Ernie McCray

Thumbnail image for Living Fully in Nancy’s Place

Living Fully in Nancy’s Place

by Ernie McCray 07.25.2014 Culture

By Ernie McCray

Nancy left these shores on the 22nd of July, five years ago, and my son wrote some pretty words about her on Facebook that brought tears to my eyes, the soft tears that flow from memories held dear.

He says, of her passing, “It was not the last time I’ve heard her wisdom, felt her spirit, followed her counsel or shared a smile with her. I am motivated each day to bring change and happiness to this world and my mother is one of the motivations.”

Then he says, “Laurel (his wonderful partner in life) gave me a beautiful card this morning with a quote she chose that embodies how I’ve coped with the reality that I can never dance with my mother at my wedding, cry on her shoulder, or feel her hugs.” The card says, “The greatest gift we can give to those who have left us is to live fully in their place.”

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Creating a Better World with Children in Mind

by Ernie McCray 07.20.2014 Books & Poetry

(Inspired by the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme)

By Ernie McCray

I just spent a week doing a show at the San Diego International Fringe Festival called “On the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme” with some of the most fabulous tap dancers anyone could ever find. This spoken word/dance piece was dedicated to the creation of a reality that
“appears to the mind to be of a gentler
more caring and loving kind…”
It was written in honor of children no matter where they reside on the planet. It entertains the idea of creating a world for them that is
“without arms,
worthy of their beauty
and their charm.”
The poem speaks to a society dancing On the Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme
“to the beat of a song,
a love song.”

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Feeling Hawaii

by Ernie McCray 07.16.2014 Columns

 By Ernie McCray

I’ve been to the islands of Hawaii four times, thoroughly enjoying the unparalleled beauty each time. How can one not?

Maui. The Hana Highway. The howling trade winds, the sudden rains, the rainbow eucalyptus, with its bright green inner bark and blue, purple, orange and maroon tones. The wonders of the Seven Sacred Pools…

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Jackson and Me (and Lolli, too), Part II

by Ernie McCray 06.27.2014 Columns

 By Ernie McCray

With Jackson and Lolli still on my mind I’m remembering how they were confidante’s of mine, two beings besides that beautiful woman of mine who kept what I shared with them in safe keeping.

Whenever I needed reassurance that everything was going to be all right with the world, I could count on Jackson and Lolli to indicate such with the love in their eyes for me that I felt every single time I was in their presence.

They heard it all during the stage of my life they were in. They heard me cry “Oh, what a pity” as I played with words to a poem I wanted to write for the children at Marvin Elementary when the children died in Oklahoma City. They felt my anguish as children succumbed to the bombs of Desert Storms I and II raining down on them.

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Jackson and Me (and Lolli, too), Part I

by Ernie McCray 06.25.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray 

Not too long ago I heard Garrison Keillor cite a poem about the passing of his cat either on Prairie Home Companion or the Writer’s Almanac.

A line from it says:

        “She was given the merciful injection
        As we stroked her and said,
        ‘Good cat. Good cat.’ And she lay down her head
        On our lap
        And took her nap.”

After listening to the tribute I kept thinking of my favorite pet, my dog Jackson, a handsome black lab, who left this world a few years back. He, literally took a nap, just laid himself down quietly and then let himself go. I was just devastated although I knew the day would come as he had become feeble and old and had slowed down considerably. It seemed like it was over night: one day we, him, my mutt, Lolli, and I are flying through the many paths in our neighborhood or through the sands of a choice of beaches, and then one day Jackson is looking at us as if to say, “Hey, I would if I could but since I cain’t I ain’t.” And then he was gone.

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Reflecting on When I Dreamed of Fatherhood as a Child

by Ernie McCray 06.18.2014 Columns

  By Ernie McCray

 As Fathers Day approached I was thinking back to how I used to kind of dream of being a dad when I was a little boy.

 The concept of fatherhood has held some significance to me for most of my life. One of my first questions to the universe was “What does a daddy do?”

That was all about the fact that my mother was the one in my everyday life, working, as she would not let anybody forget, her fingers to the bone. And that was confusing to me since my dad, who didn’t live in our home, seemed to be resting and dressing and cruising – and I felt forced to get a job when I was only five years old.

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Thumbnail image for Who’s Really the Traitor Here? Thoughts about Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl

Who’s Really the Traitor Here? Thoughts about Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl

by Ernie McCray 06.09.2014 Activism

By Ernie McCray

My goodness, a man, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, gets released from a 5 year imprisonment in Afghanistan, and there are those who want to condemn him, as a traitor, allegations that are no more than speculations based on shaky observations.

