Spring finally- Palm Sunday notes

Today is Palm Sunday.  I go to St. John’s Episcopal church in Park Slope.  I went to Episcopal mission school in Arkansas and I find the ritual and the thoughtfulness helpful to calm the many many noises that go on in my creative brain. I was raised in the Pentecostal Church, which is as ritualized as the Anglican churches, but with movement, great music and serious “testifying”.  The noises in my my creative brain often felt amplified.  But I miss the music.  My mother before I was born was the Preacher’s singer–the woman (always a woman) who sang the most emotional hymn before the Preacher preached.  She was in a harrowing car accident and she stopped singing. But she remain a devoted, dedicated Christian and in a few years joined a Christian Methodist Church, where over the years she became one of the matriarchs.  I’ve been in NYC for along while and years ago when I told people I believed in God they seemed surprised.  Often these were people who are now Buddhists, but mostly they had either been Roman Catholic or Jewish or had been raised with no spiritual tradition.  None of the people who believed in African religions never said anything like that.  Belief is a personal choice.  It is something that you come to for many different reasons, but at it’s essence, it is also deeply emotional and filled with the necessary words of testimony–how the Lord got me over.

One of the reasons, I love Carolyn Rodgers “how I got ovah” was that she was able to connect her deep faith to our desires as Black people for freedom, safety, love.  Today is Nina Simone’s birthday and my poem  “The Perfect Lipstick” was one of the first to receive wide readership because it has Ms. Simone as a figure of great importance.  When she sings spirituals, civil rights songs she reminds me of the sisters testifying:  “I give my honor to God . . . ”  She gave her honor to the people, Black people.  I often wish I could attain that level of confession and purgation.  But I think of The Passion of Christ and I think of the Passion of Black People in the United States and I think of redemption and transformation.  For me it is the transformation of that suffering into something powerful-the Holy Spirit’s bright message that I find of deepest interest.  I don’t know whether I want to go to “heaven” unless my mother and the many good people I have met in my life are there, but the idea of transformation of moving away from the bad habits, anger, mistrust to a place of freedom, beauty, community–I can feel that sometimes in church and yes in art.

Spring is here finally, the crocuses are sprouting, forsythia is on its way and when the white blossoms of the living bradford pears come, I may cry.  I will assuredly smile and so will many many others.  We have had a winter too frigid, too snowy, too gloomy and we need every blossom the Creator brings. 0329151354



time to start to look back

last year of my 50s! at Cafe Loup, photo by Karen Bell

last year of my 50s! at Cafe Loup, photo by Karen Bell

Since 2008 I have been writing about being  a Black Bohemian in the East Village in the 1970s.  I am trying to discover who I was as a way to understand how I’ve been able to be a poet and artist and person in this world.  It has been daunting, but slowly the memoir is coming together.

Thanks to Malaika Adero for presenting my brief look at 1976 the photo by Amos Rice that shows Stanley Crouch, Alice Norris, David Murray, Carlos Figueroa, me, Phillip Wilson Victor Rosa and Charles “Bobo” Shaw.http://homeslicemag.com/outside-tim-palace-photograph-1976/

I hope to publish more pieces over the next several months


progress is not a trick

“We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America.  If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s.  Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed.  Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago.  To deny this progress, this hard-won progress -– our progress –- would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better”.  President Barack Obama

Progress is not a trick, but assessing it can be tricky.  I am of an age where I see clearly how much this nation has changed since 1965 and yes there is much un-finished business.  Racism and hatred and violence are those societal elements that we must constantly struggle with.  Justice is often denied, but sometimes justice is made.  Ferguson as our President pointed out is not “unique”–the worst corruption there is is small town corruption.  I know because I grew up in a small town.  But as the President, the Representatives and the still living foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement constantly point out, we have destiny in our hands.  To not vote, the pretend that your vote doesn’t matter means to me at least that you give up any right to complain about anything because you have ceded your power and most likely to the very people who will do you the greatest harm.  Black people, progressive people sat out the 2014 elections and see what kind of Congress we got now.

I am tired of people saying well these people are racists and therefore more honest.  I know he’s a thief, so I will vote for him and not complain when he dips his hand in the collective till.  Racists are no more honest than anyone else.  But greed, stupidity, meanness, misogyny and misanthropy reign supreme in the halls of Congress.  But there has been greed, stupidity, violence, et al in the past.  And when it got too bad-the VOTERS through the rascals out.  I have voted in every election but one since I registered to vote right out of college–that means Presidential elections. primaries, school board elections, State and local contests.  All of them in three cities: Atlanta, New York and Boston.  Sometimes my candidates win, sometimes they lose.  But I can complain and praise and put my two cents in with pride.  People died.  Black people died so that I could participate in this democracy, a very far from perfect experiment.

There are terrible things going on in every state in this Union-men and women hell bent on destroying public education; on destroying collective bargaining and unionization not only in the public sector, but the private sector as well–a good way to KEEP WAGES DOWN; on making health care unaffordable and almost inaccessible for poor and working class people;  and policing women’s bodies esp. during childbearing years.  These people hate art and culture and think that anybody or maybe robots should teach.  Of course their children go to expensive private schools.  They will sell of park lands.  Gut the budgets of child welfare offices.  They are there because less than 50% of people show up and vote.  And as long as “progressives” sit on their hands and occupy their grievances these people will do even more harm.  Plenty people talk about revolution and societal transformation, but few are willing to DO THE WORK to make laws; to set policies; to administer them.  And so the right takes more and more control.  The people who were beaten and brutalized by the STATE OF ALABAMA 50 years ago wanted to vote in order to gain power and  make change.  The mayor of Selma is Black.  The mayor of Selma is Black.

many poets at Wilson Hall/Furious Flower PC, Virginia

many poets at Wilson Hall/Furious Flower PC, Virginia