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.

It’s Way Past Time to Honor the Golden Rule

May 28, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been getting a few memes on my Facebook feed kind of around the theme that “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

Such a sentiment makes me shudder as people right now, who are way overburdened with a situation brought on by a deadly virus, are dying left and right all around us and all around the world.

I’m not religious but I was raised in a home with people who were religious to the bone, two of the truest Christians I’ve ever known: my mother, a soulful gospel piano playing woman who played for our church’s choir, and her father, my grandfather, a man who had sailed several seas and honored his Lord as easily as he breathed.

But their faith was reflected, less on cutesy Bible verses and the like, and more on just being respectful of their fellow human beings and giving way more than they received.

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Time to Make Our Nation True to its Colors

May 19, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Oh, these hair-raising
misguided
shortsighted
folks
waving their
red, white, and blue flags
and wearing their red, white, and blue
caps and hats,
and red, white and blue
tennis shoes,
on the news,
unmasked and
confused and unglued,
packing heat,
singing the blues
because they can’t
do whatever
they want to do,

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Oh, to be Out and About Again      

May 14, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Oh, I want so
to be out and about again,
to just grab a hold
of my children and grandchildren
and great-grandchildren
and friends
and hug them
for eternity,
or at least
until my arms fall limp.

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‘Moments With My Mom’

May 6, 2020 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

My mother has been on my mind, ever so vividly, lately. I can see her in moments in our lives.

Moments where she’s waving goodbye to me as I take off for school or play, against a background of clothes to be washed and hung up to dry; dishes to be washed and dried; floors to be washed and dried.

Moments when she’d hug me, fighting back tears brought on by the sheer energy required to raise a son alone, a Howard University graduate of the Class of ’31, working her fingers to the bone as a janitress at the Mountain States Telephone Company, cutting hair and selling Avon products and doing tax returns and a ton of odd jobs on the side.

Moments when, because of her heavy load, she’d say to me, shaking her head and chuckling, “Sometimes you got to laugh to keep from crying” and the next thing I knew we’d be slapping our knees and rolling on the floor doubled up, grabbing our bellies – overcoming, momentarily, the “race cards” the country had dealt us openly and hatefully and not the least bit regretfully.

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Calling on My Fellow Citizens to Help Us All Keep Safe

May 5, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

If I have expertise
in anything
it’s kicking back,
chilling,
being at ease.
Why not,
since stress,
can buckle your knees.
But now
after maintaining
my cool
for 82
revolutions
around the sun,
I’ve become kind of an edgy
son-of-a-gun

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My Son’s Music Plays On in My Heart and Soul

April 28, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I’ve been thinking of my son, Guy, my second child to depart this earth before me.

We had so many memories, running the gamut of father and son relationships but my thoughts have mostly been about some of our really special moments: going at each other on the basketball court, one of our favorite things to do; hiking along the Junipero Serra Trail on some incredibly beautiful days when the sky was clear and blue; a road trip to Sedona, the Grand Canyon, and Vegas on a Spring Break; lounging along the shore in Rosarito Beach for a week; him singing and playing guitar at my 50th birthday celebration…

And when I think of his fine musicianship I’ll always remember his graduation in 1977 from John Muir Alternative School, a K-12 school I helped create with some incredibly innovative educators who were absolutely great.

So much happened on the campus that year, students feeling their oats, enjoying freedoms not many students ever achieve,

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Still Dreaming After All These Years

April 24, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

I had a pretty nice birthday, the other day, my 82nd such day.

I got the day going up on my feet, getting down to a funky beat. I posted it on Facebook for my friends to see, hopefully, as a treat.

Later I celebrated on Zoom with family and friends, got some reading and love making in, greased on some shrimp and grits and lost my soul to a moist super delicious vanilla pound cake.

But, hey, it wasn’t all happy and gay because I clicked on my TV, feeling a need for a brief summary of what’s going on with the coronavirus, and the first images I happened to see was a bunch of European American “patriots” waving “Old Glory” like crazy.

I mean it was a sight to see: grossly misguided misfits open carrying automatic weapons, all pissed off that they’re being told what to do to lessen their chances of losing their lives to a deadly disease. “Don’t tell us to stay off the street! This is the Land of the Free!”

