A Letter to a Little Boy Who Had His Life Taken Away

November 7, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I came across a letter the other day. A letter I had written to a boy who had his life taken away. A two-year old. Anthony was his name.

It was a letter which my heart insisted I write to maintain my sanity after sitting, as a juror, in a courtroom, where an attorney, a lawyer who was but a wielder of smoke screens on a clear windy day, trying to sway our opinions with what amounted to bullshit by any definition.

I mean I had sat for days being blown away, looking at pictures with arrows pointing

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Trying to Help Children Create a Peaceful World

October 29, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Trying to help children create a peaceful world is difficult, to say the least. The reason being, I suppose, is because war seems to be the default way human beings have chosen, over time, to solve problems between nations.

Children are groomed to accept armed conflict in such a world.

I mean I grew up in the 40’s running around with my buddies, loudly mouthing the whistling and booming noises of bombs exploding and the rat-a-tat-tat sounds of war we learned how to playfully mimic at the movies on many a Saturday afternoon.

We were grunts and swabbies and jarheads and flyboys all wrapped in one, anchoring aweigh and flying off into the wild blue yonder and storming beaches and rolling those caissons along, practically every day.

Nobody ever said “Hey, haven’t you children ‘play killed’ enough people today?”

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A Boy’s Dream Come True

October 16, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

It was a dream come true when I first stepped into a classroom of my own in 1962.

A dream born on my first day of kindergarten, as I sat at a desk going out of my mind, as there’s only so much “See Spot run” a five-year-old, who can already read, can take, for goodness sake.

Not to mention that school had barely begun when I heard a loud “Whack!” which was the sound of the school principal, Sister Mary Benedict, grand slamming my knuckles to kingdom come with a yardstick, like Willie Mays hitting a game winning homerun – because I had dozed off at my desk.

Needless to say that woke me up. Talking about “not seeing it coming.”

But how do you not cop a nod in a non-air-conditioned classroom in late August or early September in Tucson – freaking, Arizona?

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Restoring Justice Heart to Heart After the Racial Taunts From San Clemente High

October 7, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

If there is an American tradition that has lasted longer than “racial taunting” I’d like to know what it is.

It’s truly as American as apple pie.

And it often comes out of nowhere, rising at any time and at any place, as the Lincoln High Hornets Cheerleaders found out not too long ago at an away football game against the Tritons at San Clemente High.

Oh, they were just bouncing and dancing and prancing and chanting on behalf of their guys, trying, by the way, to hold their heads up high as the other guys were winning the day, big time, and the home crowd was feeling it, big time, having a grand old time, hugging each other and high fiving and dancing on their feet, their marching band tapping away with snappy victorious drum beats, the brass section blasting their horns until the cows come home…

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Teaching About the World

September 24, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ll always remember my first year of teaching, back to the very first day.

There I was standing before close to 40 sixth graders and I don’t recall at all what I had planned to say to start the day.

But before I could say anything I noticed that my students were looking me up and down like somebody assessing a used car at “U Can Trust Us Autos.”

I could tell they had questions on their minds, and then it dawned on me what they wanted answers to and I answered their questions before they asked me to:

“Six-five. Size fourteen. And, yeah, I play basketball.”

That set the tone for that year and for the rest of my career, a career well chosen because it fit me to a T, allowed me to totally be myself: to teach the way I wished my teachers had taught me.

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A School Day I’ll Never Forget

September 4, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Friday, November 22, 1963.

I woke up that morning as I did every morning, cursing my alarm clock for waking me.

Getting that off my chest I got my day underway primping and talking to that dude in the mirror about what he and I might do that day to keep about 40 sixth graders at Oliver Hazard Perry Elementary excited and challenged and eager to come back for more the next day.

So when I made my merry way to school in my raggedy 49 ford (all I could afford at the time with the paltry pay a second year teacher raked in) I was probably humming and singing the tunes of the day: “Our day will come,” adding my bass; “You’ve really got a hold on me,” thinking of love with a smile on my face; “Walking the dog” for a change of pace…

That was literally how I “rolled” on the mornings of a school day.

