Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Brother Vincent Harding’s poem: to the gallant black men now dead

     Vincent Harding was angered by and meditated on Jimmy L. Williams’ death in Vietnam in 1964 – Williams had served in the Special Forces – and the refusal of the “officials” (Ku Klux Klan) of Wetumpka, Alabama to bury him in the lily-white military cemetery.  See the story “Burial Rebuff Shakes Battlefront Buddies" here  for statements about this by his fellow soldiers.  Vincent wrote this long poem, published in November, 1966, in Negro Digest which Sean Ray, who is writing a thesis on Tolstoy, Gandhi and King, discovered and transcribed.


    There was protest at the time, particularly by Jimmy Williams’ parents, and he was buried in the integrated Andersonville National Cemetery, near where Freedmen had celebrated emancipation:
       "In May 1966, 19 year old Jimmy Williams, an African American Green Beret from Wetumpka, Alabama, was killed in Vietnam. His hometown cemetery refused to allow him to be buried due to his race. His mother said, ‘My son died fighting on the front for all of us. He didn’t die a segregated death and he’ll not be buried in a segregated cemetery.’ Jimmy Williams was buried with full military honors in an integrated Andersonville National Cemetery, almost one hundred years after the Freedmen first celebrated their Emancipation only a few yards away." (from the Andersonville National Historic Site website. h/t Sean Ray)


    Wetumpka’s cemetery remained lily-white…Being buried there currently is perhaps spiritually equivalent to being buried in a sewer.  Jimmy Williams is honored today at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, see here.

   Vincent speaks of the “gallant savagery” with which black soldiers, often abused in the well-equipped American army, murdered ordinary people in Vietnam.

      In 1967, Vincent authored the first draft of Martin Luther King’s memorable speech against the Vietnam War given at the Riverside Church  on April 4th.  It was a choice Martin made – being on the road 300 days a year, he asked Vincent to write it -  as an alternative to a fairly banal speech, and Vincent wrote words – listen here or  read it here  – which will live as long as American English is spoken.  For that speech is as true today of Obama's drones, of CIA and Joint Special Operations Command secret activities - 12 raids in 70 countries every night -  as the day it was written.  For the militarized economy is “a demonic destructive suction tube” which steals resources from ordinary people, black, brown, red and white, which could be used for a common good (for an economy which works for all of us, as Bernie puts it) – and funnels them into crazy imperial, and losing wars in the Middle East and a gigantic $1.7 trillion a year war complex/militarism (short for military-industrial-corporate media-most politicians-academic-American trained and aided foreign militaries, and the like complex).  

       President Johnson and the commercial media then condemned and ostracized King, a central cause of King’s murder 1 year to the day later, April 4, 1968, in Memphis.  Vincent spoke with many people, including me, of the guilt he felt that he wrote the words for which his dear friend was murdered.  James Lawson helped to lift the cross of this somewhat from Vincent who had asked him whether he felt guilty for inviting Martin to come to Memphis, and he said: no, it was Martin’s decision.  


     From the age of 26 on in Montgomery, assassination attempts had been made against King; he told Coretta then that he would not reach the age of 40….


   In a conversation with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now on this speech in 2008, Vincent spoke of King’s magnificent craziness, of which there is something, as I saw in being with nonviolent village protestors in Palestine, in Dr. Harding also:

    “I think Halberstam was very, very much on the point there, Amy. I think that it is impossible to stand with the poor, to speak on behalf of the poor, without getting the kind of responses that people gave to Martin’s speech. He became a voice that was considered to be an alienated, out-of-his-arena kind of speech. And this was only natural in light of the commitment that he made. When you decide that you must go and stand and work with garbage workers, even though you have a Ph.D. in philosophical theology, it is only natural that many people who are accustomed to hanging out with Ph.D.’s in philosophical theology will say that you are crazy for hanging around with garbage workers. But Martin had a magnificent craziness about him that made him very uncomfortable for some people to understand and to live with.

