, and pimps
that lurk like fungus in the pit of the night.

One of the Chief Captains of the Justice League of Super Negroes—
more amazing than Spiderman, you be Anansi the word weaver
spinning webs to stop the wicked from stampeding our sanity,
more fantastic than the four,
our shining Dark Knight of Democracy
freeing the land from monstrous mercantile Magnetos.
When my mild mannered mayor removed his suit there was
MXG on his chest and instead of a Batsignal
when we needed him we simply shined NAPO in the sky
but the feet-washer that he was kept him Assembled among the People
our own Afro-American Robin Hood
who was more Daring than those Mississippi Devils
Now that your spirit finally became too big for your body,
you are a pulsar that will forever illuminate our path to justice.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Uncensored Eudora Welty

            The Clarion Liar…err…the Clarion Ledger (my bad—old habits die hard.) has printed the uncensored version of Eudora Welty’s “Where Is the Voice Coming From?,” which is Welty’s reaction to the assassination of Medgar Evers, and y’all can read it at the Clarion Ledger.  I’ve been aware of both versions of Welty’s “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” for years.  It’s a good story, but not my favorite by Welty.  My favorite Welty story is “A Worn Path.”  However, “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” excellently captures the rage and neurosis of Byron De La Beckwith, but I have always felt that the story also makes Beckwith’s actions too singular or individual.  So, on the one hand “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” is another example of Welty’s brilliance with language.  (“Why I Live at the PO” is another story that showcases her wonderful use of the vernacular.)  Yet, by focusing so much on Beckwith’s singular or individual rage, Welty seems to pardon institutional racism.  Ultimately, even the title of the story, “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” has an air of what James Baldwin called “selective naiveté” in that it almost completely makes Beckwith’s attack a singular or individual act rather than showing Beckwith’s action as a symbol of the legal and institutionalized racism that gripped Mississippi, the South, and America.  We know that Beckwith’s actions were coordinated, to a degree, with help from information gathered by the White Citizens Council and the Sovereignty Commission and that Beckwith understood, because of the manner that white supremacy permeated every aspect of Mississippi, that there was no jury in 1963 that would convict him.  So while I like the story for Welty’s ability to expose the raw rage and neurosis of Beckwith, especially through her wonderful troping of his language, I’ve always felt that the story also seems to shift the responsibility of the crimes against African Americans from the states and nation to individual loose cannons, which was not the case, unless we agree that the vast majority of white Southerners and white Americans were a collection of loose Jim Crow cannons.  Of course others have countered that Welty is making Beckwith an allegorical figure for the raging flame of Mississippi racism, and while I don’t see/read him being presented entirely that way, I give her credit for being willing to have the conversation in 1963.  And what’s even more ironic or hypocritical is that the New Yorker—the bastion of white liberalism—forced her to change the names of places and people so as not to offend and enflame white southern and white American sensibilities.  Once, again, the truth of white supremacy, even in poetic or fictionalized form, is deemed too radical or too militant to publish.  That’s…just…funny…  If you have never read either version, here is a chance, and feel free to tell me what you think.  Take care.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Brief Review of Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist” (featuring LL Cool J)

by C. Liegh McInnis

Brad Paisley’s song “Accidental Racist” is some of the most racist/hypocritical crap I’ve ever heard.  I guess he doesn’t realize that being a proud “Rebel son” is being proud of the history of racism.  “The red flag on my chest is like an elephant…”  Yes, it is.  It says that you support what was done in the name of that flag, especially since the Confederate Flag has only ever represented white supremacy.  So, what about that is there to be proud?  Is Paisley actually writing a song to justify the racism of the South and his racist tendencies?  Now, Paisley does say, “I’m proud of where I’m from but not of everything we’ve done,” but follows that with the lame, patronizing line, “It ain’t like you and me can rewrite history.”  So, African people should just “get over it” and ignore that Paisley’s pride in the Confederate Flag symbolizes his pride of the Confederate agenda?  With lyrics like these, I don’t know if Paisley is myopic, hypocritical, schizophrenic, or he just thinks that African people are stupid.  In either case, it is interesting that Paisley is trying to rewrite or re-spin history in the same way of former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s assertion of the White Citizens Council as a strictly non-violent, economic entity.  Really?  Well, if you believe either Paisley’s or Barbour’s historical notions of Southern history, I’ve got some oil-rich land in my backyard I’d like to sell to you.

