Ernie McCray

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

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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Thumbnail image for Pete Seeger: A Man Who Surrounded Hate with Love

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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Thumbnail image for When I Think of Lyric, Writing About Love is Very Necessary

When I Think of Lyric, Writing About Love is Very Necessary

by Ernie McCray 01.28.2014 Columns

 By Ernie McCray

In response to what I wrote about how nice I thought it would be if the La Jolla Christmas Parade was named something that was more welcoming for everyone, a woman said “The article was meant to cause some drama, stir up some anxiety and really wasn’t necessary.”

That, I must say, came as news to me as my easy going nature won’t let me anywhere near anxiety. And I definitely was not shooting for drama at all although it would be nice if someone stood up and did a little dance and sang a show tune about a “Parade that Made Everybody Happy.”

But, it was very “necessary” for me to write an appeal to people’s better nature, to the love they hold inside of themselves. Promoting love and understanding is pretty much at the heart of everything I write, everything I do. Now, there’s a reason for it. In fact, making the world a better place is what I’m supposed to do.

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It’s All About Love, Isn’t It?

by Ernie McCray 01.18.2014 Culture

By Ernie McCray

Why is it so hard for people to love one another, especially when all it takes is a mere gesture, a smile, a gentle meeting of the eyes, a willingness to listen to our fellow human beings with an open heart?

We much too often blow easy opportunities to express our love. Like the situation in La Jolla with the organizers of the annual La Jolla Christmas Parade. They won’t even consider using an adjective other than Christmas in the name of the parade, knowing that such a giving gesture would make more people feel comfortable and at ease at the festive celebration, unburdened by their religious beliefs and life philosophies, having a good time in a spectacularly beautiful community called the “Jewel by the Sea. All it would take is a deletion of a word on a PC. Oh, if every social problem could be solved so easily.

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My Hopes for the Next 35 Years

by Ernie McCray 01.13.2014 Columns

I recently was reminded that the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD) has been around for 35 years; 35 wonderful years I might add. I mean they’ve worked tirelessly in society’s behalf to challenge the military establishment’s overbearing intrusions in our lives.

They, with a host of other peace groups, have kept military issues in our collective consciousness via community forums, in the streets, and through youth outreach, keeping us aware of how much the military strains our economy, how much it magnifies a negative image of our country around the world, how much racism and sexism and homophobia it nurtures throughout its hierarchy.

COMD is a big part of why I continue working with the Education Not Arms Coalition (ENAC) to counter the recruitment of our children.

Without us there would still be rifle training on our campuses sponsored by the JROTC. To us, teenagers firing rifles on their school grounds made a mockery of San Diego City Schools’ Zero-Tolerance of Weapons Policy.

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Thumbnail image for Steve Fisher, SDSU’s Master Educator (And Basketball Coach)

Steve Fisher, SDSU’s Master Educator (And Basketball Coach)

by Ernie McCray 01.10.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

When San Diego State’s men’s gifted basketball players showed up at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas and rose from the 21st rated team to number 13 after destroying the Jayhawks’ dream of stretching a 68 game winning streak against non-Big Ten teams to 69 – I couldn’t help but think, at the time, of how lucky those young athletes are in having Steve Fisher as their guide on this wonderful ride.

The man is clearly a wonderful coach, a master teacher if there ever was one. He knows how to connect with folks who are counting on him for guidance.

I know. I’m an educator by nature, in a way. I decided on teaching after my very first day in kindergarten (as much as a five year old can consider such a thing), thinking that there must be a better way to teach somebody than taking a yardstick and whacking their knuckles to Maricopa County.

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Oh, Have I Ever Been Blessed

by Ernie McCray 01.05.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

Someone mentioned on facebook the other day that we forget to count our blessings. I thought about that for a few moments and then whatever I was thinking just floated away and then I noticed that my daughter, Tawny, had posted a picture of her mother on her timeline and that really got my thoughts about blessings underway.

And, in the spirit of such thinking, with family on my mind, I could hear my daughter, Nyla, saying to Phill, her husband-to be, a little while back, in their wedding ceremony: “It is so special for me to be marrying you on this day in the house that I was raised in. My parents had such a strong and beautiful relationship and I was lucky to grow up with that around me.”

Oh, that, to me, was about as precious a blessing as there could be, hearing my daughter express that she was blessed to be raised by her mother and me. Brought tears of glee to my eyes. And speaking of blessings what a boon to our lives that beautiful young woman has been from the moment she and her twin sister arrived.

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Thumbnail image for A New Day                          (Opening David Alvarez’s Office on Imperial Avenue)

A New Day (Opening David Alvarez’s Office on Imperial Avenue)

by Ernie McCray 12.31.2013 Books & Poetry

By Ernie McCray

For the opening of David’s Imperial Avenue office
I was asked to read a piece I wrote about our mayor to be,
something to which I took heed and agreed
because right away it seemed like something cool to do to me.
But then it occurred to me
that there ain’t a whole lot of
in reading an essay, ese.

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Thumbnail image for The Thought of David Alvarez as Mayor…

The Thought of David Alvarez as Mayor…

by Ernie McCray 12.23.2013 Faulconer vs Alvarez

By Ernie McCray

It was like walking in on a “Who’s Got the Sunniest Smile” Contest as the room in this “David Alvarez for Mayor” gathering, was full of them. I joined right in with my ages old grin.

My smile shone brightly because David is an answer to a dream of what a San Diego mayor should be like that I first conceived when I moved to town in late August of ’62. I was barely a few months over 24 years old, ready to change the world for the betterment of all humankind. For most of the years since then, my dream of a mayor like David has seemed just like that: a dream.