But, Amy, what I want to remember is not simply what Time magazine said or what the Washington Post said, but what I want to remember is what Nina was remembering in her song, “The King of Love is Dead, What Should We Do Now?” What I also want to remember is that great Jewish rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said, just about ten days before Martin was assassinated, Heschel said, “Martin Luther King is a voice, a vision and a way, and we must all engage with him in his way, because,” Heschel said, “the whole future of America depends upon the impact and influence of Dr. King.” I believe that. And I think that that is part of the reason why so many people were so uncomfortable, because they knew that he was calling us to a way that was very difficult, a way beyond racism, a way beyond materialism and a way beyond militarism. And those are not easy ways to go.” See here.


        As an historian, Vincent also wrote the lyrical There is a River, the most powerful historical account of black people and the fight for freedom and decency in America up to the new opening, the hunger of poor, newly free blacks for reading and learning at the end of the Civil War. I had the privilege of going with Vincent to the meeting celebrating the 30th anniversary of its publication at ASALH (the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History) in Richmond in 2011, and saw at a Chapel at the Virginia Theological Union, stained glass designed with the picture of a black woman reading against a fence (see here).


    Vincent's writings will live as long as people consider the struggle against the  long American genocides and its corrupt, imperial – and  self-destructive – wars.  This epic poem is part of the journey which Vincent made in writing these other works.


       Until Sean found this poem in The Negro Digest, I had not known that Vincent wrote poetry.  Published  in 1966, it traces four hundred years of violent oppression, celebrates Nat Turner but avoids his bloody hands, satirizes whites who murder blacks humming “John Brown’s body” (for reasons we never discussed, Vincent had a hard time coming to admire John Brown), comments sadly on blacks fighting in settler wars against indigenous people (to be slaves on the land seized) and ends on a vision of hope (Vincent founded the Veterans of Hope…)


     For Vincent, the way to his measured and profound nonviolence – mass nonviolent resistance – was through an anger which once sometimes sympathized with violence against the oppressor, even where he thought it unwise.  His profound nonviolence, to force oppressors to submit or hopefully change through nonviolent resistance and not to kill, a matter of spirituality and political judgment, was hard won and learned from and influenced many people, here and abroad (for instance, the courageous Bassem Tamimi - they called each other brothers -  whom Vincent stayed with in Nabi Saleh).


    Vincent's poem cries out against a country which oppresses and throws away black people, uses them against native americans, celebrates them only when they “are gallant” and together with poor whites burn Vietnamese villages thousands of miles away, as King’s speech says, but will not let them live together in East Chicago or Detroit, a country which will not even  bury Jimmy Williams in the lily-white cemetery in Wetumpka…


     Wetumpka is still sick. There is no clear mention of Jimmy Williams even on webpage of the new Black History Museum, opened in 2015 here  in Wetumpka…


“Or only black,” Vincent writes

                                    and dead,
                                    and gallant
                                    and slaves?”


     And yet even this poem soars at the end toward Vincent’s (and Martin’s) vision of a common place where everyone is recognized - who owns the water? Martin asked in 1968 -  or  a genuine democracy as Vincent would speak about in recent years…

    For King's vision of black and white and native american and asian - all of us united in an anti-racist, multiracial democracy is the only one way forward against increasing, day by day, economic oppression and unjust wars.


    The racist grave yards of the South -  in Philadelphia, Mississippi, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, whose parents wished them to be buried beside each other after being murdered by the Sheriff and a reverend, leading a mob, could not be buried together... 

         In response to the murders at Mother Emmanuel in 2015, the Confederate flag in Louisiana was taken down from public buildings  – Governor Nikki Haley nonetheless, deserves credit for responding to these murders – but the journey to make the South a decent place will yet take a long time…


    Here is Brother Vincent wrestling as a poet with America.  His dignity, and that of the great movement of which he spoke, contrasts utterly with, though it is a hope of, the America in which we find ourselves.  For America is, and remains an opponent, giving way but glacially at best, as Black Lives Matter heroically and tragically, shows (yesterday a 16 year old young man was gunned down in Utah for holding a stick - see here).   How can Freddy Grey and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Walter Johnson and Trayvon Martin and so many others have been murdered, here and now, in America by officials as depraved and obtuse as those of Wetumpka, how can buildings still be named for the Klan-lover, segregator Woodrow Wilson at Princeton or University Presidents and other officials just not care that black folks are sometimes subject to derogatory howls in the night?