“Our generation didn’t start this nation.  We’ll still picking up the pieces, walking over eggshells, fighting over yesterday.  Caught between southern pride and southern blame.”  Allow me to remind Paisley of one of his white ancestors, William Faulkner, who stated that “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”  And to that, I’ll add a quote from the film Magnolia (1999):  “We might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”  In short, Paisley’s lyrics cause him to appear like a whiny racist who wants to celebrate the good ole boy days of when African people were three-fifths of a person while being miffed that African Americans are offended that he would find such joy in the Confederate past.  Yet probably the most subtle but powerfully racist line is “They called it Reconstruction, but we’re still sifting through the rubble after a hundred and fifty years.”  What makes this line so powerfully racist is that Reconstruction has long been the flashpoint for white southern anger that they have used as an example that African Americans do not have leadership qualities when in fact it was southern white militia groups that slaughtered thousands of African Americans to end Reconstruction, which, by the way, created America’s public school system, allowing poor whites to be educated.  So, if America is still sifting through the rubble, it is rubble created by white terror.  But, of course, Paisley never mentions that in his song of southern pride.

Now, LL Cool J’s rap is pretty well-crafted.  However, the one flaw in Cool J’s rap is that he makes the mistake of falling into the trap or allowing Paisley to frame the conversation so that Cool J states “If you don’t judge my doo rag, I won’t judge your red flag.”  The problem with Cool J’s analogy is that the doo rag began as an instrument for hair care a hundred years before it became a symbol of gang activity whereas the Confederate Flag has never symbolized anything but racial oppression.  So, again, to be proud of the Confederate Flag is to be proud of racial oppression because that is all the flag has ever symbolized.  A doo rag, on the other hand, may represent gang activity, but it also may represent the self-hatred of permed hair or just tacky taste.  Then, slipping into the ridiculous, Cool J states “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forgive the iron chains?”  What the hell?  We are now equating the vanity of adornment with the enslavement of an entire race?  I don’t think that this is Cool J’s goal, but this is what happens when one has a discourse on somebody else’s terms.

Paisley ends by stating “I’m a son of the new South, and I just want to make things right.”  And in the background Cool J affirms, “The past is the past baby.”  While the conversation between Paisley and Cool J obviously falls well short of the conversation between James Baldwin and Margaret Mead’s Rap on Race (1973), I am inclined to give Paisley and Cool J some credit for engaging in the discourse.  No matter how much I think Paisley is trying to rewrite or re-spin history, there can be no progress if people are not free to be honest about how they perceive history and what they feel.  And, I’m sure that the “post-racial America” Negroes will want to canonize both Paisley and Cool J for their efforts.  I, on the other hand, am happy that Paisley tells me that he is proud of Confederate history so that I can be sure to avoid him and his Rebel desires to make me think that Gone with the Wind should be mandatory viewing for accurate Southern knowledge.  Yet, when Cool J asserts “…let bygones be bygones,” he seems not to realize that there can be no real forgiveness and reconciliation as long as we refuse to tell the truth.  Furthermore, just when I was ready to give Cool J a pass, he ends with “RIP to Robert E. Lee, and I’ve got to thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me.”  He can’t be that damn ignorant of history.  We can debate the notion of whether or not Lincoln was a racist who asserted that the African race is inferior to whites and whether or not the “Emancipation Proclamation” was meant to free the slaves or was a military strategy to cripple the South economically by removing its free labor, but please don’t write to debate me on those two topics if your only source is Spielberg’s Lincoln.  Nevertheless, there can be no debate that Robert E. Lee was one of the most racist men America has ever produced, and Cool J is giving him a “shout out.”  Really?  That CSI money must be some really good money because I just refuse to believe that Cool J is that historically inept.  So, for now, I’ll give this song a “D+” for effort and an “F” for truth.  I actually want to give it a grade of “C,” just for having the conversation, but it is so historically flawed that I can’t.

