My Dungeon Really Shook

Friday, November 23, 2012,  I read a post on twitter about the Central Park Five and I started to randomly search for anything that might have been written about it. I’d heard about a documentary coming out some time ago but had forgotten about it because I hadn’t heard anything else for months. I found the documentary’s trailer on YouTube and started researching Sarah Burns who had written a book about the case. I went to The Strand website to see if they had any copies as the book was released earlier in the year (2012). The Strand had only one copy listed in their inventory. That really meant one copy or more likely, none.

This was going to be a stretch but I figured it couldn’t hurt to check to see if there was truly a copy available. I didn’t mind searching as I love visiting The Strand because I always leave with something new to read, anyway. I made it to the bookstore and offered one of the specialists my printout of the book details, making sure to point out that “the computer says y’all have one copy available.” The specialist was very helpful and ushered me over to the law and criminal justice area. I looked through and couldn’t find it. I was determined to find this one copy and I had to have looked at those shelves for about 40 minutes before giving up.

I started to walk off but then went back. I went through each book by tapping them to make sure I wasn’t rushing and missing the book out of haste. All of a sudden, there it was. It was there. I found it! A single copy of The Central Park Five by Sarah Burns was sitting in between 2 larger books which was probably why I had missed it.

central park five book

I remember this case profoundly because my father had always said those boys hadn’t done it. My parents both followed the case and purchased The Amsterdam News religiously to follow the commentaries on what everyone was saying about it. I was about 11 or so but I distinctly remembered this case because one of the boys on trial had the same name as my own brother, Yusuf.

Like everyone who followed and knew that the convictions had been vacated in 2002, we were excited and happy for the five men. But at the same time, there was a bitterness. These boys had spent time in jail, and suffered under a scrutiny that wasn’t theirs. What about the others who are in jail for something they hadn’t done?

The night that I purchased the book, I made my way to West 4th to catch the A to Queens. As I’m waiting on the platform, The E train pulls up and I see a familiar face exit the train. It was Yusef Salaam. He was walking with Sarah Burns, and Kevin Richardson and Antron McCray were walking behind them. I looked around to see if anyone else saw or even realized what I was seeing and who these people were. Standing there dumbfounded, I watched the group make their way to the turnstiles. It was only after I watched them exit, did I consider that I should have said something or even asked for my brand new book to be signed. It didn’t occur to me that the documentary was showing that night at the IFC theater and that they would be giving a Q and A session. Made sense.

yusef salaam

I finally went to see the documentary a few weeks later. As a mother of a promising young black man and even as a sister to black men, this documentary hit home. I watched the video footage of the confessions and I just felt sick to my stomach. Even I could see that something wasn’t right with those confessions. While watching the documentary I kept thinking of how adamant my parents were about those boys not committing that crime. It all made sense.

When I finally reached my parent’s house, I told my mother about seeing them and almost wanting to cry to see that they were free and that their story was being told. They were the lucky ones, believe it or not. They actually lived to see the truth come out. It was so overwhelming that I told everyone that would listen. I even text a friend on the train ride home about it. His response was – “stop texting me and go write it down.” I couldn’t write it at that time though. I was afraid of awakening similar emotions of when I had to visit my own brother in jail.

I have the book still but I haven’t read it yet. Honestly, I’m afraid to read it. It’s a true horror story that could have been any of my own beloved brothers. There were moments when my mother and I had to do the jail visits and it was always heartbreaking. No matter how many jokes we made at that plastic table, when the CO came by and tapped the table, that’s when my heart would break. And instead of being strong for my mother, she always had to calm me down because I didn’t want to leave my brother there.

These realities make it difficult for me as a mother to release my own son into the world. As parents, we always feel like we know better. Instead of hovering over my son though, I try to show him these cases – The Central Park Five, Yusef Hawkins, Amadou Diallo, etc, so that he is aware and so he can know that these are not stories to scare him but for him to be aware that this world is not nice to everyone, especially his kind. As a black man, he has to always be prepared. As a result of seeing the documentary, I have truly considered keeping a lawyer on retainer just because. This can’t be life though….

