Author Topic: Interview with A-FRIEND  (Read 2876 times)

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Offline Allen

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Interview with A-FRIEND
« on: April 12, 2010, 02:22 PM »
I am privileged to post Below, an interview conducted some months ago, by our Splash Scribe, Soft Words.

A-FRIEND is one of our older and most respected members.  Quite a number of years ago now, he started the Black History topic, which to this day, he still hosts.  It is one of our most visited topics and has a vast readership both within and without the SplashHall community.  His contribution to the understanding of American Black History, if only measured by this one act, is considerable.  I have published his interview, without a photograph for reasons known to me, and those of personal security.

Q. What brought you to Splash Hall?

A. I was a long time member of the old Excite boards. When they shut down I moved from one board to another. One day I was searching for a poetry reader and chanced upon Splash Hall chat. I remember to this day who were there. R G, Elise, and Lady Sunshine.  Quite a friendly bunch.  RG immediately sent me a reader coupled with an invitation to join.

Q. What keeps you here?

A. The challenge one encounters in building and maintaining friendships, first and foremost.  Secondary to that is the opportunity to indulge my real passion, history.  I'm most grateful to RG and Allen for the space they give me to pass on the rich history of people of color that is deliberately left out of mainstream education.
In fact it was RG that emailed me a few years ago to ask me to host Black History Month for the Splash community. And he has encouraged me to keep it going every since.

Q. Which Splashers have made lasting impression on you and why?

A. There have been many lasting impressions both positive and negative. I'll leave the negatives alone, even so there's no way to list all the positives.

Witt defines dignity and patience. I can't tell you how many dumb questions she's lovingly fielded from me. The lady also gives great advice.

Lady sunshine's welcome that first day is a fond memory.

Rg and Allen both have been very helpful and encouraging. Allen has taken time to help with some technical things in Black History and I take time now to publicly thank him for that time consuming task.

Bill has an interesting character.

Sartor has compelling wisdom.

And who can forget how proud we are of our own Arti growing and attaining her dream of being a doctor right before our eyes. We are very proud of you.

My number one person here is a study in the human spirit.  Rarely are we blessed with true friends and rarer still is our ability to recognize the blessings of having them.  Imagine my delight to find, not only a true friend, but a daughter almost from day one. She defines all that's good and manages to stay unpretentious and level headed.
I'm talking about Elise and I love her the same as I would if she were my own blood.

Q. Earl, you have been around since before I came here. How does the present state of these blue boards compare?

A. My knowledge on that is limited. At best.  I'm from the generation that's satisfied with the computer just booting up.  If it does that, the rest is a bonus.

Q. What is your definition of poetry?

A. My definition has run afoul of some in these halls more than once.
Poetry has to transform me willingly, compellingly and intelligently from the place I am, with a smoothness of purpose through thought provoking words, to the place where the writer wants me to be. It has to lay sweet in the heart, be it sad, glad, or anything in between. Even in poetry, it's not what you say; it's how you say it.

Using vulgarities and calling it cutting edge is not poetry. It's a sure sign of one that has no command of language. I've been called to task for saying that before, but have yet to find a rational argument against it.
Some of the most erotic writings are in the Song of Solomon, sans the gratuitous sexual references.

I will confess I have no scholarly poetic attributes, but this is my definition.

Q. If you could be a clichÃ, which one would you be?

A. I'm not certain any would fit since I'm so unorthodox in the way I live.
Some would say I'm trite just being me, so I'll leave those definitions to others.

Q. Your life has been an interesting one. Tell me about your first job.

A. I could take up pages with this one being a black man raised in the segregated south.
That fact alone complicates the question in ways one can't imagine unless you've lived it.
The short answer is I went to work when I was 12 doing yard work and shoveling coal for an apartment complex.

Q. Tell me about that epiphany moment when you wrote your first piece of poetry.

A. It would really be embarrassing to raise anything I've written to the level of an epiphany.
If I have a message or a lesson to share and the words come to me, I share it much the same as words were shared and imparted by our elders.