*C. Liegh McInnis is the author of seven books and the publisher/editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal.  He can be contacted through his website,

Comment from editor:
Actually, I think both of them may be just  about that ignorant of history, as I think a majority of folks may still be.  We were taught lies in school and most people accept the lies, although his thing about still picking up the pieces out of the rubble is something I'd like to think refers to the sorrow the southern people have put themselves thru by refusing to see the truth, accept it, right it and get past it (although I'm sure it's not). Coming to terms with something shameful is more liberating than trying to bury it - you can't really put yourself past it until you face it or it's a little worm gnawing away inside, making a person defensive (as Mr. Paisley obviously is). I feel a little reluctant sorrow for him, and for LL Cool J for different reasons. 

The white southern fight against truth has harmed us all, black and white, in ways many people have not yet realized or thought through.  In trying to fight against black folks having the same rights whites have, white folks have done themselves and the generations after them unbelievable harm and they don't even know it - they think they're fighting black folks, but they're really fighting themselves and their own futures as well.

It's hard for me to believe that I once accepted most of the bulls*t, but I know that I did, which gives me the opinion that anyone who hasn't actively read and researched source history, particularly the Civil War era, is probably as ignorant of it as they sound.  

 I have a confession, I never read the articles of secession before I got on the internet and started being jumped by those damned neo-confederates. I have to give them props for forcing me to go to the sources to see if they knew what they were talking about (not) instead of relying on the garbage I was taught in American History in Tennessee, where I grew up (and God only knows what they were teaching my generation down here in Mississippi). I don't know when (or if) they've quit that and where, much less the things we were taught by our parents, who really BELIEVED.  I truly thought that there were other important issues to the Civil War that impacted on it, even though I had gotten far enough away from the lies to say that it had to be mostly slavery. Duh, the Mississippi articles of secession make it clear over and over and over that slavery was the only real and important issue  and anyone who doesn't believe me can easily look those articles up online and see for themselves straight from the ancestral horse's mouth.  

I still bought at least some of the revisionist reconstruction history until about 15years ago when I read  Litwack's "Been in the Storm So Long", which relies on and quotes verbatim source material from the era. I'm still amazed that my eyes had been sewn so neatly shut by the faux history I learned at school and at home. Paisley and Cool J probably neither realize what reconstruction was really like and who was REALLY left picking up the pieces out of the rubble (what small pieces they were allowed to pick up) when they weren't part of the dead and buried rubble. Never underestimate the power of mis-education.

The truth just has to be  brought forth time and again until more people pay attention and realize how little they really know about our past or the impact it has on their present and their future lives.  People are beginning to wake up here and there, due to people like you who continue to persevere.

--C.W. Roberson

Monday, December 31, 2012

“Don’t Miss What’s Truly Important because of the Smoke and Mirrors:
Brief Comments on Django Unchained
by C. Liegh McInnis, Contributing Author

Django Unchained is a very good, possibly great, Western, if one can stomach Quinton Tarantino’s highly sexualized and gory style.  My issue with Tarantino is that most of his films seem to be rooted in or use the white fascination for the exotic and violent black as a trope or backdrop for the sexuality and violence of his movies.  However, in this case, Tarantino’s hypersexual and ultraviolent style is a perfectly suited vehicle to show the horrors of slavery, especially the degradation of human beings into chattel for the economic gain and perverse pleasure of white supremacy.  That being said, while being a visually moving, if not often grotesque, film, rooted in sex and violence, Django Unchained exposes well the complex classes of slaves, the complex relationships between slaves, and the complex relationships between slaves and whites within the “peculiar institution”.  Yet, contrary to Ben Daite’s assertion in his review “Django Unchained – The Black, The Beautiful & Ev’thing Ugly,” Django Unchanged is not the first or best film to do this.  So, when Daite asserts,

It’s a black hero movie of some sort, a well crafted emancipation epic of a black man and shames the myriad emancipation organisms we have been hitherto inundated with in movies like the coveted Sweet Sweetbacks Badasssss Song by many a black film academics. Who said a black film cannot be bold, hot, intelligent, packed, disturbing and soothing at the same time?  No film, like Django Unchained, has ever drawn the moral and physical color line so inadvertently, (2012)