“He walked away from his duty! And people died looking for him!” people say as though in war it’s out of the ordinary for someone to freak out and want to flee and maybe say to his foe “I don’t want to shoot another one of y’all anymore! I can’t stand to see another child run in fear when I walk near them. I can no longer stand to see them shake in their pants, ever again” – aka “consorting” with the enemy. We’re human beings. We’re supposed to care. It’s in our nature somewhere.

If we paused for a moment couldn’t we consider that if the Taliban gave Bergdahl a single sandwich in those five years he was in their hands that he was more of a drain on their resources than any kind of aid to them? And, in war, don’t soldiers die all the time while “looking for somebody?” Can we try to understand?

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Thinking of Muir in the Midst of the Madness

by Ernie McCray 06.04.2014 Editor's Picks

By Ernie McCray

No sooner than I had checked into facebook I got the chilling news about a lockdown at the John Muir K-12 Magnet School, a school I nurtured during its first four years – four of the most satisfying revealing validating unbelievable inspiring awakening beautiful questioning yummy xenophobic-less desirable hopeful colorful wacky pleasurable fruitful exhausting kaleidoscopic glorious touching open lasting joyful noteworthy zestful memorable years of my life.

It was John Muir Alternative School to us, back then in 1974, and no matter what the name, the mere notion that someone, anyone, would threaten it’s hallowed boundaries with a gun is about as scary a thought as there could be for me.

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Thumbnail image for “Yes” on B & C is the Way to Support the Barrio Logan Community

“Yes” on B & C is the Way to Support the Barrio Logan Community

by Ernie McCray 05.30.2014 2014 June Primary

By Ernie McCray

Here we go. Same old same old politics in San Diego. The “Big Boys” have to get their way. They want us to vote “No” in opposition to a plan that was created to make a community healthy and safe. And mayor, Kevin Faulconer, who has billed himself as an “independent” leader, has, as such, been going around talking about how when Propositions B & C are voted down, “it will be our opportunity to pass a plan that works to protect our families, to protect our economy.”

Hey, dude, we already have a plan to keep toxics, pollutants, carcinogens and flammable chemicals, a safe distance away from Barrio Logan schools, playgrounds, and homes. So what does your plan look like? Oh, you don’t have one? And a new plan can’t happen for at least a year?

The Barrio Logan community worked diligently for years to bring about reasonable land use and zoning changes and it happened. It’s on the books right now. There’s a five-block buffer zone that bans new residential and industrial suppliers, while allowing such existing uses to remain in place and expand by no more than 20 percent.

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Many Thanks, Maya

by Ernie McCray 05.29.2014 Activism

By Ernie McCray

Many Thanks, Maya

I miss you, Maya,
but you will forever reside
in the breezes of
the breaths of fresh air
you gifted us with
when you were here,
ever so lovely and dear,
so wise beyond any years,
captivating us with your smile
and your wit
and your humor, all the while,
teaching us the ways of “We,”
you, him, her, them, me -
all of humanity. …

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My Sister’s Voice

by Ernie McCray 05.27.2014 Arts

By Ernie McCray

Alexis Dixon, a friend of mine, recently emailed me that he was working on a new project and I’m already hyped because I remember the last project which was the first of the “Notes to Our Sons and Daughters” series.

That was a wonderful evening, with a beautiful collection of photographs so I’d say the next show, “My Sister’s Voice,” is a must go for anyone who can go.

 This stylized black and white international photographic collection is unveiled to us by Alexis and the Center for Community Solutions (CCS) which provides prevention and intervention services for violence and abuse.

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Thumbnail image for Galeano, a Reminder of “Who” We Are – A Call to Action in Support of the Zapatistas

Galeano, a Reminder of “Who” We Are – A Call to Action in Support of the Zapatistas

by Ernie McCray 05.23.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

I hear all kinds of arguments about what’s wrong with schools and the sentiments tend to avoid the keys to what’s essential in the creation of a learning environment: an understanding of “who” the person is who’s being educated. And nothing gets at “who” a child, a student, is more than an educator who respects and appreciates that person’s culture and gives him or her an education that’s rich in the arts.

With that being said, on May 2, 2014, a hero of mine, a teacher extraordinaire, Jose Luis Solis Lopez (Galeano), was assassinated at the Zapatista’s “Little School” (La Escuelita), in Chiapas, Mexico. The school was built to celebrate “who” children are and “who” they can become.

Their culture is at the core of their school. The arts, drawing, painting, singing, dancing, poetry are interwoven in all that they do, enabling each child to get at what drives them, what they have to offer, how they fit into the scheme of things.

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Thumbnail image for My Maria and SDSU’s CBB Multicultural Community Counseling and Social Justice Education Program

My Maria and SDSU’s CBB Multicultural Community Counseling and Social Justice Education Program

by Ernie McCray 05.19.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

She’s really something, my Maria. Maria Nieto-Senour. College professor by way of the Mexican barrios of San Antonio and Austin and the inner-cities of Detroit. Mo-Town.