Q. What is your favorite kind of poetry and how different it is from the kind you like to write?

A. I don't have a favorite. I like what I like. If something rubs me the wrong way, most times I'll read it to the point that I think I understand the message so I won't cheat myself.
I fancy myself to be a writer about life. I come from a different background than most here and I've seen and lived a lot of things that are hard to explain. Poetry helps frame some of those experiences.

Q. Any words of wisdom you'd like to share with the rest of us?

A. Live whole souled as to the Lord. That's what makes one wise, honest, loving, and willing to stand up for what is right regardless of what the popular tide of the day may be.
Let this not be construed that I'm associated with any of these rabid, extremist, pseudo Christian groups. Nothing would be further from the truth.

Q. Anything special you'd like to say to everyone here?

A. I'd like to take this as an opportunity to explain who I am. If you deem this kitschy feel free to delete it.

I grew up in a system that was geared for me to fail. It didn't even recognize a man that won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze star for Valor and took a bullet to the head, from which he suffered the rest of his life. I watched this man disrespected and beat down for nothing more than the color of his skin.
Yet he taught me to stand tall, head held high, and to carry myself with the dignity of a human being. When you drink from the colored water fountain, stand up straight when you're done. When you walk through the colored entrance, walk through tall and straight. If the only work you can find is sweeping the floors, be the best floor sweeper they ever saw,” he would say.
He taught us not to hate, to work hard, and to share God's love with friend and foe alike.
This was my father. He and my mother had to teach us how to survive in a system that held us in the lowest of esteem. They had to teach us the racial protocols of that era, because we could get killed for the slightest breach, while at the same time teaching us to love ourselves.
That was my childhood. It was a miracle played out in black households for generations. The miracle?..  Our parents ability to raise decent young people instead of hate filled militants bent on revenge.

I'll give a glaring example of the miracle of black parents. Recall the bombing of the 16th St. Baptist Church in Birmingham, Al.  in 1963
http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/terrorists_spies/terrorists/birmingham_church/

Four young girls died while putting on their choir robes for no reason other than they were black. This was a time when blacks were being lynched, raped, houses, churches and businesses bombed, abused in all kinds of heinous ways with the complicity of police and government  officials and no avenues of redress. Blacks couldn't even get congress to pass anti lynching laws. Do you know what the sermon was going to be that fateful day to a congregation suffering these thing first hand, in spite of all that was happening?
A LOVE THAT FORGIVES”

I say it's nothing short of miraculous that black elders and parents could teach love under those circumstances.

I was groomed from childhood to be a missionary. I had powerful mentors. Ann Spencer lived a few shorts blocks from me. She was responsible for the library at our high school. Chauncey Spencer lived a couple houses from her. He was one of the trainers of the Tuskegee Airmen. Both taught me never to surrender. Pick your battles, but once you've picked it, fight it to the end. Always forward.
Dr. Johnson taught us the dignity of silence. Respond to ridicule by winning.. Demonstrate strength by actions. We watched him teach this to Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe right there in his back yard. I also had teachers that taught us how to be twice as good as our white counter parts, because they knew that was the only way to be accepted as average, and if you could be seen as average, maybe a few could excel out of a group.

I grew into a man with a need to be tested by fire as much as a need to test the fire within. Much to the disappointment of many I didn't become a missionary, I went into law enforcement. The battles to overcome the racism on the job and to be accepted as average led me to overcompensate by taking on the most dangerous assignments I could get. This was my way of carrying on what the elders had taught me. I was a police officer, a corrections officer, a bouncer, a private investigator; desiring to prove myself  worthy by tempting and cheating death at every turn. It was an interesting psychosis, born out of an engrained fear of defeat, coupled with an insatiable appetite for truth and justice. That made me battle hardened, willing to take on any fight.

This is the short version of my early life. I relate it because my take no prisoner style has ruffled more than a few feathers in these Halls.
No soul knows the power that can be used against you more intimately than those that have been victimized by it. No soul knows the tricky speech, catch words, sneaky phrases, caricatures, double talk, etc, better than those that had to be conditioned to recognize them, because doing less could cost you your very life.
I know all this seems surreal to at least three generations now, and to those who didn't have to live being black in America while all this was going on, and to a great extent is still going on, but this is why I won't let certain things pass, ever.

