Still taking some time away from blogging for a while…So, you are welcome to read my older blogs until I return later (trust, there is some good stuff in my archives at my blog)…I have to get my dissertation finished, and blogging and responding to every little detail is not on the agenda…In the meantime, stay focused, and stay woke, and for God’s sake don’t fall for the easy answers because the news media is full of “easy answers.” Do your research. Think for yourself. Peace and Blessings. I will see you when I see you. — Leslye Joy Allen
I am not going to wax poetic about the recent brutality and violence meted out to Black people at the hands of police officers; or wax poetic about the tragic deaths of some police officers. The people that know me know where I stand. I am in no mood to be eloquent. I will share, however, with you FIVE basic life rules taught to me by my late parents that have always been my hedge of protection.
You always support Black businesses and the businesses in your community that invest in where you live. This is simply common sense.
You never apologize for wanting to work with and for and live among your own people. Only fools fail to take care of home first.
You never support a church or member of the clergy that is more interested in what is on the collection plate than what is happening to the flock he or she serves. This same rule applies to business owners.
You must learn to stand all by yourself some times. It does not matter if you are the only person that shows up on the picket line; or you are the only person who walks out in protest. You do what is right simply because it is right.
If you do not believe in the abilities of yourself and your people, you cannot believe in God. It is sacrilegious to believe yourself inferior and/or incapable while professing some faith in a higher power.
Living by the five rules above is how I honor my mother and my father. Àṣé!
I am the granddaughter of Lorena and George and Minnie and Will.
I am a historian.
I am an intellectual.
I am a dramaturge and patron of theatre and the arts.
I am a Jazz fan.
I am a Johnny Mathis fanatic.
I am eloquent.
I am also a great procrastinator.
I am one who is often impatient.
I am one who does not like braggarts or pretenders.
I am a good and loyal friend.
I am also one who, some times, does not listen.
I am a woman who will drop you like a bad habit if you lack empathy or fidelity.
I am an environmentalist.
I am a lover of animals and nature.
I am a lover of children.
I am a Black Nationalist because it makes sense to take care of your home and your people first.
I am a woman that does not deal easily with shallow people.
I am a woman that prefers simplicity.
I am a woman who is fond of the exotic.
I am a woman who has learned how to say, “No” the hard way.
I am a woman who does not like playing small.
I am a woman who never discounts what other people have to go through to do whatever it is that they need or have to do…which is why I am deeply offended when other people discount what I go through.
I am a woman that dislikes men and women who try to prove their worth with things rather than demonstrate who they are by what they believe in and what they put into practice.
I am a woman who would prefer the company of a poet over that of a stockbroker or the company of a musician over that of an accountant or the company of a college professor over that of a CEO of a Fortune 500 company…
I am writing this tribute now, because I have to mentally recalibrate, take a brief break over the holidays and get back to work on writing my dissertation. Dr. Kuhn would not want anything less than that. Dr. Clifford Matthew Kuhn, Associate Professor of History at Georgia State University and the first Executive Director of the Oral History Association joined the ancestors the second week of November. He was 63-years-old…he was also my Dissertation Advisor…
He was…there is that word: was. You would think that as a historian I would be accustomed to the past tense. Yet, referring to him as anything other than vibrantly and intellectually alive is difficult. Preparing for the Georgia State University Memorial for Dr. Clifford Matthew Kuhn on December 13, 2015 is harder than I ever could imagine. I first met him when he was preparing the centennial of the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot back in early 2006…
Dr. Glenn T. Eskew introduced us because he recalled my telling him that my late maternal grandmother, born in 1886, was a 20-year-old student at then Clark Normal School (later Clark College, now Clark Atlanta University) when the campuses of Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges became the refuge for so many of the Black victims of the Atlanta Race Riot. Dr. Kuhn was delighted to find a graduate student such as myself that had a personal story that I could tell about this particularly painful moment in Atlanta’s history. Dr. Clarissa Myrick Harris, who partnered with Dr. Kuhn, interviewed me while filmmaker Ms. Bailey Barash filmed it for posterity. I was proud and humbled to contribute my grandmother’s story.
Nearly everything I know about Oral History, I learned from Dr. Kuhn: how to get people to talk about their lives; how to make sure they know that they are not obligated to tell their stories; how to make sure that I, the historian and interviewer, did not and will not ever exploit their memories; how to truly listen. I remember everything he taught me.
One of the last things he said to me was that he was so proud of a brief and recent assignment I had in the Georgia State University Library’s Digital Collections where I conducted four interviews for the Planning Atlanta Project. He recommended me for that position and I was glad that I did well and did not let him down…
As I prepare myself, as best I can, to attend Georgia State University’s Memorial Celebration for Dr. Kuhn, I fondly recall a conversation where we discovered that both of us loved Jazz. Not long after that conversation, there were a few times when we were supposed to be doing something academic, but we drifted into a deep discussion about everyone from Duke Ellington to Nina Simone to Wayne Shorter to Ahmad Jamal. Yet, that is natural for us historians. WE have to be aware of everything, so we often look at and listen to everything. Our conversations were often mixtures of him talking lovingly about his wife Kathie Klein and his two sons Josh and Gabe Klein-Kuhn and History and Jazz. I will miss that…
So, below is one for the late, great historian and scholar Dr. Clifford Matthew Kuhn: a video of the great Jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal playing the classic “Poinciana.” When the percussionists in Jamal’s quartet go into full swing around the time 4:53, I found myself ferociously patting my foot to the infectious rhythms and crying at the same time. Àṣé.
This blog is going to be short and to the point. I do not have too many words of wisdom to grant to anyone reading this. You will either recognize what you have to be thankful for or you will not recognize that which should make you thankful. You will either thank the people that have made a difference in your life or you will not thank them. You will understand that it does not matter if your station in life is “I-am-to-the-manner-born” or “I-am-just-the-next-Joe-on-the-street.”
You will either give the talents that you have been born with and/or cultivated to someone or some entity or you will not give those talents. Every time I see a relative or a friend make the mistake of believing that their jockeying for “number one” is going to do them any good I want to scream. I cannot help them. I can only ask God to help them and then be grateful for being an only child.
Only children have never been much good at recognizing other folk’s competitive streaks precisely because we rarely engage in it. We are IT. When we lose our parents, when they are both gone, no one grieves like us. Yet, we gain clarity. We understand that no matter how full your life is and how filled with people your life is, that life is always a solo act. It is up to you.
You love, you work, you laugh, you cry. Yet, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what you did that made a difference, and that made someone’s life better, that made your life better. Do you give thanks for being able to give; and do you give so that you might give thanks? Àṣé.