Dr. Vincent Harding
November 1966, Negro Digest

“Pentagon officials are praising the Negro as a gallant, hardfighting soldier. New figures show that proportionately more Negroes have died in Vietnam than military personnel of other races.”

-       Atlanta Journal, March 10, 1966

“U.S. Marines and South Vietnamese troops attacking under a murderous barrage of artillery and searing napalm Friday trapped and crushed an elite communist force… Killing an estimated 522 of the enemy… Heavy artillery and flaming napalm bombs… took a savage toll among the communist troops…”

-       Atlanta Constitution, April 23, 1966

* This poem was written in response to the refusal of city officials in Wetumpka, Alabama to bury to body of Jimmy L. Williams, a fallen black soldier, in the local military cemetary.

“To the Gallant Black Men Now Dead”

            My brothers,
            I weep for you
            Hearing sounds of your death in the jungle,
            performing great deeds of gallant savagery
I weep because I remember

I remember how long has been this dying.
I remember how it began in the jungle,
            dark jungle, they said.
How it began
            when white and Christian they came
            to save you
From savagery
            and paganism.
To save you from heathen habits
                        like burning your enemies to death
            To save you
                        for one hundred and fifty dollars a head.

I remember, my brothers, how you died in thousands
            with hands chained behind your backs,
How you died as you walked the path of sorrows
            from the heart of darkness
            to the light
            of Christian ships and guns
            and hymns of praise.

Were you gallant then
            dropping along the way,
            dropping with wife,
            falling by screaming child,
Or were you brave
            as you watched them dragged away?
Were you heroes then
            when you left your final whiteness on a jungle path
            to bleach the eyes of some next weeping band!
You are good at dying,
            gallant black brother.
Too good.

I remember how you died on board a thousand ships
And heard no mourners song
            where you were left
            one hundred fathoms in the deep.
Were you gallant then?
Or just a stinking slave?

The times have changed black brother.
The times have changed,
The tunes have changed
            and I weep for you
            because I remember.
Who praised you
            when first you touched these blessed shores
            for sweet new dyings
            on such safe and solid ground?
Who gave you medals sir
            when lashes from ten thousand whips
            stole bitter measures from your flesh?
When the booted feet of praying men
            stamped your black image into the dust
            of God’s own chosen land?
Who saw
Who cared
            when all emasculate you fell
            into unmarked darkness of hell
            driven from those so fierce moanings
            of a wife possessed
            by the white white heat
            and the rigid sperm
            of a master’s burning frame?
What death of soul was in that fall?
Who marked it, praised it,
            called you brave?

They say you die well my brother.
Oh God, how you have died!
On each plantation acre,
            God how you died!
In every city’s new plumbed paths,
On each road gang
Canal and shipping crew
Your dying fed the water and the land.
Wherever lines of building digging men
            cried out their old new songs
One was your mourner’s dirge.

And when the wars began
Oh blessed wars!

For freedom,
            and liberty
            and land
            and insanity,
I remember the irony in all your dying.
How you killed Indians
            to be slaves on their land,
How you obeyed orders
            And won full rights to continue ways of death.
I remember the wars—
Crispus Attucks and his rag-tag crew
            helping a nation wrench free
            to strangle you (and me).
I remember where you fell
            at Lexington and Concord
            and how the Father of our country
            said you were useless—
            until the Redcoats wooed you.
Then you rowed the Delaware with freedom’s friend
To Philadelphia’s freedom stand
            where patriots crowned him president
            and wrote your bondage large
            with freedom’s blackest ink.

