Poetry at a Budget Meeting


By Ernie McCray

I had the honor of spending a day with a room full of progressive School Board Members from around San Diego County.

I wasn’t so sure, at first, as the subject was: Budgets. Whenever I got my budget sheets at my schools, it might as well have been expressed in hieroglyphics – I just can’t relate to language like “Total Available Funds minus Total Outgo.” Gives me vertigo.

I was there, though, to kick things off. And in doing that I shared three poems and one went like this:

Our schools now,
at this stage
of a rapidly aging New Century,
are about to introduce
our kids
to the realm of Ethnic Studies…   [Read more…]

Chipping Away at “The Black Problem”

Angela Y

By Ernie McCray

The madness in Charleston, to me, is so much deja vu because blacks being shot or bombed where they worship and pray is not something that’s new here in the USA.

In no way. These atrocities started, practically, when they shoved us off the ships to pick cotton, way, way back in the day.

And where’s a good place to find a lot of us to slay? Church. Makes sense to a hateful evil-minded KKK kind of person who all of a sudden, out of his madness, just can’t stand to see a Negro alive.   [Read more…]

Sweet Memories of Perry Elementary

Perry Elementary

By Ernie McCray

There’s a school that means the world to me: Oliver Hazard Perry Elementary. It’s the first school to which I was assigned after earning a teaching degree.

It was a place of colorful personalities: a teacher who sang opera beautifully and wore a hairpiece that could be identified as a wig immediately; a school nurse with a drawl as southern as any character’s on Hee Haw; a lovely and entertaining secretary who made the school office as funny and lively as The Carol Burnett Show…

It was a place of uncommon camaraderie where we: put potlucks together practically every other week; dined together monthly at fine places to eat; played volleyball after school; partied wildly at the drop of a hat, with lampshades on the head and stuff like that…   [Read more…]

The Planet Earth Is In Your Care (A Letter to the University of Arizona’s Class of 2015)

Earth in Your Care

Dear University of Arizona Class of 2015:

The Alumni Association of our beloved U of A asked past graduates to share words of wisdom with you.

My first thought is to give forth with some lofty advice like “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Now that’s definitely something for you to consider but, due to the troubles in the world facing your generation, you’ve got some serious work to do.   [Read more…]

Being Grateful and Happy and All

By Ernie McCray

Maria recently asked her family and me (a relatively new member of the clan) to look over some questions and maybe talk about them later over a meal.

I took a peek and, regarding the first question, I’m grateful for having reached 77 years of age which, to me, signifies, that I am of the old and the wise, fit, still with it, busting moves everyday. These are “The Good Old Days!”

I’m so grateful to have friends and family to love and to know that they love me back. I’m grateful for my mother and grandfather who, long time ago, got me on the right track.   [Read more…]

“100 Things” on My Mind

By Ernie McCray

I just finished a very pleasant read, “100 Things Arizona Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die,” a book written by two of the best sports writers around, Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino.

They write a lot about Arizona Basketball History and having played a role in that history, and having been around it all my life, the book couldn’t help but resonate with me in special ways.

In a chapter about University of Arizona traditions I found the words to a fight song that’s flowed through my veins and bones ever since I first heard it as a 14 year old, back in 1952:

Bear Down, Arizona
Bear Down, Red and Blue
Bear Down, Arizona
Hit ’em hard, let ’em know who’s who
Bear Down, Arizona
Bear Down, Red and Blue
Go, go Wildcats, go
Arizona Bear Down

  [Read more…]

Conversations at the Catfish Club: The Answer is Love

By Ernie McCray

I sat at a Catfish Club luncheon the other day listening to Leon Williams and Reverend George Walker Smith converse about days of yore and their thoughts about today’s world.

Leon was the first black to hold a seat with the San Diego City Council and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.

