(This essay originally appeared in “Imagining: A Gibney Journal, #5”, published by the Gibney Company Community Center on May 5, 2021.)
I got the key to the highway,
Billed out and bound to go
I’m gonna leave here running
Because walking is most too slow…”
— Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee
In 2015, my brother-in-law married a woman from Cartagena, Colombia. During the wedding ceremony, the guests stood in a large circle while the bride’s sister performed a dance in a flowing white dress, her hair worn in an Afro with a wreath of wildflowers.
I see her, even now…
“Friends depart, and memory takes them to her caverns, pure and deep.”
— Thomas Haynes Bayly
The last time I visited my father, I said goodbye to him at the airport in the town where he lived. We hugged, he said I love you, and I walked toward the departure gates with my sister to go back to New York.
Halfway up the ramp in the small Southern airport, small by New York standards anyway, I turned back to look at him because I had a moment when I thought: What if this is the last time I see him…
Look down, look down that lonesome road,
Before you travel on.
–That Lonesome Road, Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973)
This is America.
— Childish Gambino
I suppose it was inevitable that one day it would come to this, that racism would meet itself traveling down that lonesome road.
Witnessing it has been both ugly and delicious, new — yet hauntingly familiar. Lindsey Graham gets off a plane and walks through an airport in Virginia after recently acknowledging on the Senate floor that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States. He is greeted by a mob of enraged…
“Wade in the water, wade in the water, Children. God’s gonna trouble the water.” — Traditional
“My soul looks back and wonders, how I got over.” — Mahalia Jackson
Months ago, I turned on the TV and saw a white mom at a protest in Portland dragged across the pavement and abused by the cops who surrounded her, her white flesh handled with no more care than Black flesh is usually afforded in this country. For a moment, my mind flinched from a lifetime of conditioning. I thought, “You can’t do that to a middle-class white woman!” But under a…
1.Several years ago, after a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, I took a walk in Central Park with a woman I’d met only a few weeks before. We were mourning a mutual friend who had recently died of alcoholism.
She and Alan had been friends since childhood; I’d only known him for a year. We both knew that he’d tried several times to stop drinking and despite being very distinguished in his career had somehow “failed” at sobriety.
We were also aware of a section in the AA literature that states in plain terms: Some people are simply unable to get…
By Max S. Gordon
(This essay was originally published on September 10, 2004 as
“An Open Letter to Paul Wellstone”. It was written in response to the arrests made during the Republican National Convention in New York City)
Senator Wellstone: I will not go on about the curious timing of your death. People are very impatient with conspiracy theories these days, even when past theories have revealed conspiracies. Still, I read with weary cynicism that you spoke to a meeting of war veterans in Willmar, Minnesota in October 2002 and told them that Dick Cheney said to you, “If…
Messin’ round with the best of them
Digressing with the rest of them,
He’s a stranger.
But his mama still knows his name.
“Sylvester”, Sly & The Family Stone
The day after it was announced that the president of the United States had been impeached, I awoke to an image of Kim Kardashian West dressed in blackface.
Already a backlash had started against her on social media. Some people were mad, while others defended her. It’s hard to create a real backlash against The Kardashian Wests, of course, because even when you are angry at them, or critical — or…
This essay contains spoilers from James Baldwin’s 1962 novel, Another Country.
1. For months I’ve hesitated to write about Pete Buttigieg because I wasn’t sure how to articulate exactly what I felt. My ambivalence toward him is based on my own racial and sexual identities. I asked myself at one point: Could I, as a gay man, admire Buttigieg and, at the same time, as a black man, feel exasperated and angered by his choices? …
by Max S. Gordon
(The piece premiered at the First Person Plural Reading Series: What Just Happened? Writers Respond to Our American Crises — 2019 Edition, Harlem, New York, November 10, 2019.)
Before you can decide where you are going, you have to know where you are. Here’s where we are:
White supremacists recently desecrated the grave of Emmett Till. You may remember Emmett Till was a black child from Chicago, a 14-year-old boy, who was visiting relatives in Mississippi in 1955 when he was accused of disrespecting a white…
(This piece was derived from interview questions prior to the event “What Just Happened? Writers Respond to Our American Crises — 2019 Edition”, First Person Plural Reading Series, Harlem, New York, November 10, 2019)
Several years ago, I found myself in a car with a drunk driver.
I should be careful with my language - “found myself” isn’t the right phrase; I made the decision to get into that car. There were three of us passengers, two in the back and one up front. I was in the back. …