I can only cringe from the fact that Daite allows his desire to love and defend Django Unchained to show just how clueless he is regarding the history of African American films.  First, while lacking the budget needed to make it as well-polished cinematically as Django Unchained, Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song (1971) is a very good film.  In fact, its style is quite revolutionary.  The film’s fast-paced montages and jump-cuts were unique features in American cinema at the time and a precursor to the action-packed style for which Daite applauds Django Unchained.  Also, the manner in which Sweetback is forced to use his penis constantly as a bargaining tool comments on American fixation with the black penis (as Tarantino eventually does in the later stage of Django Unchained) and on the notion that far too many African American men fall into the trap of allowing their penis to become a major aspect of their identity.  Furthermore, I should not be forced to remind Daite of Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte’s Buck and the Preacher (1972), which not only addresses the conflict between African Americans and whites but also addresses the problem of all people of color (in this case African Americans and Native Americas) navigating their issues with each other while engaging their common issues with whites.  And, if we understand that Death Wish and the Dirty Harry series are, essentially, urban Westerns because they are driven by the same white supremacist notions of conquering the savages, then we understand that Shaft (1971) also refutes Daite’s historically misinformed assertion.  Additionally, Django Unchained does not come close to discussing or drawing “the moral and physical color line” that is drawn, deconstructed, mocked, refashioned,  and obliterated in the manner of Blazing Saddles (1974), written by Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor. 

Of course, maybe Daite’s assertion of Django Unchained’s superiority to other African American films is rooted in it being “hot” or “hotter” than other African American films that address race, but someone should remind Mr. Daite that “hotness” is relative and, often, judged on differing generational criteria.  With that said, I seem to remember that most women found Richard Roundtree to be “hot” in his portrayal of John Shaft, and the same is true of Mario Van Peebles’ portrayal of Jesse Lee in Posse, Denzel Washington’s portrayal of Trip in Glory, and, if my memory serves me correctly, more than a few women were brought to a swoon over John Amos’ portrayal in Roots of the African warrior, Kunta Kinte, whose unbreakable desire for freedom and courage to obtain it are the heart and soul of the narrative.  But, in fairness to Daite, when he says “hot,” I know that he also means the stylistic production and presentation of the film.  Again, to this I respond that “hotness” is relative and often based on generational criteria as well as what the current technology allows a film to do.  Remember, we all have fashion moments in our past for which we hope no one finds those pictures.  The same is true of film.  Often, the current marvel of fashion and high-tech production, especially special effects, in movies often appears inferior (lame and dated) just ten years later.  But, the reviews of that time tell us just how “hot” and stylish those effects were then.  Still, in any era a film’s “hotness” is directly related to its production budget.  Therefore, Django Unchained’s “hotness” may be more a tribute to the manner in which white filmmakers are regularly given larger budgets and creative control than African American filmmakers.  Let’s not forget that Spike Lee was forced to go with his hat in his hand to African American funders to finish Malcolm X because the studio’s budget wouldn’t produce the epic that Lee sought to make.  And even Robert Townsend had to fight with the studio for more money because, as he says, “The amount of the budget determines whether there are five hundred screaming fans after a Five Heartbeat’s concert or if there are just five people in an empty alley.”  So, the style or hotness of the film is not so much about Tarantino as it is about the types of limited budgets African American filmmakers are given even after they have proven themselves to be excellent.