At any moment she’ll be retired which means she gets to hang out with me more. I can’t wait because she’s fun to be around and she’s about as loving a human being as one could be.  

That loving nature of hers has served her well as the Director of a master’s degree program at San Diego State University called CBB (Community-Based Block).

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A Look at a “Dangerous Friendship”

by Ernie McCray 05.06.2014 Books & Poetry

By Ernie McCray

A couple of years ago at a showing of “Sing Your Song,” a documentary that highlights Harry Belafonte’s role in pursuits for human and civil rights, I met Ben Kamin, a scholar who has written much about the social struggles of those times. I just finished reading, with delight, his latest book, “Dangerous Friendship.”

The book puts the spotlight on Stanley Levison, a little known figure in the civil rights movement, who fully dedicated his life to helping Martin Luther King.

Regarding this man, Clarence Jones, another prominent aide to Martin, says “I am extremely upset, and I get angry, 24/7, and have been for many years about the glaring omission of the name and history of Stanley Levison in the civil rights chronicle.”

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Thumbnail image for Poem of the Day: “Don’t Want to Spoil Your Party Don’t Want to Bust Your Balloon”

Poem of the Day: “Don’t Want to Spoil Your Party Don’t Want to Bust Your Balloon”

by Ernie McCray 04.20.2014 Books & Poetry

By Ernie McCray

Don’t want to spoil your party
Don’t want to bust your balloon
But look up above your head
There’s some ozone gone
ozone gone
ozone gone
Can we get it back

And you’ll see that the sky
Is no longer blue

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Still Thinking 76

by Ernie McCray 04.19.2014 Culture

By Ernie McCray

There’s something about the age of 76 that’s different than any other age I’ve had the pleasure of being. I keep thinking about it for one thing. Maybe it’s because 76 leans closer to 80 than those other yearly milestones along life’s way. As we get older, I think, we see ourselves as Grim Reaper victims every now and then in very brief moments. Briefer than the one just passed, for anyone interested in specifics. Thinking about something can be a lot different than dwelling on it.

Anyway, while pondering such thoughts on the night before I turned 76, I found myself clicking into flickr on the internet for something that might symbolize my reaching such an age, looking for something that screamed “Orale!” The Reaper doesn’t like such expressions of “liveliness.”

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Entering a New Age

by Ernie McCray 04.15.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

When it comes to age I’m about to turn another page. I’ll be 76 if I’m still on the scene on April 18th, 2014.

Life, on the whole, has been very good to me. Somehow, I’ve managed, in my time, as I’ve evolved as a human being, to let the good moments override the moments when I’ve wanted to scream or just cold-cock some redneck yokel out of his misery into another galaxy or burn down the “system.” The hypocrisy of it all has always bothered me immensely.

So I just ride the high from the pretty moments, like the one the other day when Maria and I, on a little getaway, were walking along the main drag in Julian, enjoying a soothing sunny day, fully at ease with ourselves and with each other. While strolling through a group of boys, in front of a market, one of them said to me, “You’re tall,” to which I replied, “Yes, I am that” as we stepped through the threshold of the little store. “Can you dunk?” he continued. “At one time. Not anymore.” “Too old?” “You got it.”

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Thumbnail image for March Madness Bringing out “The Thinker” in Me

March Madness Bringing out “The Thinker” in Me

by Ernie McCray 04.01.2014 Culture

Go Aztecs! Bear Down, Arizona!

By Ernie McCray

My highlight of the 2014 March Madness Tournament was the Arizona Wildcat win over the San Diego State Aztecs in the Sweet 16. What a great game.

It was, however, a bittersweet win for me because, although I used to play for the U of A and the school is in Tucson, the town in which I made my debut as a homosapien, the Aztecs are my team too as San Diego is the town I came to when I decided that my “running around looking for shade trees” days were through. So my rejoicing after the game was somewhat tame. But I did do a little jig. For about an hour.

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Poetry: Tanja and All that Jazz

by Ernie McCray 03.24.2014 Books & Poetry

(Celebrating a Life that Lasted from January 18, 1927-February 9, 2014)

By Ernie McCray

Tanja Winter.
Talking about a woman who had pizzazz.
I wrote, for her 80th birthday,
how she came into the world
about the same time as

Bob Fosse
who gave us
some sexy razz ma tazz
in the name of
All that Jazz;

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My Hometown as a Basketball Town

by Ernie McCray 03.18.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

I just finished a nice read, Tucson a Basketball Town. It was written by Arizona hoop legends, Bob Elliott and Eric Money.

