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.

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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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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