Moods for Jazz -
Negro sections of the
South where doors have no resistance to violence, danger always
whispers harshly. Klansmencavort, and havoc may come at any time.
Negroes often live either by the river or the railroad, and for
most there is not much chance of going anywhere else. Yet always
one of them has been away and has come home. The door has opened
to admit something strange and foreign, yet tied by destiny to
a regional past nourished by a way of life in common--in this
case collard greens.
State Department visitor from Africa comes, wishing to meet Negroes.
He is baffled by the "two sides to every question" way of looking
at things in the South. Although he finds that in the American
social supermarket blacks for sale range from intellectuals to
entertainers, to the African all cellophane signs point to ideas
of change--in an IBM land that pays more attention to Moscow than
What--wonders the African--is really happening in the shadow of
world events, past and present--and of world problems, old and
new--to an America that seems to understand so little about its
black citizens? Even so little about itself. Even so little.
the restless Caribbean there are the same shadows as in Mississippi,
where, according to Time, Leontyne comes in the back door. Yet
some persons in high places in Washington consider it subversive
for ordinary people to be concerned with problems such as back
doors anywhere--even suspecting those citizens of color who legitimately
use the ballot in the North to elect representatives to front
doors. But in spite of all, some Negroes occasionally do manage--for
a moment--to get a brief ride in somebody's American chariot.
by any other name is just about the same, casts a long shadow,
adds a dash of bitters to each song, makes of almost every answer
a question, and of men of every race or religion questioners.
times endure from slavery to freedom--to Harlem where most of
the money spent goes downtown. Only a little comes back in the
form of relief checks, which leaves next to nothing for show fare
for children who must live in a hurry in order to live at all.
Yet in a milieu where so many untoward things happen, one cannot
afford to take to heart too deeply the hazards. Remember Harriet
Tubman? One of the run-away slaves in her band was so frightened
crossing from Buffalo into Canada that on the very last lap of
his journey he hid under the seat of the train and refused to
glance out the window. Harriet said: "You old fool! Even on your
way to freedom, you might at least look at Niagara Falls."
you are lucky, or at least you can dream lucky--even if you wake
up cold in hand. But maybe with anew antenna you will get a clearer
there are some who make money--and others who folks think make
money. It takes money to buy gas to commute to the suburbs and
keep one's lawns sheared like one's white neighbors who wonder
how on earth a Negro got a lawn mower in the face of so many ways
of keeping him from getting a lawn.
who have no lawns to mow seek gods who come in various spiritual
and physical guises and to whom one prays in various rhythms in
various lands in various tongues.
seems as if everything is annotated one way or another, but the
subtler nuances remain to be captured. However, the atom bomb
may solve all this--since it would end the end results of love's
own annotation. Meanwhile, although the going is rough, triumph
over difficulties at least brings subjective glory. Everybody
thinks the Negroes have the most fun, but, of course, secretly
hopes they do not--although curious to find out if they do.
Your M ama
spite of a shortage of funds for the movies and the frequent rude
intrusions of those concerned with hoarding hard metals, collective
coins for music-making and grass for dreams to graze on still
keep men, mules, donkeys, and black students alive.
who contribute most to the joy of living and the stretching of
the social elastic are not stymied by foolish questions, but keep
right on drawing from the well of the past buckets of water in
which to catch stars. In their pockets are layovers for meddlers--although
somewhere grandma lost her apron.
grandma lost her apron with all the answers in her pocket (perhaps
consumed by fire) certain grand-and great-grandsons play music
burning like dry ice against the ear. Forcing cries of succor
from its own unheard completion--not resolved by Charlie Parker--can
we look to monk or Monk? Or let it rest with Eric Dolphy?
the answers were on tickets in long strips like those that come
from slots inside the cashier's booth at the movies, and if I
had the money for a ticket--like the an who owns all tickets,
all booths, and all movies and who pays the ticket seller who
in turn charges me--would I, with answer in my hand, become one
of the three--the man, the ticket seller, me?
Show fare, mama, please.....
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