The Ring of Honor Represents the ‘Wow’ Moments of My Life

March 5, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

For being able to basically snatch rebounds and whip outlet passes to start fast breaks and swish the ball through the hoop from all over the place, a space has been made for me, alongside some other guys who could really play, in the “Basketball Ring of Honor” at my alma mater, the U of A.

Just the other day.

And pretty much all I can say is “Wow!”

I’m loving it and how.

And I’ve loved my university and its teams since before I knew what a basketball was.

I became a fan at my mother’s breast as she listened to Arizona Wildcat football and basketball games on the radio, humming soothing lullabies.

I used to pick cotton in Marana on Saturdays so I could pay for a cheap seat in the knothole section at the night’s football game and a butterscotch milkshake at Dairy Queen on my way home from the game.

Did the same thing after track meets, basketball, and baseball games.

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‘Day of Absence,’ a Drama I Can’t Wait to See

February 25, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just had
one of the nicest experiences
of my lifetime
via a dramatic piece,
“Day of Absence,”
a Douglas Turner Ward
masterpiece
of a play
on Zoom,
each actor
sitting
at their own place
in a room
facing a Mac
or a PC,
scrolling scripts
on a split screen
against a green screen,

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February 6 – Then and Now

February 10, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I got my first vaccine for covid-19 on February 6, 2021. One more to go for this old son of a gun.

But when I got back home after my shot I was reminded that this wasn’t the first time that February 6 was special to me, since on that day 61 years ago I took to the court with my teammates in Bear Down Gym at the University of Arizona and got to shaking and baking and whipping outlet passes to start fast breaks and shot the lights out all over the place, and came away with 46 points, a record that stands to this day.

The fun and glory of that will never go away.

And I couldn’t help but think, in those moments, what a difference six decades can make in one’s life. In so many ways. I was so strong back then physically, even with a bad back, something that’s plagued me since those days.

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Pick Out Your Peak and Climb (Thoughts with Black History on My Mind)

February 5, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Black History Month is in the eye of the beholder it seems, with some saying that it’s too short of a month or that it’s an excuse to give Black folks a cold shoulder the rest of the year.

But to me it’s a month to reminisce about heroes in my personal Black history, people I hold dear.

Like my grandfather who lived the first fourteen years of his life on a sharecropping plantation in Hawkinsville, Georgia, late in the 19th Century, until the attacks on his dignity and his sanity and humanity became more than he could bear to any degree.

Sometimes I can see him in my mind on the day when he decided he had enough, squaring his broad powerful shoulders before snatching a sadistic foreman off his horse and pounding him into the ground unmercifully

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The GOP Just Might Be Our Country’s Number One Enemy

February 2, 2021 by Ernie McCray

The GOP Just Might Be Our Country’s Number One Enemy

by Ernie McCray

Much to my chagrin
I saw the ex-president
in a picture
wearing a
sickening grin,
standing
next to
the House Minority Leader
sporting the same
devious smile
above his chin,
signifying
that, in spite
of his friend’s
terrifying insurrection
against our nation,
the GOP
was still behind

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Nancy and Maria – the Loves of My Life

January 26, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Often, these days, when the world seems grim, I think of how lucky I’ve been to have had two great loves in my life: Nancy Kay, a hippie White girl from Pacific Palisades, down the street from Malibu, and Maria Ester, a Chicana from San Antonio, home of the Alamo.

I remember my first image of Nancy, down on the floor of her classroom, water coloring with students whose love for her radiated in their smiles and comfortable postures, as they asked her, “Miz R,” questions like when are we going to the beach again?” or to Balboa or Chicano Park? “What are you going to teach us how to cook next time?” In that room there was so much rhythm and rhyme.

Some part of me, in those moments, fell in love with her too and we eventually got together and loved each other for thirty-four wonderful years and then she passed away and in time Maria came my way, a woman much like Nancy in so many ways.

And I fell in love with Maria in much the same way as I did with Nancy, …

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Feeling the Joy

January 25, 2021 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Feeling so relieved
these days,
joyful
for this chance
to change our ways
to what “normal”
used to be,
when the news
didn’t necessarily
give you the blues,
a feeling of being
alive,
like a young eagle
taking to the skies
soaring above
dark clouds that
for years
dropped rainstorms
of confusions and lies,

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Is Impeaching the President an Act of Bravery?

