Yeah, Brother Floyd, Blowing a Tune at Lake Wintergreen
On this Monday sunny warm winter day, Bro Floyd has a homecoming sun dance in his honor in the early morning. Resident from the James Weldon Johnson Project, have gathered his son and daughter and grandchild and people from POP, Imams, Ministers, Priests, and Fellow Members of the Fulton Senior Center and The Bread is Rising Poetry Collective to celebrate a beautiful human being who was a singer, poet, activist who touched a lot of people’s hearts from Harlem, California, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Mexico, Connecticut, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico. Floyd White Jr, better known as Shorty White, Brother Floyd 2X was born in Detroit, Michigan, left with his family to Little Rock, Arkansas, and lived there till he was three years old.
And the family moved to the Village of Harlem and settled in settled in a tenement building at West 124th Street between St. Nicholas Avenue and Morningside Avenue, near Sydenham Hospital. Mr Floyd White Sr was a veteran of World War 2, US Army honorable discharge. He found a job at the Hotel Theresa and with the help of the office of Councilperson Benjamin Davis and Congressperson Adam Clayton Powell Jr, the family was placed on the waiting list for the New York Housing Authority, which was building a new project which would be called the James Weldon Johnson Housing Projects – a poet and an educator.
And when the list opened, the family were the original residents of the East side of the James Weldon Johnson Projects at 2060 Third Avenue on the 7th floor. Since the Johnsons were from 112th Street to 105th Street, from Third Avenue to Park Avenue, and as you cross toward Lexington Avenue on the West Side, when it opened in 1948, it was the pride and joy as the people were celebrating decent housing in El Barrio East Harlem from the filthy broken down overcrowded tenements and brownstones. Since the Johnsons were the fourth project to be built in Harlem, a new community was rising in the 1940s made up of working class people – Puerto Ricans, Afro-Americans, Cubans, Ecuadorians, Jewish, Irish, Italians. It was a dream coming true for all the families. Floyd went to primary school, also names James Weldon Johnson, PS 57, down the block in which he lived. After school, he would attend tap dancing school and he gave his first recital at the age of eight at Town Hall. And duri ng his teenage years, like all the fellows and sisters, in every corner, in every stoop, in every hallway, there was a beautiful echo in the air with a taste of Thunderbird that had them singing “Every Mother’s Child.” And with two schoolmates, they formed The Magnetics, a doo wop group that performed in the hallways, in the streets, in the community centers, and the school auditorium of Benjamin Franklin High School in which they were all students.
They went over and performed at Harlem’s famous Apollo Theatre in which they won three times and won a record contract. The Magnetics went to perform in Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, Philadelphia, Newark, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh. Because they were young teenagers with no knowledge of show business, they were cheated out of their royalties by their manager.
The Magnetics broke up and Floyd graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School. He moved out of his family’s apartment. He took on the new name of Shorty White and settled in the Lower East Side by East 3rd Street amd Avenue B, got a job, and still was performing in rent parties, community centers, coffeehouses, the Five Spot, and Birdland.
Since it was a culture mecca for bebop and freeform and art and poetry and folk music and theater: David Henderson, Rolland Snelling, Ray Duren, Charles Patterson, Clebert Ford, Julian Mayfield, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Howard Cruse, Joe White the painter, and the great jazz masters John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk. Cecil Taylor, Archie Shepp, Pharaoh Sanders, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, Sun Ra Universal Music, Charles Mingus, and Sonny Rollins.
It taught him a collective understanding of music and history and social freedom. After living in the Lower East Side for three years of jazz, a deeper knowledge of jazz as a university of life. This represented that he wanted to be an entertainer and he said to his neighbors that it was time to boogie on. He left his job, bought a ticket on the Greyhound bus, went to the West Coast in which he settled in San Francisco, rented a room in a hotel in the Tenderloin District, and in order to survive, got a job and was still performing in the street at Market and Powell. After a year of living in the Bay Area, he found a fellow artist to hang out with.
This was in the 1960s. The human rights movement of SNCC, CORE, SCLC, struggling for voters’ rights and full citizenship under the mask of American colonialism, left to the mercy of violence and terrorism of the KKK and the White Citizens Council.
In the March on Washington of August 28, 1963, the bombing of the four innocent children who were killed on September 15, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama, the Mississippi Freedom Summer, with the murder of Cheney, Goodman, and Schwerner in Philadelphia, Mississippi on June 21, 1964. The Harlem Rebellion, which blew his mind, to protest against the police murder of a 15-year-old summer school student named James Powell on July 17, 1964. And Brother Minister Malcolm Shabazz’ assassination at the Audobon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, which later, Los Angeles rebelled in the Watts Rebellion of August 11, 1965, against police brutality and murder.
