Phily Starz

Hey the trips' twin uncles Shay and Nique are working on a mixed tape. Here's a sample. Check it out. I remember hearing them sing two floors up while they worked on a room in the house with the trips' father Lamarr. Whenever I came up though thy'd quit. Gotta love you-tube!! I finally get to hear a whole song. Such sweet voices. Lamarr sure can sing too but he mainly manages and coaches them.

Tahija wrote her own book

It's called "My Life As I Know It." It'd deep and real. We're hoping my publisher will publish it. If you read Walk with Us, you know most chapters open with an excerpt from an earlier version of "My Life as I Know It." I'm proud of her! If you want to see this book become a published book, give it a shout out to the publisher at publisher@cddbooks.com. Thanks!

Another Road Trip

Much shorter this time. Not Wisconsin, not even New Jersey. Going' with Sue again to Elmira, NY Friends Meeting to talk about the book, worship with them. It's been awhile. I feel no pressure to sell books, as at the start of the reading tour. Just be there. Witness as led. I wish I could say the boys would be coming to the country this summer. I should ask, again; try, again. It hurt too much when the parents says no or, worse, nothing. Worse yet when they say yes and then change their mind.

How I want them to have summer memories of the country. Well they do. Two visits' worth. It may have to be enough.

Enough for what? To fend off addiction, despair, alienation from nature, from God. I'm always trying to parent and repair my childhood self. Without the country, woods and fields, from the age of two, I don't know who I'd be; how I would have found joy.

Philadelphia has its parks. I gave them an appetite for trees, running water. They'll find their way.

They saw in the pond but didn't learn to swim. Seeds planted that weren't let to grow. May other plants grow, healthy ones. Let the soil of their spirits not lie fallow. Let them find, whenever they need it, the inner Light. Let them flower, as Galway Kinnell says in "St. Francis and the Sow," "from within, of self blessing."

He's Irish-American too

Obama I mean, who earned an honorary apostrophe this week in Ireland.

Why did his words and the very sight of Michelle and him moving through the crowds move me so? I'm not sure. What Ireland's gone through recently. But deeper than that, my own longing to go home--to Ireland and to an unabashed acceptance of myself as Irish (half) and white (full).

White guilt again...hello old friend. Healing around that is the healing next in line I think. Because I'm living in Cohoes NY, cotton mill town that siphoned potato famine survivors, preferring (the mill owner Robert Johnson is said to have said) lone mothers and children as workers. Easier to manage. The spirit of the place, the stories, the wrecked and (fewer) thriving descendants of the mill workers surround me. I want to write about them, this time. Or, is it, for them?

Seeing him in Ireland, hearing him speak the tongue my grandparents rarely let me hear them speaking--the banned language--something in me connected. The one who'd always loved Black culture and courage, who found in it a way out of personal victimhood, met the girl who longed for "my old Irish home, far across the foam." Who in her longing reached not for a place but for a people--someone to be part of, to be proud of, to be strengthened by.

I don't know how my grandparents and great grandparents got by. No one's told me. The Irish writers are love are mostly of the upper classes. I value their art. I believe historical tensions and horrors compressed them into being--Swift, Joyce, Becket, and the great modern poets.

If it's not too late, I want to come home, too. And help tell the stories.

My grandmother had died suddenly and fairly young. I found a thick '78 in her closet and played it all one summer. Ballads and hornpipe tunes, tap dancing like snare drumming, long lonesome cries for home.

It's old ground, the immigrant stories. I'll make them new. I'll find a way. Is féidir linn.

I've got to write about Egypt


Islamic terrorism is dead. Although the body still seemed strong, in its prime really, an insidious cancer set in on June 4th 2009, when the newly elected President, the grandson of a Muslim, went to Cairo and spoke to an enthusiastic, youthful crowd about freedom. About America not as empire — he flat out denied that — but as a youthful nation with something, perhaps only one or two things, to give the world, even an ancient nation like Egypt. Here's that speech.