January 18, 2021 by Ernie McCray

Is Impeaching the President an Act of Bravery?

by Ernie McCray

Bravery,
like beauty,
seems to be
in the eyes of the beholder,
bearing in mind that
those republicans
choosing impeachment
for the president
regarding his role
when tyrants
struck at our democracy’s
very soul
weren’t being “brave,”

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Where Are We With Ideals of Liberty and Justice for All?

January 14, 2021 by Ernie McCray

Where Are We With Ideals of Liberty and Justice for All?

by Ernie McCray

I could only shake my head
as I took in the
storming rampage
of rage
that took place
at “The People’s House,”
the U.S. Capitol Building,
in D.C.,
the other day:

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A Life Well Done

January 5, 2021 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Oh, it’s quite a shock when you check into Facebook and the first entry on your timeline says: “My brother, Elton Harris, is gone.”

The absolutely last thing I was ready for was hearing that a friend had died.

Elton was quite a man and I missed a lot of his life when his aunt, my first wife, and I, broke up. I’d hear about him every now and then, though, as he was my son, Guy’s, favorite cousin and close friend.

What little I heard was mostly negative, but without any details, so I never made any judgments about him. He just became somebody who was out of sight and out of mind, as they say.

And then one day, not too many years ago, when I was in Tucson for a reunion of some kind, I stopped at Al’s Barber Shop to catch up with a childhood friend and, as Al and I reminisced about old times, I hear “Hey, uncle. How you doing man? Elton. Aunt Sweet’s nephew.”

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2020 Has Me Dreaming of an Age of Love

December 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

2020. What a year, huh?

I was in Cuernavaca, a town I’ve come to love, when the year began – a little groggy because New Year’s Eve in Mexico is an explosion of firecracker noises and gunshot noises against a background of brass and drums in surround sound at decibels seemingly without bounds.

All that aside, with a little ringing in my ears, I had a wonderful time on the first day of the year.

Our dear friend, Josefina, sat us down to fresh coffee and chilaquiles y juevos, over easy, and papaya, manzanas and peras and cheesecake and we spent the day talking away.

Then the next day we drank margaritas and dined with a beautiful view of a downtown park we had just strolled leisurely through, looking into smiling brown faces, meeting a man who offered us tickets to heaven and we joked about whether the tickets were roundtrip.

It was such a nice trip and the rest of January also was filled with pleasantries,

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The Best Christmas Gift of My life

December 28, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Someone on Facebook posted “What’s the best Christmas gift of your life?”

My answer was swift: a bike.

I’ll always remember the Christmas it became mine. It was in 1947 when I was nine.

That morning, though, I was down as down could be. Because my mother had led me to believe (and she had never ever deceived me) that this Christmas there would be a bicycle under the Christmas Tree for me. But when I woke up that was not the reality.

I was crushed, to say the least, and I couldn’t hold my feelings inside and if my family had been an ass whuppin’ kind, my mother had a reason to tan my behind…

And after a little time of me giving my mother and the world a piece of my mind she says to me, giving me “the look” mothers flash when they’ve had enough of your ungrateful ass: “Shut your mouth and put your new jacket on. We’re going to Sergeant Hudson’s house to wish him a Merry Christmas.”

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Pursuing a Promised Land

December 21, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just finished A Promised Land, Barack Obama’s latest writing.

On the whole, laying aside my concerns about “droning” and such, abrupt departures from A Promised Land, it was an interesting and sometimes enjoyable read for me.

One way it was interesting was because as I read Obama’s words, Trump, of all people, kept popping up in my mind.

I mean like Obama would write something and I’d find myself trying to imagine Trump doing likewise.

I mean when I read Obama’s poetic description of his daily stroll to work along a walkway where, at times, he “felt the first slap of winter wind or pulse of summer heat” – all I could think of was a president who has, for four years, sat on his butt and tweeted, using words from a pre-school child’s vocabulary.