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Thanks, I Needed That (Remembering My First Born)

April 13, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

My acupuncturist, a lovely person and practitioner, just brought into the world a little girl. I emailed her:

“Oh, Julia,
what a beautiful
baby Olivia is.
Like her mom,
the woman
with needles
that heal,
the woman with
such a soft heart
(better to mother with),
the woman who plays Miles
for me
as I relax
head down
to the music
and the treatment
that soothes me
and eases
my mind.
Enjoy this bundle of joy.|

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Looking for Light at the End of the Tunnel

April 10, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Wow, what a trip this coronavirus thing has been. I mean one moment you’re going about your day, maybe checking out a movie or two, dining with friends, getting a round of golf in…

Then the next day you’re living under a mandate where you’re to cover your mouth and stay in your house and if you do go out into the streets don’t come near to anybody.

It’s like you’re in a dark tunnel wondering if you’ll ever see the light of day again.

There’s something déjà vu about it for me as I’ve had feelings like I’m feeling now before. Nothing, of course, on the level of dealing with a pandemic disease, but an experience, never-the-less, of having my life changed, seemingly out of the blue. In a moment in time when my life was hunky-dory fine.

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Time for Us to Change

April 3, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Out of fear
and despair
there are folks
on their knees
in prayer,
pleading for a return
to normalcy
when this nightmarish
coronavirus
health scare
allows us to breathe
more easily –

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On the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme

March 31, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

To ease my mind in my isolation from humankind, I’ve been basking in memories of better times in my life and I don’t recall ever having more fun than I had at the San Diego Fringe Festival in 2014 – narrating “On the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme” as a brilliant company of tap dancers, the California Rhythm Project, brought my words to life as they danced to my vocalizing and, in-between some lines, tapped to music, then back to my poetry, in an urban streetscape setting, kicking it off with:

There’s a corner
unlike any other corner
you could ever
conceive in your mind.
The Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme.
And it’s just that, rhythm and rhyme,
big time,
cuz, when your feet
step on the concrete
on the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme,

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Living Through a Real Nightmare Everyday

March 26, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Had a fright
in my sleep
the other night,
dreaming one of those dreams
where you’re
fighting for your life
but you can’t move
or scream
and suddenly you
spring to
an up position in your bed,
saying to yourself,
in relief,
“Oh, thank goodness
that was a dream.”

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Are We Engaging in Social Change? 

March 23, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

This COVID-19 thing
is so far beyond
anything I’ve ever seen,
disease-wise,
and I’ve
been around a
health scare or two,
born to a mother
who, because she
had lost a lung to TB,
raised me
to practically seek cover
when someone coughs
or happens to sneeze,
to not, for goodness sake,
ever eat off somebody’s plate
or take a sip of their soda or shake…

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No Hunches, Please, as We Fight a Dreadful Disease

March 17, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

One never knows what life
might bring,
like this coronavirus thing,
a deadly disease
that has rolled up its sleeves
and got people shaking at their knees
afraid of themselves
if they cough or sneeze,
hording toilet tissue
as if it’s the answer
to being at ease

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In a Black History State of Mind in the Time of Virus

March 16, 2020 by Ernie McCray

(With a Little Help from Coretta Scott King)

by Ernie McCray

I had a very nice time, a little while ago, on an exceptionally lovely Saturday afternoon at “A Gospel Brunch” at the Educational Cultural Complex, “ECC” – a place that means a lot to me, personally.

We were there to celebrate Coretta Scott King and her contributions to keeping Martin’s dream, for social justice and inclusion for all, alive.

I arrived in a Black History state of mind, playing in my mind, some of the wonderful experiences I’ve had at ECC, acting on the stage, a wonderful space that will be renovated from part of the proceeds from the day, or addressing a class or reading my poetry and attending special occasions like on this day.

I kind of felt that I was in a fantasy world, in a way, sitting among so many friendly smiling faces, enjoying a mimosa and some down home southern cooking – just appreciating, for one thing, that for three days in a row, I had been to ceremonies where San Diego Black History was being kept very much alive – beyond February.

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What is the Change the Democratic Party Wishes to See?

March 4, 2020 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I look at the Democratic Party and I just have to shake my head – for how it holds back from doing truly great things.

But I happen to be a democrat. And that’s not because of the party itself, but because of my experiences with so many individual democrats over the years.

