I like black people. Apparently, as a nation so do we. Our finest athletes that we worship are predominantly black. Apparently, we like to have sex and procreate with people of color. We just passed the over 50% mark in our census that indicates more mixed babies, or those of born of color, were born than white babies. (Which is kind of interesting because mixed babies could be counted amongst the white babies because they are half white, but interesting that mixed babies are counted in with those of color…kind of like in the musical “Showboat”. One drop of black blood…and you are black.) We have a black president, and several of our finest musicians, physicists, mathematicians, poets, writers, and intellectuals are black.

We are a nation of color…and we like it. That scares the hell out of some.

It hasn’t been lost on me, or any of the residents of these sleepy little towns here in Louisiana, that blacks were formerly slaves. As I walked by this old plantation house, a grandma, momma, baby, and I talked about the nice architecture. We also talked about the fact that little house in the bottom right corner was where the slaves lived. They were black.

It is June here in Louisiana…it is hot. But, I realize that all the kind and wonderful people I’ve met, many of which might be counted in the kindest people I’ve met were descendants of slaves. Most of them are still poor, most still work hard everyday. Maurice, whom I met yesterday, is 85 years old and proudly told me he has never taken a dime of social help money in his life. His shirt wasn’t new, he had working man’s clothes on. Not that they were “designed” to be for faux workingmen like Carhartt’s. No, but they showed the signs of work being done. Just like the dusk mask that was perched atop his head.

Fannie was living far away in Dallas, when her momma got sick. She moved back to the sleepy little town of Gibsland, LA to take care of her. For three years till her mother’s passing, she cooked and cleaned and cared for her mother, then she passed. When I asked her why, she said, “Why not it is what I would want.” Fannie stayed here…28 more years. I asked her why she stayed? She said she liked it here. That is enough for me.

Barry is her fiance. They work together too at the town grocery store. The small grocery store is very similar to the barbershop in the rural south so I’ve discovered. It is where people congregate, gossip, say hi to friends, and in general love on each other. Barry upon seeing the drawing I did of him said, “Damn, that’s me!” Then, he fist pumped me…man hug. It was cool that I got to draw them both, they could give the drawing of themselves to the other. A love offering in a way. Drawing someone allows you to see a bit of their character, as such the finished piece isn’t so much an art work…but a distillation of their humanity and personality caught on paper with chalk.

Later that day, Barry drove me the last 4 miles into town. He didn’t have to, but he drove out to find me, to see that I needed anything money, food, or water. Why did he try? He could, so he did what he could.

I was stopped by a reporter yesterday, and asked to be filmed for the news. The aired version of our conversation stressed not peace so much, but that I’ve have experienced the greatest numbers of kindnesses to me personally here in the south. Which IS peace. That southern hospitality is really quite true. People are nicer down south. Imagine if we all adopted their ethic. And yet, people down here have been through so much.

Slavery was a fight over peoples wills. Abolition was a fight over peoples captivity. The civil rights movement was a fight over peoples rights as human beings. The occupy movement is a fight for economic justice. Health care is a fight for the basic human right to be given the best care possible regardless of your economic abilities. We now face the most fundamental of all questions: Should I care for those who have done me wrong? Should churches leave their doors unlocked? Should I help everyone I see in need?

Be Kind.

As I walk the roads of the south in summer, I am reminded that formerly, we put these lovely black people out into the fields from sun up till down working in this heat. I doubt many people have walked across the south like  I am in the heat of the summer since perhaps Harriet Tubman. As I receive kindness from people along my trip, and I am able to give kindness back, I am all too aware that I am only able to do this because of the underground railroad. All the little stores, post offices, McDonald’s, and other joints that have let me cool off in the heat of the day, given me some cool water to drink, or sent me off with a banana in my pocket.

They may not have much, but what they do, they give freely. They do this despite never receiving their 40 acres and a mule. They do this despite the country incarcerating 4 men of color for every white one. They do this despite President Bush pardoning record, “Blacks have had the poorest chance of receiving the president’s ultimate act of mercy, White criminals seeking presidential pardons over the past decade have been nearly four times as likely to succeed as minorities,” and that is for equal and often lesser crimes!!! Information can be found here: Propublica

And yet, they have chosen to be the love anyway. Who am I to do different?

My friend Scaughdt reminded me again today that all religions say the same thing. Love your enemies. Be kind. Thankfully the wonderful black, white, hispanic, and every other race has shown me exactly how. Do it, through love. You can be the person that helped Harriet Tubman. You can do it in your neighborhood…find someone in need and help them.

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