I mean when I showed up on the local scene I thought I had escaped the small-minded non-progressive kind of thinking I had been subjected to growing up in Tucson. That notion changed when I turned my TV on and saw two men, Frank Curran who would later become mayor and Allen Hitch who wanted so much to be the mayor.

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Folks with Interesting Faces

by Ernie McCray 12.18.2013 Columns

By Ernie McCray

A little while back I spent some time with friends of mine in Tucson who, like me, went to Dunbar, the “colored” school.

My girlfriend, Maria, said to me, as we were re-living the trip, “You all have such interesting faces.” And it’s true. We do. For us it would be hard not to. We’ve had the kinds of lives that go into making interesting faces.

For one thing we had to swim on top of each other when we sought relief from the frying heat of summer in the “colored” pool, a water hole no bigger than some I’ve seen in backyards in middle class neighborhoods. On the deck a sign said “No Running” and that wasn’t just a mere suggestion as it was hard to slowly tip toe on that ice-like surface without your feet spinning rapidly beneath you like the roadrunner’s. A cracked head will make your face look extremely interesting, let me tell you.

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In Honor of Tawny and Nyla

by Ernie McCray 12.14.2013 Culture

By Ernie McCray

(These words were written in honor of my daughters being newly weds now. Tawny jumped the broom with Terry, her man, on August 27th and Nyla tied the knot with Phill on December 13th, the 35th anniversary of when her mom and I got married.)

We couldn’t wait for Tawny and Nyla to arrive and when they did we, Nancy and I, began singing them a little playful song I conceived in a moment:

“Tawny Maya, you my girl, say now, you my girl, say now, you my girl.
Nyla Summer, you my girl, say now, you my girl, say now, you my girl.
Tawny and Nyla, prettiest in the world, say now, prettiest in the world,
say now, prettiest in the world…”

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South Africa’s Role in My Evolution as an Educator

by Ernie McCray 12.10.2013 Columns

By Ernie McCray

As I reflect on Mandela’s passing I’m reminded of how the struggle of his people has played an important role in my development as an educator, starting back in ’57 or ’58 before I had taken my first “How to Teach” course at the University of Arizona.

At the time I was writing a research paper and found some essays on South Africa and the word “apartheid” leapt off the pages at me and I discovered that my struggle in Southern Arizona was so similar to what blacks were going through in the southern tip of the Dark Continent.

Of course, apartheid was more brutal. I didn’t have enough time to dwell on the subject so I just tucked my new found information away and got back to a life of pop quizzes and mid-terms and the like.

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Thumbnail image for Nelson Mandela, Rock Star? (Thoughts of His Passing)

Nelson Mandela, Rock Star? (Thoughts of His Passing)

by Ernie McCray 12.07.2013 Activism

By Ernie McCray

First thing that came to my mind when I heard that my hero of heroes, Nelson Mandela, had passed away was “Man, what a Rock Star he was!” Now I know it seems profane to diminish a great man’s name like he was a Beatle or Rolling Stone or some facsimile thereof but let me explain.

When I got the news I had just spent a very pleasant morning and early afternoon with fellow University of Arizona alumni listening to one of us, a bright inspirational warm and beautiful woman, a motivational speaker, share from her successes as a business person, what leadership should be all about. Kristi Staab is her name. And she has a lot to say. To summarize, she advocates leading like a Rock Star, “inside out,” with passion and with solid ethics and personal values. That sure epitomizes Mandela.

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Thumbnail image for We Had No Choice Other Than Be the Best                                    (A Rhyme for the Dunbar Reunion)

We Had No Choice Other Than Be the Best (A Rhyme for the Dunbar Reunion)

by Ernie McCray 12.04.2013 Books & Poetry

By Ernie McCray

Tucson is a place where
several times a day
you hear somebody say:
“Damn, it’s hot!”
That’s a tradition that will never stop.
Because it is, indeed, hot,
very hot,
so hot that no matter
whether a person is religious or not,
when that sun drops
down behind the Tucson Mountains on, say,
a July day,
Christians are born right away
because everybody has to say:
“Thank you, Jesus!”
But the sun will be back the very next day
Don’t even try to pray it away….

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Thumbnail image for How the Kennedy Tragedy Made Me a Better Teacher

How the Kennedy Tragedy Made Me a Better Teacher

by Ernie McCray 11.22.2013 Education

By Ernie McCray

On November 22, 1963, I was a twenty-five year old sixth grade teacher enjoying my second year serving students at Perry Elementary. Before recess that day we had gotten the news that the president was shot. The radio in our classroom verified what we had heard with the words “President John Fitzgerald Kennedy is dead.”

We were absolutely stunned. But, as a result of this man losing his life, I was a transformed educator when the day was done, so much more attuned to what was required of me if I wanted to nurture young minds in truly helpful ways. Now, when I woke up that morning my teaching was pretty good. I had respect and all that. My lessons were planned adequately enough.

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Thumbnail image for What You Don’t Know About Me  (As If You Cared)

What You Don’t Know About Me (As If You Cared)

by Ernie McCray 11.20.2013 Columns

By Ernie McCray

I like facebook. For me it’s been a nice way to get snippets, sometimes daily, of what’s going on in the lives of both new and old friends: students of mine from over time, some of my children and grandchildren, ex-colleagues, fellow actors and writers and activists – interesting people all.

Occasionally one of them will suggest a game for me to play and I usually don’t take part in such online activities because it’s too easy to spend too much time on social media without the temptation of getting involved in diversionary attractions of any kind.

But lately a number of my friends have been revealing a number of random things about themselves that no one knows or bits of information only a few people are in on and if you profess a “like” for or make a comment on what they have exposed they assign you a number and you’re to make a list of unknown facts about yourself equal to that number. I was given the number 8 by one of my favorite students of all times, Shannon, who disclosed that her name is really Shanna in keeping with the idea of the game.

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