I weep for you,
            black companions in the way,
Rescued, so they say,
            from jungle and from night
            to live and die for freedom’s light.
I weep remembering that night,
            so endless night,
            when first I heard your songs
            of troubles and chariots
            and sorrow and hope
            of groping and thirsting
            for the morning.

I weep because I know the seed of those songs
            springing from a thousand dyings,
            dyings with no citations
            with no speeches
            and no praise,
            because you were only dying,
            black brother,
            only dying, and not killing,
            only dying,
            and crying
            in the blackness of night.

But then you sang a new song
            marching behind Jackson into battle,
Blessed battle!
Killing with him you sang a new song
Dying for him you sang a new song
Dying for him you sang a new song
            and the nation sang along
            and the praises rose again
            while I weep for you my brothers
            because they say you die well,
            meaning really this, my brother,
            meaning really this:
“You kill well.
You kill our enemies with such valiant savagery
            singing your tender songs.
And when he kills you
            we weep,
            So sad to see you go.”

But the sentence is not ended, black brothers,
            only bent
            to purposes of death,
            and I weep to hear it close
            like this:
“When we kill you,
            Oh niggers,
            Oh niggers
When we kill you
Sometimes we are silent,
Sometimes we smile,
But sometimes we shout,
Sometimes we shout
            like we did in Cincinnati
            firing cannon at your shacks
            and in Philly
            pulling you black and bleeding off the trolleys
            and in New York
            burning your flimsy homes
            and across the South
            breaking your spirits and your backs
(While our dear General Jackson,
            now rewarded for blood,
            sits in Washington,
            expels the Indians,
            brings in the millennium
            and DEMOCRACY
            for all men
            not black
            or red
            or dying.)
But we do not weep when we kill you.
We do not weep.
We shall not weep.”
This is the way the world ends, my brothers.
This is the way the world ends.

And Nat Turner is a witness.

I remember Nat Turner
Who was not willing to die,
Who had learned how to kill,
            and did not think Indians
            or Redcoats
            or Spainiards
            were his enemies,
            and led—in the name of Christ—
            a band of black avengers
            across Southhampton county,
            leaving trails of whitened dead
            along a path of sorrows
            in terrified Virginia.
Here was killing for freedom,
Slaughter for liberty,
Destruction for the Lord,
            all the things they praise you for
            dead brothers.
But where are the songs?
I hear no songs for him,
            see no medals struck,
            no towns named,
            no schools or streets
            called by Nat Turner’s name.
Did  he learn too well
            his catechism of Christian death?
Did he choose the wrong men to kill?

I weep for Nat Turner,
Led by the masters’ bloody Christ
            to the master’s grave,
No hero,
            but a savage black slave—
            who would not let the master
            name his enemies.
I remember Nat Turner,
            to witness
            to the lie.

They say you die well my brother,
            but only in the line of duty
            under white orders
            to kill.
Medals go only to slaves
            who die at their masters’ command.
I weep when they speak of your gallantry
            and how you have proven
            to be men.
For I remember Civil War beginning
            how you rushed to Father Abraham
            offering your lives again
            to kill well
            and die well.
And I remember how he sent you home
            asking if you would not like
            to emigrate
            to Central America instead.
I remember how
            you pounded even then
            on doors of death again
            and were not admitted
            ‘til the war’s dark days
            brought cries for help,
            even yours.
I remember how they blamed you
            For the war,
How they refused to fight
            when someone said
            it now was meant to free you.
I remember how they rioted
            rather than fight at your side,
            how they killed you in the cities of the North
            gently humming “John Brown’s Body.”

They say you die well
            and they are right.
For I remember how you fought
            when finally you were let in
            to all the pleasures of Civil death.
The United States Colored Troops they said;
And your bodies lay as still as any others
            in The Wilderness,
            and at Gettysburg
            even though they paid you less than whites
            to die
            and kill.
You won your medals
            and your praise
            and proved that you were men.
And when the marching was over
And the bodies cleared away
            you were still men
            when they lynched you
            and burned you
            and took away your vote
            and fought for your male organ
            in the sunlight
            of a thousand towns
            across the blessed land.
Perhaps they had forgotten,
            forgotten you were men
            forgotten you were gallant,
            for they remembered only
            black nigger
            as you died
            so well
            in the darkness
            and the light.

