Thoughts From the Soul of the Tucson Kid

Follow Ernie McCray as he writes about his life as an educator, a father, a husband and a civil rights activist. We are blessed to have him here and find inspiration in him and his words.

‘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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A Friend Makes Me Feel Like I’ve Lived in a Dream

February 6, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I just finished “Platitudes and Attitudes,” a little book that was written by a dear lifelong friend, Shirley Robinson Sprinkles, “Shirlgirl.”

Shirley and I grew up in Tucson, Arizona in the 40’s and 50’s and as I read the “random thoughts and memories” that she had collected over the years, I was transported back in time, like in a dream.

She’d mention a street and I could see myself riding my bicycle down that street, popping a wheelie, with my levi’s ripped at the knees (light years before that was cool).

She’d describe an event, and I was there (trying to be cool).

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Hawaii Still on My Mind With the Obamas in the Picture This Time

February 4, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been home for a while but I’ve still been reflecting on my recent trip to Hawaii, on, in part, how although I had a wonderful time I also had other things on my mind.

Like, I thought about my daughter, Debbie, who would have turned 61 on January 4th, one afternoon in the darkness of a Big Island porch with my mind going back and forth about a number of things, then, because it was such a beautiful day,

I went on a little hike with Maria and Glen, our host and friend, and soon my mind, caught up in the beauty of the people with me and the beauty around me, was back to the nice place it had been before my moments of grief set in. But my spiritual nature was very much alive on that trip, and it was intensified when I picked up the paper one day and read that Barack Obama was in town, Honolulu, his town, home,

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Hawaii on My Mind

January 29, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Maria and I just got back from Hawaii, spending time with friends on the Big Island and Oahu.

In my mind I can still see the rich colors of the rain forests and feel the warm breeze that comforted me on a walk on the beach one day and I’ll always remember sitting high above a view that literally took my breath away…

I still shiver from the experience of riding in a car, looking to see what the Kilauea volcano had left in its wake, cruising by a couple of really nice homes, and suddenly a dead end appears and before me there stands a massive mound of lava a couple of stories high that had swallowed the rest of the neighborhood we were driving through…

And minutes later we’re walking on a new black sand beach the volcano had created, as if by design, complete with a nice little wading pool just right for little children.

Out of Mother Nature’s devastating acts, there’s such beauty.

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I Can’t Help But Resist

January 18, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I heard a man say
we shouldn’t
resist the president
because leftwing presidents
before him committed political wrongs
in their day.

And to him I say,
hey, what somebody
did or didn’t do back in the day
has no say
in why I resist
this man
who occupies the White House today.

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We’re Still Calling People ‘Illegal’ After All These Years

January 8, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Note: I found an old piece I wrote for the San Diego Tribune in November of 1994, twenty-four years ago. The piece was about Proposition 187, a ballot measure that required me, a school principal, to rat on families who were in the country illegally. And, as I read it, I felt as though we, as a society, had been frozen in time, because what I wrote, with all the talk nowadays about caravans and building walls and such, would speak to these times:

Despite the passage of Proposition 187, my disposition remains the same. I will not, in any way, play a role in willfully hurting another person.

I have sat at the back of the bus. I’ve had someone tell me to get my “black ass” out of a hotel where there were plenty of rooms available. I’ve skaked at the rink on special “Negro” days.

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Kindness Can Turn This Troubled World Around

December 21, 2018 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Not too long ago I had an encounter with an act of random kindness.

It went like this: I was enjoying an interesting tale in San Diego born Nafissa Thompson-Spires’ wonderful collection of short stories, “Heads of the Colored People” and a meal of scrambled eggs and ham with a buttered biscuit and jam and a Bloody Mary when I felt a tap on my shoulder and looked up and into the beautiful face of a black woman, close to my age, a woman whom I had acknowledged with a slight nod of my head as she left the café.

We black people of a certain age do that when we catch each other’s eye, say, walking down the street or exiting a restaurant, sometimes adding a word or two: “How you doing?” or a “Hey, now” – essentially saying: “I don’t know you, but I can guess what you might have been through.”

With the way the woman was looking at me, as she stood over me, I thought maybe she was about to say something like “Don’t you remember me?” and then I was sure she was going to say “Did you drop this?” because she was handing me something.

