‘The Donna Collection’

25 Nov

My short story, “The Donna Collection” is included in the new anthology 166 Palms 2020. Buy the anthology on Amazon.

Happy Hundredth Birthday, Mary Ray

28 Dec

Today would have been Mary Ray’s 100th birthday. Wish she could be here to celebrate with us and to see all the thriving going on among her children, grandchildren and great grands.

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Ellen-Marie, Mom and me

Zuri Adele is about to get into some ‘Good Trouble’

8 Jan

Both of my parents were lovers of the arts, from the symphony to the cinema, from backyard talent shows to Broadway. Our family is filled with people with artists’ souls. I think often of my mother’s brother James Browne who worked as a custodian by day and sang with the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club for more than five decades, wowing audiences with his rich baritone. Then there are the dancers, actors, jewelry designers in the Ray, Rucker, Williams, Brooks, Alladice clan that just keep coming.

Tonight at 8 p.m.,  Zuri Adele will make her major TV debut in Good Trouble on the Freeform network. She plays Malika, an activist who is going to stir up trouble in the best sense.

The show’s title is inspired by Rep. John Lewis who has said: “I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.”

As with The Fosters, of which Good Trouble is a spinoff, the show will deal with issues that we have been confronting since before the 60s  — racial justice, police brutality, immigration, women’s rights and LGBTQ issues. The characters in the show have their own contemporary approaches to fighting injustice, using tools that were not available in the 60s, such as crowd sourcing and social media.

They also get into other kinds of trouble as well. And that’s real.

The first episode dropped on Hulu and Xfinity last week and will air on Tuesdays on Freeform  at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific Time. (Check your local listings.)

No holiday for the fight against injustice

26 Dec

The fire is at hand. Let us organize.

Those were the words of Ulric McDonald Grant, a Barbadian union organizer, who in 1937 was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sedition.

Occasionally, Ebenezer devoted his holiday columns to sentimental musings. But quite often, he used them to remind people that the Scottsboro Boys were still in prison or that white Harlem merchants still failed to hire blacks to work in their stores. He devoted his Christmas Day column in 1937 to inveigh against the injustice visited upon Ulric Grant.

Noting that the case constituted the first time he’d felt ashamed of the “isle of my birth,”  Ebenezer asserted that Grant’s “crime” was that he gave a few speeches in which he vowed to continue to fight against the white planter class.

“What must have made Grant’s remarks all the more ‘seditious’ in the eyes of the law was that they were made following an island-wide disturbance arising out of labor conditions and capitalistic oppression under which the masses, Negroes almost in toto, have groaned for many years,” my father wrote.

He had harsh criticism for a number of players in this case, but curiously, he let the British off the hook.

Much of what is charged up to ‘the British’ is the work of a few West Indian-born and bred ninnies usurping their power in the only manner they know and usurping it badly, occasionally harmfully.

“The entire judicial setup in Barbados which had to do with the case of Grant is of local birth,” my father continued.  “Judge, attorney general, solicitor general and police constabulary. And we find Grant arrested, prosecuted, sentenced to 10 years in prison for an offense which amounted in the most to an attempt to disturb the peace —  an offense  to which a small fine generally meets the end of justice.”

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My father expressed disappointment toward Grant supporters for failing to rally to Grant’s aid, but he speculated that many of them were probably swept up in wholesale arrests that were taking place or  “hiding from the accusing finger of this same judicial setup.”

He took aim at local attorneys who did not offer their expertise. to Grant, who faced a jury without legal counsel. “It was regrettable that the Negro lawyers of Barbados did not see ‘a cause’ in a fight for Grant’s exoneration.”

As to the judge in the case, whom he described as being “born of a small-town aristocracy and elevated to his present position by curry-favoring small-town cronies, he sees the right of the populace in a small-town way. The right of free speech was not included in his legal studies.”

On a more hopeful note, Ebenezer said that a West Indian Defense Committee had been formed in Harlem to provide financial assistance to the defense.

“The West Indian Defense Committee has quite a task before it,Ebenezer wrote.

The progress of the world and the right of free speech must be carried home to shortsighted colonials.

I found a brief legal note that indicated that Grant was released early, in February 1942 after the remission of his sentence.  But aside from a few letters to the editor in response to my father’s 1937 Christmas column, I haven’t found much on Grant.  I did find an article in the Barbados Advocate in  2016, in which a contemporary union leader lamented the fact that Grant and several other activists had never gotten due credit for their contributions to Barbados’ decolonization.

So as I celebrate Unity — the first principle of Kwanzaa — I will light a candle for Ulric Grant and all of those whose voices that have filled our diasporic chorus against injustice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrating longevity

29 Jul

Eva V. Williams, one of my mother’s first cousins, turns 90 this weekend. Two weeks ago, about 200 friends and family members gathered to celebrate this milestone. While as one of her nephews, Russell Irvine, noted in a tribute to Cousin Eva, fewer and fewer elders from that generation remain, an added blessing is that five of Cousin Eva’s siblings were there to celebrate with her. Six of the original 10 are still with us.

Cousin Eva, who worked as a school librarian, did not have children of her own, but she has been a mother to many. Her “radiant, captivating” smile and open heart,  are  her signature.  Thank you, dear cousin, and Happy Birthday.

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