God, how you died!
Brave black men.
And I weep for you
            that with the stench
            of your brothers’ burning
            still plucking at your nostrils
            you volunteered again
            and were refused again
            and finally convinced the nation
            that you should die again
            in Cuba
            for freedom
            and liberty
            for the blacks and mulattoes
            who looked like your twins
            and found as much freedom
            as you had known
            under the heavy hand
            of America.
And when you returned
            with the heroes’ band
            to march through southern streets
Did you recognize the hanging trees
            or sense the meaning
            of the slightly blackened places
            in the steamy village squares?

My black brothers,
My dead black brothers,
What did you think of Atlanta in 1906?
What did you think
            when the riots began
            and the dying continued?
Have you collected your awards yet
for those fine dyings
in the New South?
            And what were the words
                        of the Springfield Citation
                        as the mobs rushed to burn your houses
                        and bring you the honor of death?
            Did they really say:
                        “Lincoln freed you,
                        We’ll show you where you belong”
                        in Springfield, Illinois?

            Where do you belong
                        dead brothers?
            Where do you belong, I say?
            Under the fires of America’s people
            Or setting flames to poor men’s dwellings
                        in a jungle far away?
            The choice is meant to strangle you,
                        to strangle you
                        while I weep
                        because your memories were short,
                        or your hopes were high
                        or you had nothing to lose
                        when Wilson announced
                        (with help from a Mississippi Senator)
                        that this would be a holy war
                        to save the world
                        and make it free
                        for every European
                        and their friends.
            Oh my brothers
            Did you really believe it?
            Or was Paris what you longed to see?

            I remember how you rushed again
                        to give yourself
                        for death again
                        and how they refused you
                        Then with the draft
                        they welcomed you in numbers
                        that amazed even you
                        even swell dying you.

            I remember yet the dark nights
                        in the camps of the South,
                        how they segregated you
                        how they taunted and fought you
                        how they patrolled the meeting,
                        prayer meeting in Virginia,
                        to keep you out.
                        Prayer meeting on your own death-training ground,
                        prayer meeting to the God who was giving you strength
                        to kill
                        and to die
                        they said.
            And you couldn’t even get near enough
            To shout a prayer at him,
                        or raise a strangled curse.

            Oh my brothers,
                        how you died
                        on France’s ground,
                        more than your numbers would allow.
            What sent you roaring into face of guns?
            What democracy did you protect?
            Which world were you saving
                        out there?
            And what did you wildly think
                        when generals who led you on to death
                        told France’s smiling girls
                        they must avoid the fierce passion
                        of your black living?
            And what did you say
                        when from Washington they sent
                        a black man
                        so darkly to repeat,
                        “Remember, remember, remember
                        There’s no color-blind Paris at Home?”
                        Did you yell
                        What the Hell!
                        What the Hell!
                        What the God-damn Hell!
                        And hurtle blindly bravely to your grave?
            The citation did not make that clear
            My gallant black brothers now dead.

            They say you really proved yourself
                        on Europe’s bloody fields.
            But I saw you on that return
                        from saving someone’s world.
            I saw you
                        marching to your death on southern roads.
            I saw you
                        feeling last pains on northern streets
                        to the toll of cadence counts,
                        trading booming bands for strangled sighs
            Were you brave when the last fist
                        pounded out your life in Georgia
                        with youur uniform still on?
            Was democracy still safe
                        when they knifed away your blood
                        in Chicago
                        that red red summer
                        long ago?
            Let me hear the citation, black brother!
                        Read it like crashing drums.
            Read it by the shining light of your meads
                        and let us weep
                        for the hypocrisy of our nation,
                        for the slavery of our people
                        for the blood of our sons,
                        for the next time you are conned into killing
                        so you may die.
            And of course you were
                        (will we always?)
            For the Four Freedoms this time
            Against Tyranny this time
            Against racism
                        this time,
                        they said.
            I remember how you tried
                        and were refused again,
                        how you broke down the bars to death again
                        how gently the faces smiled again
                        when they let you in again.
            I remember how you marched off again
                        under waving flags
                        past cheering crowds
                        (do crowds frighten you?)
                        to raucous bands
                        in segregated companies
                        to save somebody’s world