He spoke of the moments in time when he was into making our city and county governments more inclusive and more service oriented and more respectful of citizens. He touched on the area’s redevelopment movement when neglected communities started getting the attention they deserved and needed and had gone without forever.   [Read more…]

Ending Racial Profiling (Or Not) at a RISE Urban Breakfast Club Forum

By Ernie McCray

A couple of weeks or so ago I dined with a number of friendly folks at a RISE Urban Breakfast Club forum that asked, concerning Community-Police Relations, “Can we build a safer San Diego together?”

The answer seemed to be “Yeah, we can,” as panelists, in a room where smiles drifted in the air like tissues in a breeze, talked of everyone chipping in to find good cops and of how we all need to shed our various biases, as “Trust is fragile.” And it was good to know that the wearing of “body worn cameras” is going kind of nice.

I drove home convinced that there are some people truly dedicated to making relations better between the police and people they’ve harassed for centuries.

But the Tyrannosaurus Rex sitting smack dab in the middle of the discussion, “racial profiling,” was glossed over as though it was just a slight hiccup in the way of sound relationships between “Mr. Do Right” and angry black folks, rather than it being “The Problem!!!!!!!!!!”   [Read more…]

Helping Young People Discover the ‘Truths’ In Life

By Ernie McCray

I love my life, especially my moments with kids. Recently I had the pleasure, along with a teenage Latina friend of mine, of talking to an assembly of young people, most of them Latino, in Chula Vista, about something they’re confronted with regularly: whether to join or not join the military.

We were doing so because we hate to see our children being sucked into the war machine by Uncle Sam who loves to play with their innocence.   [Read more…]

Joining Spirit with the Billions of Us Human Beings

By Ernie McCray

I was driving and turned my radio to 89.5, KPBS, and there was a conversation going on about “7 Billion Others,” an exhibit that’s opening in the U.S. for the first time – at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA): February 21 to September 13.

I liked what I was hearing and googled around and found, on the MOPA website, 45 questions written for visitors to the exhibit to answer so that they can find in themselves that spark that resides in us all and connects us to the journey of human beings featured in the video project.

My answer to the first question was: Ernest Charles McCray; age 76; retired school principal; widower; American as in United States of America.

Here are my replies to the other questions, based on what first came to my mind:   [Read more…]

A Path Chosen in Black History

By Ernie McCray

When I look back at my own little chapter of Black History, I feel grateful that I found a path that enabled me to survive a society that sought to deny me a life of dignity. I unknowingly set out on this path on my first day of school, when my knuckles were seemingly knocked to kingdom come because I had dozed off, as if I had a choice in a room sizzling at 100 and some degrees with a fan (itself struggling to stay awake) blowing across a pail of water as though that could lower the temperature in that room to any degree. I swear I heard that fan wheeze. Talking Tucson, Arizona, August or September of 1943.

I remember thinking, back then, as I looked at my hands, surprised to see my knuckles still there, “What the hell kind of welcome was that?” And I knew, as much as a five-year old can know such things, that someday I would be a teacher.   [Read more…]

Honoring Martin’s Dream Beyond MLK Day

By Ernie McCray

Martin Luther King. A loving man with the loveliest of dreams. After seeing “Selma,” which told the story of that chapter in the Civil Rights Movement powerfully well, I just had to write something about this dear man.

I didn’t know what I wanted to say until I happened upon a caricature that captured the very essence of how I often see him in my mind’s eye, as I think of him every now and then. How can I not in this world we live in?

The pose he struck in the portrait made me wonder what was going on in his head and based on what my friend, *Rabbi Ben Kamin, recently had to say about him in an examiner.com essay, he could have been thinking about a range of things.   [Read more…]

A Holiday Season with Tamales and Smiles

By Ernie McCray

This holiday season has been like a dream, one nice moment after another, filled with tamales and smiles.