The-Central-Park-Five-Yusef-Salaam-Kevin-Richardson-Raymond-Santana-Korey-Wise1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Like That

y lateefA multifaceted artist, Yusef Lateef has managed to secure his spot in the music and art worlds with his work. My favorite piece by Lateef would have to be Like It Is. The haunting violins combined with the pleading flute is arguably a masterpiece of accurate sadness, at least to me. Take listen as it’s posted below. 🙂

Learn more about Lateef at his own site.

YL-flute-bmboo

Something for Nasiah

something beautiful

I was looking for a gift to add to a care package I wanted to send to a special girl I know. I ventured over to Barnes and Nobles children’s section to see what I could find. I always gift books to people but I wanted this book to be a little different. Not like the Brother’s Grimm fairy tales or anything Disney. But a story where the characters resemble the people around her including herself.

Slightly disheartened, I started to leave until I saw a book with a beautiful girl on the cover. She actually resembled the child I was sending the book to. Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth and illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet is a story about a young girl who decides one day to seek out the beauty in her neighborhood.

I thought about my neighborhood and what I hate about it. But then I thought about the things that make my hood beautiful like summer days when you come home and all the guys are on the block cracking jokes and reminiscing about what they did when they were young childs running wild. Even blackouts were fun because if you got caught on the wrong block, you were getting water bombed. Successfully dodging eggs on Halloween is always a beautiful thing!

The hood can be a cold, angry and scary place…but if  you look closely, you can find the beauty in it. 🙂

 

“Have You Ever Been In Love Before….”

I couldn’t wait. This is my favorite time of the year. Not only is it Black History Month but it’s also the bornday celebration month of some very cool people including my mother. In 5 more days, my mother and I will celebrate our birthdays together…..I was my mothers bornday gifts some 30 something years ago. Anyway, with all of that said, I’m going to start off my BHM postings with my all time favorite music artist…..

Gregory Isaacs & Dennis Brown - Judge Not (Music works)

This was the first album cover I ever saw with Dennis Brown on it. I had to be about 8 or 9, and in my father’s music room were stacks of records. I always noticed this album because Gregory Isaacs looked scary. You could hardly see his face in the shadow and he isn’t smiling. Dennis Brown though, is sitting in the chair captured my attention. At this young age, I was curious to know who these men were and what they sounded like. This album introduced me to the sultry sound of DB.

Dennis Emmanuel Brown was born February 1, 1957 in Kingston, Jamaica. He recorded his first album at about 12 or 13 titled No Man Is An Island. He is easily a renowned artist of reggae with tunes like Here I Come, Love and Hate and Money in My Pocket. But even more, he goes down in history as a musical pioneer. His music, always soulful, expressed love, righteousness, activism, history of a people, and love among fellow brethren. His music has many purposes for me. These days, Dennis Brown’s music conjures pleasant memories of days when I had decided to go natural and loc up.

dennis-brown-satisfaction-feeling

Who said you couldn’t be natural and still have fun? I still partied, played mas and liked hanging out with my friends. Nights at Caribbean City, Festival City and Soca Paradise would be filled with whinin and wukin up to soca all night. I mean you had to be physically feet to keep up with those dudes because if you couldn’t keep up, they’d leave you and go dance with someone else, lol. Eventually the D.J. would have to accommodate the ital crowd, and the winded whiners, with a roots segment . And everyone knows you cannot introduce the roots reggae session of the party without Here I Come, Revolution or Get Myself Together.

I had the honor of seeing Dennis Brown perform perhaps one of his last shows in New York at SOB’s. He had just released his album Ready We Ready and I was lucky to have one handed to me by the honorable Dennis Brown himself. That was a most memorable performance on so many levels when I learned of his death shortly after. I was so heartbroken.

With all artists, their spirit lives on by way of the masterpieces they’ve left for us to enjoy but what more is you remember how you feel when you hear a song, or who you were dancing with when that special tune comes on or the way you felt when you watched the crowned prince perform for the people.

I thought the following videos were pretty cool and if you know his music, you’ll find it hard to believe that he sounds exactly as he does on his recordings. Enjoy 🙂