What we have to give, he said, is freedom and equality. And he said again what the white slave-holding founders said. All men are created equal. A vegetable peddler in Tunisia, a beaten wife in Afghamastan, a black man in Chicago, a modern Pharoah in his coterie of smart billionairres.

Listen to the speech again. Listen to the enthusiasm. And if you think me idolatrous, contemplate this fact. Mubarak did not attend Obama’s speech. He sent his brother. He said he was sick.

Indeed he was. For the organ that the sickness that has killed Islamic terrorism first strikes is the dictators (let’s start calling the VP Retraction Biden). But they are not the terrorists, you may say; they stabalize the region and help us catch terrorists, they help us transport them to locales more conveient to information extraction.

That “help” I would argue has been like the chemotherapy that kills. Mubarek oppressed his people. He impriosned, killed, and tirtured his opposition. This solidifies and motivates the survivors. A dictator also steals from the people or, only slightly less benignly, allows his lackeys to steal – through bribes, privatization, one-bid bidding, and a variety of other creative methods that may look, to those who don’t want to see, like stabalizing forces.

Mohammaed Atta was an unemployed Egyptian engineer. By all accounts, he was highly intelligent. In a free country he might have run for office, run some wacky Mosque, developed apartment complexes, or who knows become an avante guard writer denouncing the west to his heart’s content.

Most of the other 9-11 operatives were from that other dictatorship, Saudi Arabia. Not long ago, the one phone company was about to go under because the plethora of princes weren’t paying their bills and there was nothing that could be done to make them pay their bills.

That organ of oppression will shut down soon. And it may be destabilizing; certainly it will be. The price of oil may even go up, more. But now is the time for our values to stand above our fears and our needs. That’s what the black grandson of a Muslim standing before the gathered youth of Cairo said, by his very existance. And with his words he said we will, we can, act according to our values. Yes.

Did you see the banner in the crowd on Tahirir square? Yes we can, too.

If they can risk their lives for freedom we can do what we can to be free of fear. For in truth, the oppression that breeds terrorism has been on life support for sometime. Oh it can spruce itself up for the cameras. Dump a can of shoe polish on its head and have the blood-stained white robes washed again by a hunded virgins, but it’s been lying in a hospital bed with an IV in its arm, and that IV bottle has held and steadily dripped American dollars.

We should be flooding the capitol crying shame: no money for bridges and school lunches, yet money for despots and their secret police? No money for body armor at the start of the Iraq war, but 1.3 billion a year for Mubarek?

Shame, and a stain on our values. But they survive, and because they do Islamic terrorism is dead. Sure, there will be pockets of psychotics for some time. There will be visionless Muslim leaders who mine the old lode of Anti-American paranoia and hatred. It was such a rich vein once and as long as Israel keeps killing with American helicopters there’s hope. And there will be visionless American leaders desperately digging in dangerous mines of American paranoia and hatred.

But it’s just not going to work anymore. We’ve seen those faces; we’ve cheered for them and them with them. Some of us even prayed with them. Their outrage and joy is a wind that’s blown across the airwaves to fan the flames of our own love of freedom, equality and justice. Those faces, those cries, the jubilation should heal American’s fear.

Islamic terrorism is dead. We were brave to elect a largely untested Senator from Illinois. And the young people who are his strongest supporters should stand with the youth of Egypt and celebrate. The realization of a vision. A hunger for freedom combined with sustained non-violent action must always win out in the end. Putting our values before stability, comfort and profit will always put us on the side of the winners.

__________

A CNN Opinion piece says “The Obama administration's response to the Egypt revolution has been, from beginning to end, indecisive and incoherent, leading one to wonder who really minds the shop at the White House at times of crisis.”