            And even as you marched
            I heard the dying strangled screams
                        of your brothers
                        mobbed in Detroit
                        by cheering crowds.
                        Your brothers had not learned to die
                        so well.
                        But who cared?
                        They were only dying,
                        God-damned niggers,
                        not killing,
                        not killing
                        and Japs
                        and conscience
                        for Freedom
            Then when you brought them here
                        home here
                        those German prisoners of war,
                        and in their whiteness
                        they were served
                        while you stood back, black,
                        stood in your khaki starched so well
                        stood black and hungry
                        outside the white door
                        while your prisoners ate,
                        I wept
                        and saw the stripes you really wore
                        and I wore
                        with you,
                        and all of us, black brother,
                        starched long stripes,
                        prisoners of hatred
                        aid lies
                        and fear.

            I remember how you came again
                        (after the generals spoke
                        of your place
            I remember home where you came
                        and weeping
                        I stood where you were beaten
                        and marked the so dark spot
                        above your ribboned heart
                        where your red blood
                        and their brown spit
                        in welcome.
            Sweet home where you came
                        from the defending four freedoms,
                        while weeping
                        I watched the policeman
                        home in Carolina
                        gouge your two eyes out,
                        defender of liberty,
                        gouge your eyes out
                        like a savage.
            And now we are blind.

            Can blind men weep?

            If there are tears for broken eyes
                        then I still weep for you
                        my benighted (by light)
                        black brothers
            Taken as slaves,
                        rescued from savagery
                        they said,
                        counting money
                        and souls,
            Delivered to light
                        and salvation’s blessed ways
            Now sent back
                        blind and black
                        but holy
                        on holy errands
                        for someone’s world
                        to gouge men’s eyes out
                        to bomb their children
                        to burn their homes
                        to destroy their sacred land
                        to leave them fallen
                        —yellow bastards!—
                        by the way,
                        jungle way
            For Freedom
                        and ten generals and three military bases.
            I weep again
                        for we have been deceived
                        again, black brothers,
            Black and useless they brand us
                        and rob us of our dreams,
            Like cattle still we are herded
                        behind the ghetto bars.
            Through gates of fear
                        and schools of illusion
                        they fabricate our history
                        and stifle our hope
                        and feed us on the poison of decay.
            When other doors fly shut
                        against such dying men,
            They welcome us as killers
                        in the profession of death,
                        bribed with big bands
                        and small status
                        and free food and clothes
            Then to the chorus of combat pay
                        our gentle leaders point
                        to Vietnamese
                        to Chinese
                        to Commies
                        and VC
                        to hoping men on every hand
                        our gentle leaders point
                        and shout:
                        “OUR COMMON ENEMY, Negro brothers,
                        OUR COMMON ENEMY.
                        Prove your manhood
                        Fight for someone’s FREE WORLD
                        Kill them! Kill them!
                        Kill THEM!”
            And we do.
            Like mindless, eyeless, children-slaves
                        we do
                        proudly do,
                        bravely do.
            And when we die
                        they call us gallant,
                        making sure we die
                        killing someone else.
            (In Watts and in Harlem,
                        when we fight as bravely there
                        with the same guns,
                        the same fire,
                        the same violence of mind,
                        when we fight there
                        they call us criminals
                        and jail is our due.
            And when we die there,
                        on L.A.’s solid streets
                        they bury us in silence
                        no bands,
                        only obscene and savage words:
                        “Ungrateful niggers,
                        after all the relief checks we gave them.”
                        And Nat Turner is our witness