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Still Trying to Keep Martin’s Dream Alive         

August 23, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Nothing has ever resonated with me more than the “I Have a Dream” prose and poetry Martin Luther King delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. on a pleasant summer day in 1963.

I was about to enter my second year of teaching and I couldn’t wait to share my thoughts about Martin and about what he had to say that day just in case any of my sixth graders were, in their youthful innocence, confused about what was being said about him throughout the country – all the demonizing of him as a womanizer and the FBI describing him as a dangerous commie, a designated “enemy of the state.”

I was eager to sit down with such young learners and set the record straight, to give them a bit of insight on the man from a black perspective. Mine.

I wanted to throw in some facts into the mix of insinuations and accusations in the air so that they could know and understand that Martin, this remarkable human being, rather than being a threat to our way of life, was devoted to making us more loving and caring as a nation.

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In a Freedom State of Mind

August 13, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Freedom.

What an alluring concept: The power to move about in your world unhindered and unrestrained under normal circumstances.

But such a definition of “liberty,” based on my life experiences, is but a fantasy, as I’ve spent a lifetime pursuing it, relentlessly, like I used to go after rebounds back in my basketball days – but it’s been as elusive as a black cat, at midnight, in an unlit alley.

Because just when you think you’re about to finally board that freedom train, a young black quarterback, in the NFL, takes a knee as thousands of football fans, his fellow Americans, stand proudly with their hands over their hearts, straining their vocal chords as they end the anthem they’re singing with “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

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Love Lifted Me! from Dripping With Love in a Sea of Hate

July 31, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!

Oh, how I used to love hearing Sister Lillie Walls light up Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church singing that song on many a Sunday morn.

She had a silky deeply sincere voice that ranged between soprano and contralto that just settled into your bones and got you up on your feet and got you through the week until the next Sunday came along and love could lift you again.

We needed that like a junkie needs heroin. To “maintain,” as we used to say, considering we lived day to day in Tucson, Arizona, a Jim Crow town, where we, not to get into any detail at this point, were expected to, basically, stay in our “place”: out of sight.

Before I even started school I knew that wasn’t right.

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We’re Seeing Clear Signs of How Freedom Isn’t Free

July 22, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Like any other American I appreciate the freedoms we have, especially the freedom to express one’s self, as I can’t exist without speaking up in some manner.

But I just wish I, and my people, were fully free, free to just go about our lives, like white people, like for instance, not having to instruct our sons regarding what to do if they’re walking down the street minding their own business and a cop rides up on them with his hands on his weapon, at the ready to commit a crime where there had been none.

That’s the kind of liberty we want, simply freedoms like being able to sit down and wait on a friend to join you in Starbucks or swim at a pool or barbecue in the park without somebody calling 911.

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Hell Yes the Man’s a Racist

July 17, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

The dumbest question I’ve ever heard is
“Is Donald Trump a racist?”
as that’s as obvious a question
as:
Does Dizzy Gillespie have big cheeks?
Do school children like to play hide and seek?
Is Mikhail Baryshnikov a dancer?
Are drum majors and majorettes
marchers and prancers?
Was Gone With the Wind a hit
and Mark Twain a wit?
Could Richard Pryor and Robin Williams
do a comedy bit?
Does a major league player spit?

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Socialism’s Been Very Good to Me

July 1, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Socialism is such a scary word to so many people.

They fear socialism as an enemy of capitalism, depicting it, as I saw recently in a cartoon, as “taking money from one person’s pocket and putting it in another’s pocket.”

Come on, really? I know in our economic system the almighty dollar is treated like a king, but why is that a reason for looking at another set of principles with narrow minds?

I read a meme that said a “socialist is a person too stupid to know he’s a communist.” What the hell does that even mean? Aren’t the “Red Scare” days, so steeped in stupidity as they were, supposed to be gone and forgotten?

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Thinking About Race and the YMCA

June 27, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

An issue with racial overtones has come up in San Diego, centered on the Jackie Robinson YMCA located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.

