Thoughts From the Soul of the Tucson Kid

Follow Ernie McCray as he writes about his life as an educator, a father, a husband and a civil rights activist. We are blessed to have him here and find inspiration in him and his words.

Thumbnail image for Feeling Grateful and Giving Thanks

Feeling Grateful and Giving Thanks

by Ernie McCray 11.26.2014 Activism

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 the full article → 0 comments
Thumbnail image for Tears for Justice, Peace and Compassion

Tears for Justice, Peace and Compassion

by Ernie McCray 11.18.2014 Courts, Justice

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 the full article → 1 comment
Thumbnail image for #Dear Congress

#Dear Congress

by Ernie McCray 11.04.2014 Columns

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 the full article → 8 comments
Thumbnail image for They Had Nothing to Say to Each Other (Crossing Borders)

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

by Ernie McCray 10.30.2014 Culture

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 the full article → 2 comments
Thumbnail image for Learning About Beauty from the Ground and Over the Mountaintops

Learning About Beauty from the Ground and Over the Mountaintops

by Ernie McCray 10.23.2014 Books & Poetry

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 the full article → 10 comments
Thumbnail image for Reflections of Love

Reflections of Love

by Ernie McCray 10.16.2014 Books & Poetry

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 the full article → 2 comments
Thumbnail image for I’m Not the Least Bit Grateful for Being Smacked on My Behind

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

by Ernie McCray 09.27.2014 Culture

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 the full article → 7 comments
Thumbnail image for A Little Plea for Ending Violence Against Women

A Little Plea for Ending Violence Against Women

by Ernie McCray 09.17.2014 Activism

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 the full article → 4 comments
Thumbnail image for A Community Preparing for the Future by Addressing the ‘Facts’ of the Matter

A Community Preparing for the Future by Addressing the ‘Facts’ of the Matter

by Ernie McCray 08.30.2014 Activism

By Ernie McCray

Recently, a man said I should wait for the “facts” because of feelings I shared when I was (and I still am) grieving the “fact” that Michael Brown had been shot unarmed in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.

Oh, it seems like the only time Americans talk about justice and fairness and deal with terms like “facts” is when black folks are involved. I mean like students of color at one time were denied college admissions as a way of American life. Affirmative Action Programs were created to address this problem and immediately they were attacked because they were deemed as “unfair” to white students.

Now “facts” have become a code word for keeping black people in our place when it comes to issues of justice. A black boy lies dead in his own blood and the “let’s wait for the facts” crowd, the KKK among them, have raised over $400,000 through GoFundMe for Darren Wilson, a cop, for whom there are very few “facts” other than the “fact” that he was the one who took a young brother’s life.

And speaking of “facts,” comments on the GoFundMe website are in “fact,” chilling to the bone, downright scary.

Read the full article → 7 comments
Thumbnail image for Can We Just Create a Civil Society Where Black Boys Can Feel Free to Just Be?

Can We Just Create a Civil Society Where Black Boys Can Feel Free to Just Be?

by Ernie McCray 08.20.2014 Culture

by Ernie McCray / The OB Rag

Michael Brown. Another black boy dead, unvalued and unloved by this society, unseen for what he is, a human being, dehumanized before he’s memorialized because we love to show a victim at his worse. They just had to show him strong arming a man for a pack of cigarillos.

So now we get away from his being shot (six times I just read) by someone paid by the citizenry to “serve and protect” and we start thinking, because of his criminal shenanigans, that maybe, just maybe, he isn’t deserving of continuing to live on earth with the rest of us.

Well, I’ve known many kids, a grandson of mine being one of them, who thought, at one time, they were slick and went off and committed some stupid crime and then went on to become outstanding human beings. Why? Because nobody killed them. …

Read the full article → 11 comments
Thumbnail image for Helping Young People Who See the World through Frosted Windows

Helping Young People Who See the World through Frosted Windows

by Ernie McCray 08.07.2014 Activism

By Ernie McCray

I just finished watching a Turner Classic Movie, “Scandal at Scourie,” that featured two of my favorite all-time movie actors, Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson, playing a couple who adopted a foster child. In one scene a bully, a boy, says to the adopted child, a girl, “You have no mother and you have no father. You’re nothing but a…” The last words are lost in a flurry of commotion.

As I watched I thought how timely the movie was for me since my plan for the day was to write about a program my son and others are creating to help empower low-income young adults and former foster youth, ages 18-24, to become more self sufficient. As it is, they spend their young lives pretty much seeing the world as though they’re observing it through a frosted window. All is blurry. Focusing on anything that might be of value to them in the future is often nearly impossible.

Read the full article → 12 comments
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.”

Read the full article → 15 comments
Thumbnail image for Creating a Better World with Children in Mind

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.”

Read the full article → 2 comments
Thumbnail image for Feeling Hawaii

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…

Read the full article → 4 comments
Thumbnail image for Jackson and Me (and Lolli, too), Part II

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.

Read the full article → 1 comment
Thumbnail image for Jackson and Me (and Lolli, too), Part I

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.

Read the full article → 3 comments
Thumbnail image for Reflecting on When I Dreamed of Fatherhood as a Child

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.

Read the full article → 2 comments
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?

Read the full article → 17 comments
Thumbnail image for Thinking of Muir in the Midst of the Madness

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.

Read the full article → 17 comments
Thumbnail image for My Sister’s Voice

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.

Read the full article → 1 comment
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.

Read the full article → 5 comments
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).

Read the full article → 14 comments
Thumbnail image for My Mellow Birthday

My Mellow Birthday

by Source 04.28.2014 Columns

By Ernie McCray

I like my birthdays mellow and this year’s was just that, a little time with my querida and some of my family at her house and before they arrived I stretched out in my easy chair and listened to Lila Downs sing corridos in ways only she can. Oh, that voice of hers was born in some special place.

Lila warmed my insides and made me want to dance, so I got my 76 year old body up and put some Maceo on. The Maceo James Brown used to call out to when he yelled to the beat, “Macio! Hit me! Take me to the bridge!” when he wanted to take the jam to a different groove, making everybody want to move.

And Maceo had me getting down like I was the hippest coolest stepper in town. My mood, at this point, was easy and sweet, and that directed how I moved my feet, as I enjoyed my special day.

Read the full article → 9 comments
Thumbnail image for Still Thinking 76

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.”

Read the full article → 5 comments
Thumbnail image for Entering a New Age

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.”

Read the full article → 27 comments