Yet, what’s really flawed about Daite’s review is that he spends so much time trying to convince readers that Tarantino is a bold and revolutionary director just for making Django Unchained that he never fully discusses the most important aspect of the film, which is the juxtaposition and exploration of the various ideologies of slaves, namely the ideological positions of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) and Django (Jamie Foxx) as well as Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) when one considers that she is an example of the manner in which various slave classes/ideologies were often created based on the ideology of the plantation where a slave was born or purchased as an infant.  (Check the history of Phillis Wheatley.)  So if Mr. Daite could remove his head from Tarantino’s ass long enough and stop making jabs at Lee long enough, he might find the time to write an analysis of the film that shows us how Django Unchained succeeds rather than spending the entire review stroking Tarantino’s…err…ego while giving the middle finger to the history of African American cinema.  Thus, the saddest part of Mr. Daite’s analysis is that he becomes guilty of the same flaw of which he accuses Lee.  For some reason Daite seems to think that he can only celebrate Django Unchained by denouncing the history of African American cinema.  To be clear, when Samuel Jackson responded to Tarantino’s questioning of if he would have a problem playing Stephen by stating, “You mean do I have a problem playing the most hated black man in the history of American cinema?,” one wonders if the general public will understand the depths of what Jackson was saying.  What makes Django Unchained a good, possibly great film, is, again, the layering of the complexity of African American characters.  Stephen is not just a flat, stereotypical house nigger or sellout or Uncle Tom or handkerchief head.  Stephen is the example of the calculating, critical thinking slave who learns/masters the plantation system/culture and manipulates it to his good fortune regardless of whom he must hurt.  To his credit, even Tarantino correctly identifies Stephen as the traditional Greek and Shakespearean figure, such as Iago, who has the ear of the King and manipulates his position for his own good often at the demise of others.  But even more, Stephen is proof that the slaves both intellectually (administratively) and physically maintained the plantation during slavery and much of the South after slavery.  As a digression, watching The Jack Benny Program, I often wondered if the white writers purposefully crafted Rochester, Benny’s valet and chauffeur, as being more intelligent and moral than Jack Benny or if it was simply a Freudian slip of white supremacist schizophrenia.  Moreover, drawing a chronological line from Rochester to Stephen and plotting that line with a host of African American servants and slaves, one realizes that African Americans not only built America, but they also maintained it administratively.  Yet, I wonder how many people will not realize that the library scene between Stephen and his master, Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio), is not fantasy but a fictionalized retelling of the manner in which African American slaves and their offspring have been and have remained counselors for whites in leadership positions.  How many African Americans had the ideas, but whites obtained the patents or job promotions based on African American intellect and work?  Stephen is not a heroic character, but he is not a mindless boob either.  Stephen is an example of one of the various ways that African Americans were forced or chose to analyze, navigate, and manipulate the schizophrenia of white supremacy for survival and profit. 

An African American whom I have known since high school once said to me in 2010, “C. Liegh, your problem is that you spend too much time with niggers.  Niggers ain’t got no money, no power, nor the sense to use either if and when they get ‘em.  That’s why I hang out with white folks.”  This person works as a highly paid consultant in his field with very lucrative contracts from major white firms.  One person may view this person as a modern day Stephen, and another person may view this person as somebody just taking life as it is.  The real question is what is informing how one may perceive this person because the real problem is that the African American community is not taking seriously the need to produce enough critical thinkers to engage and evaluate artistic portrayal of and real-life issues in a manner that allows the mass of African Americans to understand what is being said about us in all forms of media and what is being done to us in every way possible, even when it is being done by us.  Furthermore, a key to understanding all of this is understanding the complex history of African people.  So, again, I wonder how many people will really understand what is occurring in the library scene between Stephen and Candie.  If there is real brilliance to Django Unchained, it is Tarantino’s writing of and Jackson’s portrayal of Stephen and Dicaprio’s ability to portray Candie’s schizophrenic dependence upon Stephen in a manner that exposes Stephen’s plantation magnitude.  Then, add to this Django’s ability to analyze various circumstances and navigate them accordingly along with Tarantino’s crafting and positioning of other slaves to complete the complex three-dimensional portrayal of multifaceted human beings all reacting to slavery in the manner that best suits their understanding, personality, and benefit, and Django Unchained does become a film worthy of most of the praise that Daite gives it, and one does not need to marginalize the history of African American cinema to celebrate the artistic (creative and critical) successes of Django Unchained, unless one is positioning oneself to be a literary neo-Stephen.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

 My Father’s Retirement:  For Work Well Done
by C. Liegh McInnis

“My father always told us ‘you don’t get any credit for what you do for yourself but for what you do for others.’”      Kalamu ya Salaam

            After forty-one years as a juvenile youth court counselor, my father retired in December 2011.  Unlike many whose civil rights engagement led them into politics and grassroots organizations, my father’s work around voting as a way to influence the appointment of judges and to improve schools led him to work with troubled youth.  (Clearly, I did not inherit that trait of working with troubled youth, but I digress.)  On paper, his most significant accomplishment as a youth court counselor has been the institution of parenting programs for parents whose children have been removed from the home or whose children have been adjudicated as delinquent for serious juvenile offences.  This small change took him more than twenty years to institute because, as usual, the “higher ups” are mostly concerned with criminalizing youth for sensational headlines and the so-called “advocacy groups” are more concerned with issues of race and other sensational headlines rather than objective critical thinking that asks simple questions:  Why is a youth perpetually in trouble?  And what role do parents, teachers, and other community leaders play in the perpetual trouble?