I mean they’ve been in the vast majority of people whom I’ve marched with, in my activism, carrying signs ranging from “Free Huey!” to “Give Peace a Chance,” chanting questions about what we wanted and when we wanted it, with the answer always being: “Now!”

Democrats are my peeps. But the Democratic Party? That’s a whole other thing.

The democrats I’ve been in the streets with are both dreamers and doers, folks who really adhere to Mahatma Gandhi’s hope inspiring point-of-view that “You must be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

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Citizens Born Here Whom We Should Hold Dear

February 21, 2020 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

The very words,
Muslim
and Islam,
conjure in some minds
visions of violence
and terrorism,
an archaic people
wishing hell and damnation
in the form of a jihad
upon our nation.

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Seeing and Hearing Evil and Speaking to What We See and Hear         

February 4, 2020 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I look at my country aghast,
as a president
who’s barren of
any sense of morality
makes a mockery
of our Constitution
and our democracy,
crippling concepts of justice
and liberty
just as sure as he breathes,
while our republican senators,
spineless
without integrity,
irresponsibly
turn a blind eye to his sins
like the iconic three monkeys
who see no evil,
hear no evil
and speak no evil,

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Responding to Greta in a Different Way

December 24, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Greta Thunberg, a 16 year old Swedish girl, travels across the Atlantic Ocean to Lower Manhattan, in a sailboat, to save our world from the deadly forces of climate change.

For such a risk-taking endeavor she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

And our president, instead of offering her a High-Five, gets up at five and tweets that this wonderful girl is ridiculous and angry and needs to go to a good old-fashioned movie with a friend and “Chill.”

Say what?

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Thoughts of My Generation Brought to Light by a Cartoon About a Quarterback

December 17, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

A high school classmate of mine likes to share his MAGA influenced leanings on my Facebook timeline.

Like the other day he sent me a meme with Colin Kaepernick saying “I’m kneeling to protest injustice against Black men in America!”

In the moment I read that I couldn’t help but glow inside, so grateful for this new generation of freedom fighters.

Then, a cartoon character, Charlie Brown, says “That’s odd. You joined Islam, a religion that still owns black slaves, and you don’t protest against that.”

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Basketball Has Been Very Good to Me

December 4, 2019 by Ernie McCray

by Ernie McCray

Late in the morning, on Thanksgiving Day, I turned the television on, thinking, in that moment, of what I’m thankful for: my beautiful children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren, my sexy woman, my wonderful friends, my health, my pension, so many things…

The first image I saw when my TV came on was a basketball player, dribbling right at a defender and suddenly, ever so smoothly, with grace, pulled up and sunk a jump shot right in the defender’s face.

That very shot was always money in the bank for me back in my playing days.

And, in the blinking of an eye, I was reminded of something else I’m thankful for: the role basketball has played in my life.

I mean basketball in many ways probably saved my life – from the front end, giving me a kind of spiritual place to go to, a place where I would get caught up in the sound of a ball being bounced smartly on a gym floor, where I could hear my and my teammates’ pounding feet as we hustle down the court to the rhythm of a fast-break being nicely run, on its way to being complete – when all that was going on, old Jim Crow and the other manifestos of racism in America were screened out of my mind much as a dense cloud hides the sun.

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Drifting on the Winds of Love

November 21, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

I look at a picture of little boy me and it seems as though I’m about to gently rise and drift in the air.

And that’s how my life has seemed, like I’ve drifted in the air, on the winds of love, because I have truly been loved in my life.

Love is the first thing I ever felt – without knowing, of course, as a baby, that it was love I was feeling.

But I sure felt it, from my mother’s milk, from the soothing way she sang rock-a-by-baby” to put me to sleep.

From the feel of my “pinky” toe being wiggled and the bottom of my feet tickled while she sang about some little piggy crying “wee wee wee” all the way home to greet me when I awakened from my sleep.

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Wanting to Live for My Children

November 14, 2019 by Ernie McCray

By Ernie McCray

Life. Is there anything more precious? I think not.

But it can be crippling at times, for an extended period of time or, in moments, like the other day when I clicked on a picture of my kids, all of them.

My first impulse was to smile because they were smiling and looked lovely to me.

Then, suddenly, instead of making my face look like theirs, I was failing at holding back tears, shuddering, in that moment, as I realized I was looking at the images of four people when, for years, the answer to “How many kids do you have?” was “Six.”

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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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