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Should Democrats, like Superman, Seek ‘Truth, Justice and the American Way’?

December 12, 2018 by Ernie McCray

I had a moment a little while ago when I was thinking about the notion that democrats, in spite of recent political victories (Yes!!!) need to come up with a message or at least a snappy meme, that resonates with voters (and more and more people are becoming so designated).

In that same moment I happened to turn the TV on and a man on C-SPAN was discussing superheroes, how they are mostly about creating a better world, citing Superman’s pursuit of “Truth, Justice and the American Way.”

That triggered in my mind, right away, long ago days, when I was all caught up in the excitement of “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!”

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I Keep Thinking of Christine

October 18, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I keep thinking of Christine,
her story of a man
cupping his hand
over her mouth
so she couldn’t scream
and expose his scheme
to forcefully
have his way with her
like so many men have done
for eons
in human history.
And for decades she didn’t scream,
except for those
inaudible screams that echo in
those dark places inside
human beings
where we try to hide
pain that’s hard to confront,
to bear,

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When I Think of the Wall

October 3, 2018 by Ernie McCray

View along portion of U.S.-Mexico border wall

When I think of the wall
I see in my mind,
first of all,
people on my side of the wall,
people who,
when all is thought through,
appraising all of humanity,
live relatively comfortably,
in possession of all kinds of
certificates and degrees
from preschool
to PhDs,

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Reflections on Keeping Loved Ones From Taking Their Lives

September 19, 2018 by Ernie McCray

I remember back, maybe
when I was in junior high,
neighbors talking in hush-hush tones
about a man
who had drowned himself
in the night.
“Hey, why y’all whispering?”
I wanted to know,
all wide-eyed
and mystified
and horrified.
“Shhh, boy, he died of suicide.”

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Everybody Wants to Be Listened To

September 11, 2018 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I don’t remember how I first got on Facebook. But I’m glad I did because it’s worked for me.

I’ve learned to just scroll past all the ads and fabrications and fake news and the like and get right at what’s up with my “friends” who are mostly people I’ve known for some time and people who became my friends through them.

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From Rough Seas to Pleasant Memories

August 31, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Painting of a storm-tossed ship at sea

By Ernie McCray

There have been moments
in mourning
the loss of my son
that I’ve felt like a boat
being battered in rough seas,
swirling and whirling
in pounding
un-relenting waves,
and then there comes
a little break
as the waters, seemingly,
hurl me towards the shore,
and a memory,
like one I had the other day,

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Time Should be Running Out for the President and His Republican Cronies

August 28, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I began this writing a day after one of the president’s thuggish friends, a man who led his campaign, was found guilty of several counts of fraud, and his personal lawyer and “fixer” pleaded guilty to illegal payments under his direction.

I waited a day to see how the Republicans in the Senate and the House would react, foolishly holding out that they would finally say “Enough” to the lunacy coming out of the West Wing of the White House – considering that the clock should have run out on his presidency months ago.

And all they’ve done so far is claim that a sitting president can’t be indicted when, whether that is true or not, they have the power to take him down. Like they could impeach the sordid clown.

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Elderly Reflections on a Melancholy Day

August 14, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

You ever have one of those days
when you just
can’t shake your blues
because your soul feels so completely
battered and bruised
and defused and confused
and mis and/or overused,
seeming as though
it will never ever again
be enthused and amused?

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Free at Last! Free at Last! – A Dad’s Reflections of a Life That Was Enough

July 30, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Guy Ernest McCray, my oldest son,
has passed away
and needless to say
that saddens me in
the deepest way.

Yet, at the same time,
knowing the grind
he had in life,
I find myself whispering to the wind
that he is now:
“Free at Last! Free at Last!”

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Building Trust With Police is Like Trying to Assemble a Jigsaw Puzzle

July 17, 2018 by Ernie McCray

A jigsaw puzzle depicting the word "TRUST"

Creating Commission on Police Practices Moves to Full San Diego City Council.

“Trust is the Issue” was one of our rallying cries at the City Council’s Rules Committee meeting last Wednesday, July 11.

And the committee came through, voting 3-2 to pass the idea of creating a Commission on Police Practices on to the full Council.