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In a Sabino Canyon State of Mind

December 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

In a Sabino Canyon State of Mind

by Ernie McCray

My mind,
in these times,
often drifts
to Tucson.
Home.
Home to me
and home
to Sabino Canyon,
grounds that are sacred to me,

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A Musing Rising from a Photo Taken a Few Years Ago

December 9, 2020 by Ernie McCray

A Musing Rising from a Photo Taken a Few Years Ago

by Ernie McCray

As usual
my mind,
as the minds
of dreamers do,
was just wandering,
musing
as I scrolled through
a picture or two
and one made me pause
for a moment or two,
one of me
smiling
all relaxed,
kind of, if you ask me,
sharp as a tack,
looking like the world
had my back
on a warm sunny
Southern California day.

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Helping Black Students Shine

November 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Lately I’ve been thinking of Black kids, Black students, specifically. Thinking of all the teachable moments out in the universe that I would call on to help them shine if I were in the classroom during these times.

And the first thought that came to mind is I would turn them on to what it means to be Black at this very time.

We’d talk about what we’d all just seen this past NBA season, superstars flying through the air slamming monstrous dunks and shooting rainbow 3’s with “Black Lives Matter” sewn into their jerseys.

We’d talk about the significance embedded in a Black woman taking on the role of Vice-president of the United States, the first of her gender to serve in such a capacity.

We’d talk about how Black voters showed up in large numbers, essentially rescuing a drowning democracy.

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It feels So Good Calling Arizona my Home

November 16, 2020 by Ernie McCray

It feels So Good Calling Arizona my Home

by Ernie McCray

I’m so proud
of Arizona,
my home state,
for the mood I’m in.
For something
other than
its beauty
which I’ve basked in
since who knows when,
having hiked among its
Saguaros
and along the lovely trails
in Sabino Canyon,
in the Old Pueblo
when I was a little boy
not many years old;

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America, Who the Hell Are We?

November 9, 2020 by Ernie McCray

America, Who the Hell Are We?

by Ernie McCray

Whew!
Wow!
What a ride!
I was about
to explode inside!

I mean
as a dreamer
I had thought
this election
was going to be taken
in a landslide,

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Moments of Sheer Joy

October 30, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Being a bit squeamish in this pandemic I hadn’t seen my family in a while but I saw some of them the other day in a neighborhood park.

Maria, my beautiful sidekick, and I were the first to arrive. And I had no idea when my offspring would appear as we are “see you when I get there” kind of folks.

So, I stretched my long self out in my beach chair and just scoped the scene, chuckling at a few squirrels playing “Stop and Go,” watching as children ran to and fro and I smiled and waved a “Hello” at a couple of passersby I know.

And then I looked up and saw Nyla, one of my twin daughters, coming towards me and shortly afterwards Tawny, the other half of the duo, drives up with her children, Lyric and Marley, and her sister’s little girl, Indigo.

Then my youngest son, Carlos, came and we were all good to go and I don’t know if I’ve ever felt, in my life, more sheer joy than what I felt in my moments with them that day, not to mention we were there basically on time – so there was no lost time.

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Feeling Warm and Sunny

October 22, 2020 by Ernie McCray

Feeling Warm and Sunny

by Ernie McCray

It’s such a warm
and sunny feeling
to sense
human progress
in the air
like the other day
in a Zoom meeting
with a few athletes
at the U of A
about inclusion,
human beings being
valued for who they are,
me sharing
how, in my day,
there was little to no interest
in social
or political change,
how we athletes, in the main,
just played our games.

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A Statue in Absentia

October 20, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Pete Wilson’s statue near Horton Plaza was removed and I feel a little more at ease with my world.

I mean, for a long time, I’ve been tired of looking at his likeness when I’d be out and about downtown to eat or catch a play, or to just stroll and enjoy a beautiful San Diego day.

Every time I came upon that image of him, standing bronzed, smiling, with his hands in his pockets, like he’s your friend, I’d think back on a day in the mid-70’s when he told me “Make yourself in absentia, Mr. McCray” – after I had laid something out I thought he and his City Council should and could do something about.

His response kind of cracked me up, at first, because I had never been dismissed in Latin, but I was deeply disturbed because the mayor asked me to leave just after I had copped a plea for human decency. I wanted our city to join a movement back then that involved taking a stand against South Africa’s institutionalized racist apartheid system of segregation by divesting from corporations doing business there.