It’s caught my attention because I’m reminded of one other time I associated race with a YMCA.

First of all, though, I must say I love and appreciate YMCA’s.

I mean I was a Y brat as a kid.

I learned to swim and do arts and craft at the Y. I once held the pancake eating contest at the Tucson Y Camp where I also gained an appreciation for horseback riding and archery and backpacking and enjoying singing and roasting hot dogs and marshmallows around an open fire.

But back in those days, the 1940’s, I had to deal with racial overtones at my local Y.

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Tucson, the Town of My First Experiences in Life

June 18, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I read a woman’s critique of her hometown online the other day. She couldn’t stand the place of her birth, saying that the town was backwards and too “white bread” to her liking. And she didn’t feel like she ever belonged.

I kind of understood, at some level, where she was coming from as Tucson, where I grew up, was not what anyone would consider “hip” and it was heavy with white folks who could sometimes be a “trip,” going way out of their way to make me feel as though I didn’t belong.

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Why Should It Be Considered a Risk Trying to Get Rid of Trump?

June 6, 2019 by Ernie McCray

(Thoughts Inspired by Erica Jong)

by Ernie McCray

There’s so much talk about the risks that would be involved in trying to impeach the president.

And I’m thinking: Risks? What risks?

A literary hero of mine, Erica Jong, once said: “If you don’t risk anything, you risk everything” and to me it’s a bigger risk not trying to give El Numero 45 a pink slip than allowing him to sink the ship that is America.

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An Octogenarian Reflects on a Life of Writing

June 5, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Just finished year one
as an octogenarian,
glad to still be among
the living ones,
still holding on
to precious memories
that remind me
how good
life has been to me…

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At the Mic at Lincoln High

May 21, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Looking at students,
“The Hornets,”
from the mic
at Lincoln High,

I could feel
my journey
in the city
rising in my memory,

my history
as a San Diegan,
arriving, August, ’62,
with a wife,
three kids,
lacking the money
between us
needed to visit the San Diego Zoo,

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Keepers of the Dream -To the Boys of Excellence of Hoover High

May 10, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Hey, I just want to say
“Hi” to you “Boys of Excellence”
of Hoover High,
especially since I haven’t
met with you as much as
I would have liked to.

But, I often think of you
and I value each moment
I have spent with you
kicking back in my seat
munching on a treat
listening to you speak,
coming to realize
that you young men,
when it comes to excellence,
can’t be beat.

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Y’all Bad (a Shout Out to the Lady Wildcats of the U of A)

April 24, 2019 by Ernie McCray

Y’all Bad – (A Shout Out to the Lady Wildcats of the U of A)

by Ernie McCray

Wow, what a season
you Lady Wildcats had.
Y’all bad!
Champions of the WNIT!
So honored to be
in your family
as a Wildcat
great-grandaddy,
both literally
and figuratively.

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A Golfer With No Quit in Him Rises Again

April 19, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve never witnessed
a more beautiful scene:
Eldrick Tont Woods,
“Tiger,”
leaning over
a “gimme,”
gently tapping it in
to a Hallelujah chorus
of cheers
and chants
that came suddenly
like a gust
of wind
and continued
as though
there was no end,
bringing tears to my eyes,

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My Own Happenings as Distractions From a Mighty Storm

April 16, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Sometimes I
feel like
I’m being gangsta slapped,
living in some form of the abstract,
at the mercy
of an orange-faced-long-tie-wearing
maniac,
who is beyond
normal definitions of
being out of whack,
spinning out of control
like a swirling tornado

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Imagining Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

April 11, 2019 by Ernie McCray

Imagining Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes

(For Ms Gonzalez’s Third Graders)

by Ernie McCray

Hey,
I must say
that the words
of thanks you
sent my way
put a bounce in my step
and a smile on my face
and a warm fuzzy feeling
in my heart
that just wouldn’t go away.

I’ve come to love you guys
and your wonderful school
in a very big way.