They, in a nice informative way, remind Arizona basketball fans that before Lute Olson came along and took the program to somewhat unbelievable heights that there was an era, in the 70′s, their era, that Tucson became a basketball town.

They’re so right and the man who made it all happen from the coaching end was one of the most charismatic and self-confident human beings I have ever had the privilege of knowing: Fred “The Fox” Snowden, the first black coach for a major school in a major NCAA conference. He brought in players like Bob and Eric and others who collectively played basketball at a level that had never been seen in my hometown.

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Why I like the Big Red-Head (Bill Walton)

by Ernie McCray 03.06.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

I remember one time, long ago, back in the day, hearing a guy say, about Bill Walton, “Aw, man, that dude can’t play no ball.” Hey, I don’t know what his definition of “playing ball” was but I had just, a few moments before, seen basketball played at a level or two above what you’d ordinarily see a teenage red-head high school kid do on a basketball court.

First of all he gangster slapped the notion of “white guys can’t jump.” I mean he blocked shots like he was in a badminton game, tapping a couple to himself and then he whipped outlet passes for the fast-break like the ball was on a laser beam; he drove the defense absolutely insane, pulling up for jump-shots, dropping floating hook-shots, setting screens and playing off screens, setting his teammates up for easy shots, and driving his big red-head self down the lane. I had never seen such dominance in a basketball game – and I could play the game.

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Arizona Dreaming

by Ernie McCray 02.27.2014 Books & Poetry

By Ernie McCray

Growing up in Arizona
I used to have simple dreams:
Eating in any cafe;
sitting anywhere in a movie theatre
or skating at the rink
at any time on any day;
attending any school
I could get myself to
and swimming in any pool.

I dreamed in a state
where black people like me
drove the city fathers insane
when we dared to
carry ourselves with dignity
in our constant struggle
to be free.

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Black History Month: Reflecting on Moments Filled with Hope

by Ernie McCray 02.11.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

There are moments when I want to sing out loud, “I’m Black and I’m Proud” and just get up and dance in my joy, doing the do like James Brown used to get us to.

I felt like that the other day as I listened to Harold K. Brown, a hero of mine,  reminisce about when he and other San Diego activists marched and chanted and sat-in and demanded an end to the practices that various organizations and companies utilized, in town, to keep folks like me down.

The pleasure I was feeling in those moments certainly wasn’t based on Harold’s recollections of being jailed or called names and dodging feces tossed by the most hateful of God’s creatures – no, my glee came as I looked around me into the faces of so many people who have over time honored what Harold brought to us and have strived to keep hope alive. Folks who still have their eyes on the prize.

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Wildcats Coach Sean Miller: A Dazzling Human Being

by Ernie McCray 02.06.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

I recently wrote about Steve Fisher, the coach of the San Diego State Aztec men’s basketball team, about how masterful a teacher he is. Now I’d like to share a few words about another virtuoso teacher, Sean Miller, who coaches the University of Arizona Wildcats.

I remember when he first popped up in my life. I was settling down in my easy chair, with a beer, perhaps, all relaxed (a talent of mine), waiting to hear Ed McMahon say “Here’s Johnny!” with that brassy introduction by Doc Severinsen and the mighty Tonight Show Band.  “Hi-Yo!”

After a few jokes and the usual kidding around you expect on a talk show, this 14 year old kid comes out, sits down, and, as if this was just another day in the neighborhood, started talking about where he was from and how he had once made 50 free throws in a row and the next thing I know he was putting on a basketball skills show. He spun a basketball with blinding rotations on his fingers and bounced and/or juggled and dribbled between his legs what seemed like, in those moments, a crate of basketballs – like it was no big thing.

What a dazzling human being. What poise – in the midst of all the crowd noise.

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Pete Seeger: A Man Who Surrounded Hate with Love

by Ernie McCray 01.30.2014 Activism

By Ernie McCray

With Pete Seeger having passed away I can’t pass up an opportunity to share my sentiments about him.
I once sang on stage with this incredible loving human being and other master musicians and singers. Peggy Watson with her crisp and pretty voice. Sam Hinton. Folklorist, artist and founder of the San Diego Folk Song Society. Joe Glazer, “Labor’s Troubadour.” It was a sing-along (if you’re wondering how I belonged). We were there to honor John Handcox, a friend of mine who just happened to have written major labor anthems like “Mean Things Happening in this Land” and “Roll the Union On.”

Pete had been singing John’s songs for years. He had no idea that he was alive. But when he found out that he was, indeed, still on earth, in an inner-city San Diego community, he reached out to him and took him on a few tours so that audiences could see and hear the man whose words had rallied them for so long in various labor movements – a man who had been a sharecropper in Arkansas where he made up songs as a way of organizing the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, a man run out of the state by the Klan.

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