The Beat Goes On (Reflections in a Moment in Troubled Times)

by on January 19, 2012 · 6 comments

in Culture, From the Soul

Sitting reflecting
on my lifetime.
And, man, I’ve ridden
the currents
of many kinds
of times:
times when I’ve danced in the street
like when Mandela was set free
as though he was ever really imprisoned,
if you hear me;
times when I didn’t want to open my eyes,
knowing the ugliness that was in front of me;
times when life was just a flatout mystery,
like George W. Bush
twice winning a presidency
in the land of the freakin’ free,
do you hear me?;
times when they played my song,
“Ernie, Ernie, he’s our man
if he can’t do it nobody can!”
and according to plan
I’d get that ball in my hand
and life emerged as a show,
time to glow,
outlet pass to Ray,
a bounce to Ira Lee,
a no looker to Hassey
a little flip and a dunk by me –
Is there anything in life
more fulfilling than a well executed fast break?
If there is
please tell me what it is for goodness sake;
times when I’ve shrugged my shoulders
pondering just what is the point;
times when I’ve sat in a circle
wondering: “How long is
this dude go’ bogart that joint?”;
times when I’ve laughed
to keep from crying;
times when it didn’t
seem I could keep going
no matter how hard I was trying.
And so much has crossed my path
over time:
both the wonderful,
the uplift of the human spirit in the 60’s,
and the not so wonderful,
the resistance to letting that loving energy
run free
in the last stages of the 20th Century
and the birthing moments of
this should-be-promising
21st Century,
the last such measurement of time
so many millions of us will ever see.

As my thoughts stray
in this way
I hear Sonny and Cher
The beat goes on, the beat goes on,”
a song,
not among the World’s
Freedom Songs,
rather about dancing and teenybopping
and mini skirts and so on
with mention of
“men still keep on
marching off to war”
but it speaks to the heart
of my reflections,
of a deep feeling inside me
that, indeed,
in the arena of quests for
justice and freedom
a new generation
has come along
and picked up the beat
from what went on
when the likes of Martin
and Malcolm
were going strong
and so
“The beat goes on, the beat goes on”
and I wish in that regard that the refrain,
“Drums keep pounding a rhythm to the brain”
is enough to sustain
the energy of
all the oldtimers and the newcomers
who board and ride this Freedom Train
to fresher terrain,
to a better world.

I feel it in the air.
It’s all over the city:
We celebrate a 100-Year Anniversary of the
San Diego Free Speech Fight,
commemorating a struggle
between industrial workers
and allies
who set their sights
against an ordinance in the city
banning standing on a box
and speaking
in the streets.
And they were serious,
busting people
and beating people
and snuffing out lives,
but the good people,
with right on their side,
And one can see art work
and photos
of such a victory
in our history
at Centro Cultural de la Raza
in Balboa Park.

Oh, such a spark,
keeping the vibrations of Freedom alive
and is that funky earthy sensation ever alive
at the Rep
where they’ve staged:
“A Hammer, a Bell
and a Song to  Sing,”
with three guys who can
really strum
and drum
and sing,
down the highway
Folk Music
has always travelled,
highways leading to where
the struggles of people called,
fingering and strumming
and patting and stamping
to the rhythms of the
people’s hopes and dreams –
and those three men
the other evening
sung the story beautifully,
and I can’t stop humming
Sam Cooke’s
“A Change Gon’ Come”;
made my heart sing
as does looking around me
in Occupy San Diego
at so many folks willing to make that change.
How else A Change Gon’ Come?
And we will all gather together
and ask other San Diegans
to do so as well at:
an Occu-Party Benefit Concert
at the World Beat Center.
Friday evening, the 20th day of January,
7:30PM-1:00 AM
An evening of Music and the Spoken Word,
and happy feet
and open hearts;
folks just playing a part,
in like Flynn,
knowing that struggles for freedom,
and for dignity
and all that –
These struggles never end.

“The beat goes on,
the beat goes on.”

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

judi Curry January 19, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Beautiful, Ernie. Will things ever change? The older I get, the more discouraged I become, and then I remember Berkeley in ’65; Freedom Train; March in Washington, etc.and hope that the pendulum is going to swing to the left – and stay .


Ernie McCray January 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Hey, Judi, your hopes are what I hope for everyday.


Ed Leon January 19, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Fear not! We shall prevail!


Ernie McCray January 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I think you’re right.


Mary Torregrossa February 7, 2012 at 6:34 pm

I love that this poem is a personal narrative yet still a historical overview that we can universally follow. With all its hopeful energy, it is still a struggle, always a struggle, to keep democracy living up to its promise.


Ernie McCray February 8, 2012 at 12:20 pm

And we shall struggle on.


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