On the day before Christmas Eve I steered my Murano to Casa Contenta Norte, the name my sidekick, Maria, and I call her house (mine is Casa Contenta Central and her house in Zihuatanejo is Casa Contenta Sur) – and suddenly I was in the midst of extended families and friends making just about every kind of tamal that can be made, by the thousands it seemed – while in the background an iPad played Christmas songs displayed dramatically in R&B style: “I-I-I am dreamin’ of a white, doop doop doop doop doop, Christmas”… the Temptations bumping “Little Drummer Boy” with a Motown sound, making you want to get down… all smiles, no frowns…   [Read more…]

Let’s say “No More” Violence Against Women

By Ernie McCray

It’s sad that there’s such a notion as “violence against women,” but it’s heartening that, seemingly, we, as a society, are now looking into such an unsavory practice as though we want to do something about it.

A catalyst for a big part of our interest in the subject has been the National Football League (who would have ever dreamed that?) with their “No” to violence against women television PSA’s, featuring present day and ex-pro football players, motivated by that horrible tape we saw of star running back, Ray Rice, punching his wife out in an elevator, one of the nastiest sights anyone could ever see.   [Read more…]

Maria and Me, Living a Life of Love In Our Seventies

By Ernie McCray

I recently wrote about a few wonderful things in my life for which I’m grateful, and I’m still in a thankful frame of mind, thinking, particularly, of Maria Ester Nieto Senour, that super-fine sweetheart of mine. I’m so thankful for having someone to age with me as my everyday valentine.

I don’t know where in the arc, of the amazing occurrences in the cosmos, Maria and I began heading in each other’s direction. But I’m glad it happened.

I do know, though, that there was a time, beginning in July of 2009, that I was as low as a man could be. The love of my life was gone and I was singing the “Woe is me” blues. For a while, when I walked, pretty much all I saw was my shoes.   [Read more…]

White Power: The Missing Link to “Liberty and Justice for All”

By Ernie McCray

Now that the Ferguson Grand Jury has, after being shamelessly and overtly manipulated by the prosecutor’s office, freed Darren Wilson from having to go to court for taking Michael Brown’s life, we black folks find ourselves, in our grief, holding the obligatory “race card” in spades, if you will.

We have no other card to play since we know, from what we’ve seen, over time, that a white boy would not likely lose his life in a scenario featuring cigarillos. Anybody who thinks otherwise must not have been listening to the part in the fiasco where it was said that this cop saw our young brother as a “demon” and saw his neighborhood as “hostile,” neither of which is a crime. But Michael is dead. What a downright shameful reality.   [Read more…]

Feeling Grateful and Giving Thanks

By Ernie McCray

Last Saturday was a very pretty day and to celebrate the beauty of it all I took off on a walk at a nice steady pace. As I moved along I gave thanks to the very universe for my being able to take in such a sparkling day up and about on my old size 14 feet.

I thought of so many things I’m grateful for: a great childhood, athletic glory, a marriage that thrilled my soul until my soul-mate passed away and then another fine woman came my way; children, grand children, great-grand-children, leading positive lives; college degrees; having traveled to exotic places overseas.

After a while, with each step I took, I reflected on all the impressive people I’ve broken bread with on this journey, people who’ve made me grateful to have simply been around them while they breathed air …   [Read more…]

Tears for Justice, Peace and Compassion

By Ernie McCray

I found myself, a day or so ago, kind of tearing up, thinking about a passage I had read in “Just Mercy,” a story of justice and redemption, or better yet, the lack thereof.

Bryan Stephenson, the author of this incredibly revealing narrative about the inequities in our justice system, says, concerning a man who was less than a day away from being executed unbelievably wrongfully, “Why do we want to kill all the broken people? What is wrong with us, that we think a thing like that?”

I’d say that we can entertain such thinking because we have no real values of any substance to guide us as a society.   [Read more…]

#Dear Congress

By Ernie McCray

Al Jazeera America inquired “If you could ask Congress to take on one thing – one policy, one issue, one bill, one idea, one principle – what would it be and why?”