That sounds hopeful to me but trying to build trust with the police in San Diego, for communities of color, has been like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. One with too many pieces – due to years of bad history.

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Malcolm X and Police Accountability on My Mind

July 11, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Photo of Malcolm X poster labeled "NOT FOR SALE"

By Ernie McCray

I attended a meeting the other night at the Malcolm X Library about a proposed Amendment to the City of San Diego Charter to create a Commission on Police Practices.

I couldn’t help but think of Malcolm throughout the evening because he would be pleased at the very idea

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Simply for the Children’s Sake

June 27, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Baby's head witth shadow of Donald Trump

I was singing the blues
until I heard the news
that children
being torn from the
arms of their parents
was coming to an end,
if but for a minute,
a breather
from evil being played
out in my face,
beautiful innocent
brown skinned children,
screaming “Mami! Papi!”
as Mami and Papi
are pulled one way,

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Dreaming of Racial Harmony

June 7, 2018 by Ernie McCray

At 80 I find myself still pursuing the same dream in which I’ve indulged myself all my life, a dream that someday the races of people would get along in harmony. Or at least try.

I say try because it seems to me that it’s been our failure to even pursue such a dream that has gotten in the way of it becoming a reality.

But, I’d dare say, there’s no better time than now for us to find ways to embrace each other. I feel that way just because of how the world is.

I mean you can sit down, after a long day of being retired, and turn on the tv and see a man, on this occasion a representative of the NFL, privileged beyond belief, telling football players (most of them black) that they can no longer protest police brutality at their knees while the flag is being sung to.

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Feeling in Tune With ‘La Neighbor’ and Logan Heights

May 30, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I just finished reading a collection of essays, “La Neighbor: A Settlement House in Logan Heights,” written by a longtime friend, Maria Garcia.

Maria and I go back a ways and we’re soulmates in so many ways. We’re writers, and activists, who’ve taken to the streets many a time in the pursuit of equality. We’re educators who modeled, in our schools, how to treat children with respect and

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Reflecting on What Could Have Been

May 22, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Ernie with sunglasses behind screen

 

(Photo: Maria Nieto Senour)

Reflecting on my 80 years I find myself still dreaming of a better world. Not some “Kumbaya” singing fantasy world, but one where people, at the very least, try to find ways to understand and appreciate each other. A loving world.

But that was not the dream of my generation. Getting our hands dirty in pursuit of a world where concepts like “peace and justice and equality” rang true, just wasn’t something we cared to do.

We were called the “Silent Generation”

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Oh, If We Could Listen With Heart Like Nipper

May 9, 2018 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

When I was a child there was a commercial about a dog named Nipper who was supposed to be listening to his “master’s voice” on a windup disc gramophone. I thought about him early one morning recently.

On this morning I woke up a little earlier than usual because my iPhone SE startled me awake, vibrating and buzzing like crazy, kind of like those European police sirens.

And, hey, I’ve got to say I didn’t know I had an app for such as all that. I shut that little device up by grabbing it like a cowboy wrestling a steer he’d just roped only to find out that its histrionics was regarding an article about a book Arizona Senator John McCain had written. I was forced to question the very notion that I was in possession of anything approaching a smartphone.

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Putting My Love in Play

April 25, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Man holding a stained glass heart

Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I recently wrote a rhyme about all the love I’ve enjoyed for 80 years, and now I’d like to share how I’ve put that love in play.

Regarding that, I have to say that loving has been easy for me because my life’s work has been dedicated to schools which are perfect places for spreading love.

And my intent, all along, has simply been to make my world more just for all human beings – beginning, in a moment in time, when I was in grade school myself.

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Still Loving After All These 80 Years

April 17, 2018 by Ernie McCray

Still Loving After All These 80 Years
(The Formative Years: More to Come)

Infant sitting on table next to birthday cake with one candle

If I’m breathing April 18th, 2018,
I will be 80 years old.
And to brag a little bit,
I lived those years
with a lot of love in my soul
and that’s quite an ac-com-plish-ment
for someone with
COLORED written on his birth cer-ti-ficate
if the truth be told,
considering I first said “Hello”
to the world
in Tucson, Arizona,

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