            I have participated in a couple of those parenting sessions and workshops, and I was called into duty to transfer the VHS tapes used for the parenting classes to DVDs.  It’s one of the very few technological things that I do well because all I must do is press one button.  But, watching all those tapes and watching my father lead those parenting workshops gave me an insight and respect for his work that I did not develop when I was the wayward child of the super parent.  I wasn’t criminally bad, but I was a bad child.  I’m sure that is not surprising to most of you.  Some of my family members used to call me the black Dennis the Menace, and I really can’t refute that claim. As a parent, my father never overreacted to my shenanigans and was a master at using the Socratic mode of questioning to make me see the foolishness of my behavior or choices.  And, he used the same method with the parenting classes.  He understood and attacked the fact that many parents are ineffective because they have never received proper parenting themselves.  He was never clouded by the myth that human parenting is instinctual, but, rather, it is a learned skill, and, like all skills, it is even more difficult to teach the proper way to parent if one has spent one’s entire life being exposed to poor or ineffective parenting techniques.  So, with a room of angry adults, pissed off because they are forced to participate in something that, for them, defines them as a failed human, he went to work by teaching a skill rather than indicting people for being failures.  And as with most skills, he began by having them assess themselves, discussing their current techniques and having them to judge and grade themselves, which included having them set their own benchmarks that can be measured against the benchmarks established by the program/court.  So, he began by giving them control and ownership of their ability to parent and then proceeded to act like a coach whose job it is to help them clarify what it means to be an effective parent and then to help them accomplish this goal.  No, it’s not rocket science, but clearly far too many parents are “missing the mark” as poor parenting has ultimately replaced racism as the major issue in the African American community.  (Send your angry emails to me, not my pop, because that is my position not his.)  Thus, the numbers seem to prove that parenting classes work as the recidivism rate of juvenile offenders whose parents enter the parenting program drops dramatically—close to fifty percent—over those whose parents do not enter the program.

            Yet, while the parenting program will be his on-paper accomplishment or testament of his contribution to society, there are two other accomplishments of his youth court legacy that mean more to me.  One, by the age of twelve, grown men and women regularly approached me and stated:  “Your father was the best juvy officer I had.”  Even at twelve it struck me to think:  “Just how many counselors have you had that you can compare them?  How bad a child were you that you needed multiple counselors?”  Of course, I never had the courage to say this aloud because of my fear of the common hoodlum (male and female) and because I knew that my father would backhand me across the street.  (Actually, he wouldn’t backhand me.  My mother was the disciplinarian parent.  My father could make me cry by using the Socratic method of forcing me to realize how my wayward and selfish ways negatively affected others and disappointed the people who loved me.  My mother, on the other hand, often said:  “Boy, I ain’t got time for all that psychological crap of your daddy.  If you want to keep your teeth, I suggest that you straighten up and fly right.”)  So, I was continuously amazed that these strangers could cite real/tangible ways in which my father had helped them by citing real/tangible ways in which their lives had changed as result of my father’s involvement.  Yet, when these adults or their parents attempted to thank my father, he always gave them the credit.  “No, ma’am, I didn’t save your child.  I gave your child some options, explained the consequences of each choice, and allowed your child to make a decision.  You and your son changed his life.  All I did was offer some services and resources that allowed y’all to accomplish the goal.”  Then, he would stroll off into the sunset like a real black cowboy.  I’m sure this is why I don’t take credit for my students that earn A’s and B’s and attend graduate school.   They do the work.  All I do is offer some tips on how to accomplish the goal.