By now he was no longer performing in the street. He was performing now at North Beach Coffee and Confusion as a regular soloist on the weekends. And after 2 ½ years, he met an agent at one of his performances, that led to being booked as an opening act with Junior Walker and the All-Stars in Oakland, California, and the opening act for Bobby Blue Bland in San Francisco. Not until the ‘60s were the seeds of the roots that were formed has always been given up as lost. It cultivated the light that he returned back home: East Harlem, El Barrio, at the Johnson Projects, back in his family’s apartment.
He got a job in the community development program and after a year working, he became a political activist and joined the Black Panther Party, where he worked setting up free breakfast programs in Harlem and in the South Bronx and in Brooklyn and marching and rallying to free Chairman Huey P. Newton and the Panther 21. After the war against the Panther Party by J. Edgar Hoover and his gang of cupcakes, he accepted his own at the Lost-Found Nation of Islam as Brother Floyd 2X.
And after that, he found his first love, Sister Barbara, and he married her and from that union, he had two children, Fanon and Tanya, and found a job with the New York Housing Authority until he got sick.
He sang around the city in Connecticut and New Jersey in benefits for the AIDS victims and homeless and with gang members and organized to stop gun violence and crimes in the community and was a proud member of the People’s Organization for Progress. From his old poem, “I wanna be a baaad poet to bring justice to the people
I wanna be a baaad poet to bring love to the world
I wanna be a baaad poet to bring peace to the mothers and the children
And I wanna be a baaad poet to bring freedom, justice, and equality.
From the echoes of yesterday’s memories of the old stoops and in the corner of Arroyo’s bodega, we shared our tune, “Up on the Roof” as our beat extended our rhythm of our love.
© Carlos Raúl Dufflar 2/23/15
The Bread is Rising Poetry Collective
The Puerto Rican Self
The Puerto Rican self
is a coconut tree
fruit – we as
a people have
yet to crack
them open and
© Ángel L. Martínez 25 april 12
The Bread is Rising Poetry Collective
He catches me when I fall
He lifts me when I fail
He heals me from within
He guides me when Im lost
He comforts me when I cry
He cloaks me close with love
He fills me with his promises
He knows my hopes and dreams
He shelters me under his wings
He accepts me as I am
He is always there to trust
What is faith?
Faith is trust. If you tell someone a secret, you expect them to keep it to themselves. I once had a nice friend. I used to tell her all my problems. She was a lovely lady, but she moved away. I haven't really had anyone since that I want to discuss my problems with. I have my nurse. She is quite nice. I tell her everything and I love her very much. She is so kind to me. I talk to her like a friend and she comes to see me quite often.
I wonder where to place my faith
In what I should believe
Do I blaze my own new trail
Or follow someone else's creed
Do I choose my thought of 'best'
And hope God will comply
Or act as if all life's a test
and try and try and try
This world Is full of answers
That cannot all be true
We stumble on, dishonest dancers
We never fell, we flew!
Freedom from uncertainty
A confidence based on trust
Instinct or instruction may develop
The belief that, when it is most needed,
Help and hope will come.
The Hand of Hope
The hand of hope reached out
across a land scarred
by decades of deadly enmity
its peoples ravaged, body and soul
divided by religion, politics, culture, colour
The war had raged for so long
people had forgotten there was any other way to be
But the hand of hope reached out - its palm
filled with tiny seeds
Long grass grew and swayed in the wind
among poppies, meadowsweet and memories
The hand of hope reached a little further
sowing peace within the heart of humankind
reminding us of love and forgiveness
of sun and rain
of rainbows and possibilities
of extending the hands of hope.
Once I was drenched in parental care.
Baptised in secure, unconditional love.
Later, I had deep emotional communion with a man
But he confessed he had no belief in enduring love.
I have been denied holy matrimony more than thrice.
Stations in my life, I cross... I bear – despair.
Blessed are the meek, but I am disarmed, sad, weak.
Weakened by sins of the flesh- the touch of a man.
But I genuflect, praying, having faith
In ascension to everlasting love.
Dilute, what ever does that mean?
To make it weaker it would seem
To alter one's viewpoint perhaps
Self opinionated relapse
Add water to your special drink and end up with more than you think
Dilute your coffee every night
To make sure that you will sleep tight
All anger should be treated thus
No reason to kick up a fuss 'bout things that you have no control
Even though they gnaw at your soul
Dilution is good for the world
All sentiments may be unfurled
All hate should cease, kept in its place
Diluted by the Human Race
Henry Dallimore POW!
(Thanks to Marie Neumann for sending)
Old fashioned Faith
The best across all rocks
Such sites for discipline
That holds the thread hanging
Grips the waiting
Patience to hang on to
That's the reason.
To stay in place
The best is always yet to come
Faith is a pile driven foundation
Building a castle on a rock
Fired in molten heat
Upon completion satisfying spirit
Arrival into zone red root
Faith in hope in hand in hand
Reassurance in uncertainty
Tool for making instruments.
John Joseph Sheehy