Hopefully this gives some insight into what makes me tick.   

Thanks Arti and Splash for this opportunity to define who I am.
I invite all of you to join me in the Black History forum.
Allen

An action promulgated out of desperation will inevitably end in tragedy; for as its anagram so aptly foretells:  A rope ends it. �

Offline WordFaery

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2010, 08:40 PM »
Earl,

It is both a pleasure and an honor to know you.

WordFaery
"Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame."      W.B. Yeats



Word Faery

Offline daisyxo

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2010, 10:39 PM »
Earl, so nice to read about you.  You've led a very full life .... and we are blessed to count you as part of our Splash family.
~ Marsha ~
 

"Abilities wither under faultfinding, blossom with encouragement." -- Donald A. Laird

Offline A-FRIEND

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2010, 01:06 PM »
The pleasure has been mine Wordfaery.
Stop looking at the light. Instead, look at what is being illuminated by the light.

Offline A-FRIEND

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2010, 01:09 PM »
Daisyxo I'm at once honored and humbled to be counted in this splash family. Thank you.
Stop looking at the light. Instead, look at what is being illuminated by the light.

Offline A-FRIEND

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2010, 01:15 PM »
Allen, thank you for moving this here.
I completely understood and agreed with our dear Arti in following her criteria, so I don't want anyone to think there's been a problem between us.

And thank you for your recognition of and contribution to the Black history forum.
Stop looking at the light. Instead, look at what is being illuminated by the light.

Offline elise

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #6 on: April 16, 2010, 12:41 AM »
I originally posted my response to your interview, as you know, in the black history forum.   I wanted to respond here as well,

It was great to read about your life and the twists and turns you have taken.   To "stand up straight" after drinking out of the "colored water fountain"....WOW.   That is poetic indeed.   Would love it if you would write something for that wisdom.   It occurs to me that your boyhood prepared you to be the teacher that you are.

I remember the day you came into the poetry cafe chat room in the old excite vp.  You were so nice and your nickname was very welcoming.  Then, as we got to know you, it was your kind and friendly personality that endeared you to us.  It didn't take long until you became a valued friend to me, and more.

You are very special to me dad, and I know it shows.  Through the years you have cloaked me with your protective guidance and love.  I thank you publicly now for your kindnesses to me as I have struggled with both real time and online issues.  When I disappear for awhile, you hunt me down and communicate in whatever forum I  need at the time.   Thank you for all your love and prayers and guidance in my life.  Thank you for always being willing to share your wisdom and be that teacher.  You will never know how much you mean to me.  Love you Dad!
 

I felt it shelter to speak to you  ~Emily Dickinson

Offline A-FRIEND

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2010, 05:32 PM »
Well thank you for saying that my dearly loved daughter. Nothing like sharing some positive reinforcement.  You can bet I'm going to continue to be there for you doing just that.

As to the poem you suggested, I like the idea, so let's see if anything comes to me.
Stop looking at the light. Instead, look at what is being illuminated by the light.

Offline Halo

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2010, 07:10 AM »

A-FRIEND, thank you for sharing yourself with us. God Bless you.
Be careful of your thoughts; they may become words at any moment.  ~  Ira Gassen

Offline A-FRIEND

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2010, 12:10 PM »
Thanks for stopping by Halo. You're very kind.
Stop looking at the light. Instead, look at what is being illuminated by the light.

Offline Lady SunShine

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2010, 06:07 PM »
So Glad to get to know you a little more and I really do enjoy reading your Words you have been a true Friend and and a wonderful gift here
Never Let Yesterday's Pain
Ruin Tomorrow's Dreams

Offline A-FRIEND

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Re: Interview with A-FRIEND
« Reply #11 on: May 21, 2010, 02:51 PM »
Well hi there ladysunshine, its been quite awhile. I will humbly accept you saying I've been a gift here. That's a kind thing to say, but such nice folks allowing me to stay here is your gift to me.
Stop looking at the light. Instead, look at what is being illuminated by the light.