            Still, with all of the above, the most important accomplishment of my father as a juvenile youth court counselor occurred when I was fifteen.  It was the summer of 1985, I was visiting my father for the summer, and I was finally old enough to stay home alone while he spent a few hours with friends.  That was great for me because my father still has one of the best home stereo systems I’ve ever seen, which means that I would have three to four hours of full reign with my father’s system, all of his albums, and a few Prince records.  If you have never heard Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, War, Parliament/Funkadelic, and Prince cranked up to ten on a top notch system, then you’ve never lived.  Around 9:30 p.m., the light flashes on the telephone.  I lower the music, answer the phone, and hear the low gravelly voice of a grown man. 
“Say, youngblood, is Mac There?”
“No sir,” I respond, “he’s not in at the moment.  Is there a message?” 
There is a long pause.  The silence begins to startle me.  Finally, after ten seconds or so, he continues, “Say, youngblood, your father was my juvy counselor when I was a kid, and my head was never wrapped to tight.  The way he got me through it all was that he always told me to call him whenever I was about to do something crazy.” 
At this moment I realized that this call just took a turn, making it way above my pay grade.  “Yes, sir,” I meekly replied.
There is another ten to twelve second pause, and then he states “I just came home and caught my ole lady with this nigger in my crib.  I know it’s been ‘bout ten years since he’s been my counselor, but I need your old man to tell me why I shouldn’t shoot the shit outta they asses.” 
His voice was monotone, concrete steady, and ice cold, not wavering nor yelling.  The preciseness of his tone scared me.  And, y’all must remember.  This is 1985.  There is no caller ID and no three-way calling.  I’ve got to get this dude’s number and convince him not to do anything until I have my father return his call.  Allow me also to add that I don’t have any street cred, I’m not looking to obtain any street cred, and at fifteen I didn’t even know what street cred was.  Yet, I knew what my father would want me to do.  “Sir, I know exactly where my father is.  I can call him and have him return your call in less than thirty minutes.” 
“Youngblood, I ain’t got that long.” 
“You said that my father helped you.  You called him because you knew he would help you.  Let me make this call, sir, so he can help you.” 
“Alright, youngblood, you got thirty minutes.  But, I ain’t giving you the number.  Tell yo’ old man that I’ll call him back in exactly thirty minutes.”  Great, I got a gun waving hoodlum who’s punctual. 

Luckily—not by design, I always knew where my father was.  I had the number and made the call.  When I stated the man’s name, my father abruptly stated, “I’m on my way to the crib,”  arriving home in less than fifteen minutes.  After a few more minutes, I began to worry, but my father simply stated, “All we can do is wait for a call son.”  When that phone rang, both terror and relief began to tango in my heart.  My father answered the phone before the first ring had stopped.  The conversation probably lasted all of forty minutes.  There was not a lot of emotional appeal from my father.  He used the same technique that he always used.  “How you want this to play out?”  “What you gon’ gain by shooting them?”  “Are you a fool for being a good man, or is she a fool for not realizing that she just fucked up a good thing with a real man?”  The conversation between my father and the man was back and forth, like a championship tennis match between heavy hitters, point for point, return and volley until my father made the winning shot with a great cross court smash that hit the edge of the back corner line:  “Everything you have worked for will be gone if you pull that trigger.  You calling her a bitch ass ‘ho.  If you pull that trigger, then you will be allowing a bitch ass ‘ho to ruin your life.”  After that, the tone in the conversation changed, making it clear that the man was not going to shoot them.  Then, during the last two minutes, there was another debate or negotiation that I didn’t quite understand.  All I could hear was my father saying, “But what is that gon’ prove if you don’t give it to them?”  “But you done already made your point?”  “Okay, alright, do it your way, just let them go.”  “Yes, yes, I’m on my way.”  As my father hung up the phone, he shook his head and said, “Well, he’s not going to shoot them, but I couldn’t convince him to allow them to put on their clothes before he puts them out the house.”  Then, he paused, thought about it for a minute, and stated, “Well, they may be walking the streets naked, but at least they walking out the house and not being carried out.  Gotta go son; I told him I’d be there in fifteen minutes.”

            The story is not amazing or fascinating to me because my father kept a man who caught his wife cheating on him from shooting her and her lover.  I am amazed that the man called my father even though they hadn’t had regular contact in ten years.  That night, all I could think was what impact had my father had on his life as a child that as a man he still felt a need to call him at that moment.  That is my father’s legacy.  I don’t mean to upset people, but I care very little about his work in the Democratic party or even serving on the Hinds County Democratic Executive Committee.  His fighting for parenting classes in the youth court and that summer night in 1985 are all I need to say to him, “Well done, pops, well done.”