You all made me feel so at home
as I sat and talked to you
through a microphone,

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Receiving an Award for My Love of Children

April 8, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I recently received an honor of a lifetime, Barrio Station’s “Cesar E. Chavez Humanitarian Award” for my lifelong civil and human rights activism. When I first got the word from Rachel Ortiz, Executive Director of the Barrio Station, a dear hero of mine, that I was to be given such a precious distinction, I didn’t know what to say other than “Wow!”

After hanging up the phone I couldn’t help but think of what a charmed life I’ve had. A life filled with children. Children, hundreds of them, in school settings all over San Diego County, have made me who I am, gifting me with tight hugs and snappy high fives for just being myself with them:

Out at P.E. with them,
my slam dunks
and shifty moves
and softballs
hit beyond the boundaries
of the playground
dazzling them
and bonding me
as a badass dude
with them.

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Had Myself a Smiley Day

March 26, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Had myself a smiley day
the other day
from the time I woke up
until the time
I called it a day.

Seemed like mostly everything
put a smile on my face:
the rain dropping gently
instead of flooding the place,
the sun peeking through the clouds,
promising a nicer day
later in the day
and my smile widened
as my day got underway,
beginning with a lyft ride
that had me feeling
warm and cozy inside,
glowing with pride

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‘Standing With Our Muslim Brothers and Sisters’

March 18, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray – Posted on March 15, 2019 on Facebook

I had no idea
when I opened my eyes
on this beautiful day
that I would,
a bit later,
at midday,
be standing with a number
of loving peace seeking folks,
shaking our heads,
pledging, in our sadness,
to stay the course
against the madness
that brought us together
on this ill fated day:
our Muslim brothers and sisters
in New Zealand

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Might Reparations Lead to Us Living in Harmony?

March 14, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Tried to wax eloquently recently
about reparations,
speaking of it as
a “The checks in the mail”
kind of operation
but now I’m thinking
Reparations?

In this nation?
as I take into consideration|
that Americans
have shown neither the skills
or the will,
by any stretch of the imagination,
to have anything near a genuine
social or political
conversation
focused on bettering human relations,
especially one
regarding compensation
or a people’s history
of pain and suffering
and humiliation.

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Taking on Superbugs

March 5, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I turned to page 57 in People Magazine and looking back at me were the smiling faces of friends of mine, Tom Patterson and Steffanie Strathdee. They’re a husband and wife team of AIDs epidemiologists at UCSD who have traveled the world studying and researching and seeking ways to control diseases.

On occasion they have suffered from weird viruses and bugs and the like and weathered the storm and moved on to the next mission.

But the reason they were a story in a national publication is because of what happened to them on a trip to Egypt where they were enjoying themselves, just living the life, visiting the pyramids, sailing down the Nile.

Then Tom suddenly started heaving violently.

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Got to See My Color, Man!

February 26, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

“When I see a person
I don’t see color”
I heard a man say.
And I thought
what I usually think
as I listened to him that day:
I wondered, then,
how could he not see
the color of my skin,
my dark brown pigmentation
like a chocolate milk shake
or a cocoa colored
birthday cake
or a blend
of some kind of fine coffee
that a master barista might make…

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Reparations Are Way Overdue

February 21, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Every now and again
in this nation,
talks of reparations
enter into our conversations
and some folks
are saying
that such
could cost trillions
by some calculations,
implying it would be
too costly.

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The Windoms of the Dusty Cotton Fields of Mississippi

February 15, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I look at a picture of my cousin, Pearlie Mae, and me, thinking how proud she would be of her grandchild, Renee Purdie, who’s written a collection of poetry she’s calling “Pieces of Me: Love, Lust and Lentils.”

She’d literally glow seeing how this young woman is blossoming as a human being, writing poems that touch the heart.

Like Pearlie Mae and me, she is a descendant of the Windoms of the dusty cotton fields of Mississippi. She’s one of our family tree’s many beautiful flowers who’ve risen above what society expected of us, and managed to do well in life, learning and giving, far and wide, some of us landing in Tucson.

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