We tend to wonder that about black leaders. Which president said changing america's course is like turning an aircraft carrier? There are no sharp turns. We’re a huge slow-moving giant with clay feet dug deep in imperialistic wars. I think Obama is trying to balance powerful entrenched forces. We may have had more influence on the outcome than we can know. A Bush in the Whitehouse gives the army the red light and Mubarek doesn't leave. Maybe the courage of the masses would have trumped that but I for one am relieved that Obama is there. Like Lincoln, he's a realist and a politician, while at the same time holding to values and ideals. And maybe even some vision.

From a reader in Elmira, NY


I just finished the book Walk with Us. I bought it after hearing you talk at FGC in Altoona, PA. It is such an interesting book, once I started I could not stop reading it. By the end I was thinking how well you did not blame the parents at any time for any problems. I think they did make decisions that caused themselves problems.

I enjoyed the sharing of your faith questions and leadings. I liked how going to Friends Meetings helped you find answers.

It was nice to see the picture of the whole family on the web site.

I am glad I bought the book.


I'm still available for readings. Let's keep spreading the word until Oprah (or maybe Ellen!) hears.

We Miss Him


Sethe was a close friend of the family, at the house most every day. Last time I saw him he was standing beside the front door, the strong silent type, red cap, long red t-shirt. I remember I admired the tattoo on his shoulder.

Sethe grew up in foster care and Tahija and Lamarr and the boys had become his family. He was 28.

We don't know was it a straight robbery or something more, maybe someone venging on Lamarr from his wilder days. But the biggest crime wasn't the crime--one bullet, on the front step of the house, in the middle of the day. No, the biggest crime was why that one bullet killed him.

Lamarr wasn't home. Tahija rushed out when she heard the shot and went to Sethe, who was on the sidewalk right in front of the door. No blood. He was conscious. Someone called 911. The police and the ambulance came. There was one hospital .7 mile away and another, Temple, where the triplets were born, 3.3 miles away.

Temple hospital had the trauma unit. But he wasn't taken to Temple Hospital or to the other, closer one. Sethe was interrogated, by the police, about what he was doing when he was shot and who shot him and why.

He said he didn't know. He described the guy to Tahija and pointed the way he'd gone, on a bike. Then he started to tell Tahija he was going. Dying. She held his hand and pleaded with the police to take him to the hospital. Crying and pleading and Sethe calmly saying his goodbyes and ignoring the police who he had no reason to believe would life a finger to help him.

In this way precious minutes passed.

Trauma doctors doctors have a term - the golden hour. It means the faster they can treat a trauma victim the better chance they have of saving him. The first sixty minutes are crucial.

The police knew that. The one bullet shot into Sethe entered his liver. He probably had less than an hour before septicemia set in.

We don't know for sure if he died in the ambulance or on his way to the operating room. The ER doctor at the trauma unit where they finally did take him claimed there was a pulse. A chance.

But maybe he never had a chance. A young black man with a bullet wound in a city that's probably gunned down more black men than saved them. "They put you in a whole different category," Lamarr told me, "when you're shot around here." An expendable category.

But to Tahija and Lamarr, to the triplets and the others who knew and loved him, Sethe was not expandable. He was vital. Mahddy in particular is taking it hard. Sethe like to draw and he'd draw with Mahad, teach him things. And it'll be a long time before Tahija gets over it, though she created a beautiful memorial that went a long way to healing a lot of people. There were candles, pictures of him, and red balloons--red was his favorite color--that we all let go of at the end.

The wind took them east, toward the ocean. Even though the ceremony was over, about a dozen young men stood out of the wind beside the house shielding their still-lit candles. How many dead, I wondered . . . how many shootings so far in their short lives?

Lamarr told me last time I saw him the police picked up someone but probably not the right guy. Just someone, another young black man for their prisons.

Here's a poem for Sethe, written by Tahija

I feel you

When the wind blows
I know you are there.
When I hear a noise and see no one, I know it is you.

No one can ever replace you in my heart.
I feel you every day, the things I do and the words that I say
remind me of you.

I wish you were here in more than spirit
but I will take what I can get.
I feel you and your presence will never be forgotten.

A bond that could never be broken is still intact.