They then recommend that contributors start their “one thing” request with: “#Dear Congress…” and submit a picture of themselves holding the message.

So I sent:

“#Dear Congress, I want you to simply, in a spirit of human decency, act as the hope inspiring heart and soul of our democracy.”

  [Read more…]

They Had Nothing to Say to Each Other (Crossing Borders)

By Ernie McCray

I was sitting around, cooling it, when I thought I should write. With no topics in mind I went to creative writing prompts dot com and, without looking, I randomly moved the browsing arrow to a number on the web page and clicked.

I kind of flinched, too, because when I do this I feel compelled to honor the prompt no matter what because one could easily not want to do what’s asked and look for something they like and, as it turned out, I wasn’t particularly interested with my assignment which was “Write a mini-story (100 to 250 words) that begins with ‘They had nothing to say to each other.'”

I was hoping for something more, more, well, I don’t know what I was hoping for but this assignment wasn’t it.   [Read more…]

Learning About Beauty from the Ground and Over the Mountaintops

By Ernie McCray

With all the talk about
race, of late,
I recall lessons learned
a long time ago
that enabled me to alter
my emotional state
when it comes to matters of race.
Growing up
I would occasionally, with tears in my eyes,
ask my mother who was loving and wise,
why some white people were so mean.
What had I done to them,
I wanted so much to have explained, …   [Read more…]

Reflections of Love

By Ernie McCray

I was asked to write something that rhymes for Steve, a friend of mine, who was celebrating entering his 70’s and these words came to me:

In a spirit of love,
with feather weight ease,
I say to my dear friend, Steve,
who has just turned 70,
that he
has reached an age
where you can truly
do or say pretty
much anything
you damn well please.
Cuz the world doesn’t
give a hoot
about an old-assed coot.   [Read more…]

I’m Not the Least Bit Grateful for Being Smacked on My Behind

By Ernie McCray

It seems the NFL, of all institutions, is drawing our attention to social situations in our society that we’ve generally overlooked for far too long: domestic violence and corporal punishment when it comes to disciplining our children.

Regarding the latter of these matters, I’ve been in several conversations lately where someone expressed how “grateful” they were for their parents taking the belt to their behind. It did them no harm, they say, and it made them the person they are today – and I’m thinking the human being they have become is someone who sees nothing wrong with hitting a five year old because of who knows what, talking back, lying, stealing from the piggy bank, hitting their little sister, getting in trouble at school…?

Well, I was hit about three times when I was a kid and what I remember most about it is how utterly fearful I was and how pissed I was at my mother. If I could have, I would have strangled her and I’m not the least bit “grateful” for entertaining such violent thoughts or the ass whuppings.   [Read more…]

A Little Plea for Ending Violence Against Women

By Ernie McCray

I can’t seem to free my mind of images of Janay Palmer Rice being so utterly beaten down and humiliated in a hotel casino elevator. My heart reaches way out to her.

There are those who hold the view that “She should leave” like that’s as easy as it seems. “She’s just with him for the money,” others say, as though there isn’t a poor woman out there somewhere, in this very moment probably, getting stomped unmercifully by some ruthless man who doesn’t, as they used to say, have a pot to pee in. And the woman will stay in the relationship.

Look, I don’t know Janay’s story but the pain I see ingrained on her beautiful brown face seems to be of an intense emotional variety, that kind of pain that takes over a person’s life when they live under the dominance of another human being, feeling there is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Because the vicious brutes among us will track you down. It’s downright dangerous to run.

Now, there are women who are victims of violence who wake up and say “Enough of this” and find a way to end the abuse, but way too many don’t. I’ve read that it takes an average of seven attacks before a woman leaves her abuser.

The only thing approaching a positive, in this horrible incident involving Janay, is that we, as a society, got to see a video of it. With the imagery still fresh in our minds maybe we will be compelled to find ways to make women safer in our world.   [Read more…]