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Pray for Trump?

October 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

Pray for Trump?

by Ernie McCray

There are folks praying
for the president
to get well
and I can only exclaim,
“What the hell?”
considering that
when I got word that
that he had covid
after he has recklessly
in line with his modus operandi
laughed at it
and scoffed at it
and lied about it,

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From an Old Jock to Young Jocks at the U of A

October 6, 2020 by Ernie McCray

From an Old Jock to Young Jocks at the U of A

by Ernie McCray

Hey, you Wildcats!
I write this
after co-hosting
a fundraiser
for a candidate for City Council
in my town
who’s totally devoted
to social justice
and equality
for everyone
no matter their ethnicity,
color or creed
or background.

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The Twinkle in My Eye

October 2, 2020 by Ernie McCray

The Twinkle in My Eye

(Poem for My Youngest Grandkids)

by Ernie McCray

You guys
are the
twinkle in my eye.
And speaking of eye
hardly a day goes by
that I don’t,
in some moment,
see you all
in my mind’s eye:

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Will We Ever Breathe Free?

September 28, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

We Black folks
always wonder
if we’ll ever breathe free,
like others of our species,
ever since
we, caught napping,
were snatched
from our homeland
as kidnappees
and stacked
in boats
as contraband
and dumped
in shacks
as un-hired hands,
spending our lives
standing rigidly
for centuries
bent over long cotton sacks

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Caster Semenya, a Gift of Nature

September 23, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

One of my favorite athletes is Caster Semenya.

As a former half-miler I love the way she comes off that last 200, so strong, yet relaxed, at a pace the other runners totally lack.

As we used to say: “She can step, Jack!”

But people in the world of track have barred her from running track – unless she undergoes surgery or takes drugs to regulate her high testosterone levels – to “level the playing field,” not taking into consideration that, no matter how they feel, Caster Semenya is still a woman.

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Being Grateful for What I Can Be Grateful For

September 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I remember when
my grandfather
would talk to me
during those times
when the world’s
troubles and woes,
the likes of
extreme poverty
the fear of A-bombs
and Jim Crow
were keeping everybody
on their toes,
he’d say,
“No matter
how life was going,
you need to know
we’d best
be grateful
for anything|
we can be grateful for” so

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When I Think of Love

September 8, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

When I think of love,
I think of how
it has safely
taken me through
life’s dark clouds
and drowning seas
as well as through life’s joys
and well-earned victories;
I think of how love
has been sung
as “the only thing
that there’s
just too little of”
and being that that’s one thing
I’m truly certain of
I feel compelled
to speak to
all the madness
and sadness
I see to the right and left of me
in a society,
falling behind

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Do We Call On Our Black Anger or Our Black Love?

September 3, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking of how my people have overcome so many things in this country. For centuries.

You name it, we’ve overcome it. But we just can’t overcome the anger that comes with being Black in this society.

It’s a Black anger, if you will, because it’s ours alone, a form of anger that’s always there, beneath the surface, like a low-burning flame that needs a rush of air to get it really going.

And, since it’s usually the actions of angry White folks that gives our anger oxygen, we can’t ever fully relax it because, in our experience, we never know when we might have to react to what a White person has done – to one of us. Or a number of us.

When it’s least expected.

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Thoughts About ‘Being Black in Tucson, AZ’

August 25, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been a member of our group, “Being Black in Tucson, AZ,” for a little while now, commenting on a thing or two, but I’ve never introduced myself to you.

That being said I’m an 82-year-old dude who spent the first 24 years of his life “Being Black in Tucson, AZ.” Since then I’ve lived in San Diego which is just an hour away by plane and five hours away by car. I didn’t want to go too far. Because I dearly love my hometown.

For its physical beauty and power that make it a spiritual place for me: hiking trails in Sabino Canyon above refreshing pools and streams; powerful Sonoran winds that you can lean against; frightening monsoons that give the Santa Cruz River a chance to roar; majestic saguaros with their lovely blossoms.

For how far it has come since the Jim Crow days of my youth when people like me were limited as to when we could

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