            I weep for us my brothers.
            I weep for us all.
            Their lies have deceived them.
            Their medals have blinded us.
            Their faint praise has blotted out
                        the dark pages of the past.
            And we walk into the jungles,
                        faithful like slaves,
                        at their commands,
                        hands tied
                        to guns,
            We talk to burn,
                        to bomb
                        to torture, to kill and to die
                        for the honor of a nation that has none,
                        for a burial in the Negro plot
                        in the FREE WORLD.
            But tears are not good enough;
            What good to you now
                        in the land of your dying?
                        Now that you are finished,
                        lost in the jungle
                        from whence they say you came,
                        dead now in the jungle
                        where your dying began,
                        what good are tears?

            Beyond their realm
                        only the resurrection remains
                        (No, God,
                        Not another medal of deceit!)
            If it comes,
                        if it really comes,
                        that will be enough.

            Then our dyings will be over
                        and our blindness will cease.
            In that morning
                        we shall live
                        and see again
            In the light beyond lies
                        we shall see
                        how long we have killed
                        for our master-enemy
                        how long we have died
                        to purchase our death.
            And their shall be rage,
                        no tears,
                        a blazing black rage
                        shall possess us
                        to turn
                        to turn on them
                        with all the fury of battle they have taught us
                        with all the guns they have bought us
                        with all the roasting, searing flame
                        from Freedom’s furnance door.

            Yes, Lord, we shall be tempted
                        rigidly, fiercely,
                        religiously tempted
                        with all the poison
                        of their hate.
            But in the resurrection
                        in the morning of night
                        it may be that we shall see more
            It may be
                        that from the darkness of ten million deaths,
                        and the anguish
                        of all the world’s burnings
            There shall rise the One
                        who is resurrection
                        and who is life.
                        my black brothers,
            Not the white Christ
                        who blessed the ships that brought you here,
                        Not Turner’s black and bloody hued avenger
                        Not the pink and double faced Jesus
                        of North and South
                        of Peace and War
                        Not the Messiah
                        who saves the world
                        with the ashes of his brothers
            But he who is life and truth and love
                        and no distortion of their joy

            I weep now that you did not see Him
                        before you rushed
                        to kill and die
                        black brother.
            I weep and pray
                        that one day you shall see Him
                        and He will show a new great way
            Where foes will be transmuted
                        not to ashes
                        and to atoms
                        but to brothers
                        and to sons.
            And the Son of Man will call you
                        in the morning to be men
                        to the manhood proven
                        not with guns
                        or flags
                        or green berets
                        (or black shirts)
                        but to that swinging manhood
                        found with healers
                        and with binders
                        found with builders
                        and with lovers.
            I pray for you
                        my dead brothers
                        and for us who remain
                        that we may resist
                        to our death
                        all the blind and hollow leaders
                        who call us only
                        to the killing
                        of our brothers
                        and ourselves.
            That no more brave black slaves
                        may walk blindly
                        to the jungle
                        of the night
                        on sad and savage errands
                        for lying masters
                        and ersatz light.

            I pray for the dead,
            I pray for the living
            That a new Master may arise
                        and call us to His way
                        beyond darkness and terror
                        and the blood of all our brothers
                        (with our own)
            To light
            And Freedom
            And Joy.
            Then the long chained march shall end
            And the dirges heard no more
            And the weeping will be silenced
                        by the wind.
            Then the mourner’s feet shall break out
                        to a Bantu jubilee
            And the ashes shall awaken
                        in the morning.

            Are you ready,
                        all my brothers
            Are you ready to be free
                        and living?
                                    Or only black
                                    and dead,
                                    and gallant
                                    and slaves?
                        Are you ready
                                    to be free
                                    Right now?
                                    Right now?
                        Are you ready to be free
                                    in this morning
                                    right now?

                        Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
                                    Shout it loud
Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
            Dance it now
            So Free!

Tell it brothers
            in the morning
So Free! So free!
No more killing
So Free, So Free!
                        No more chains
                                    and no last darkness
                                    So Free, So Free!
                        Bless His name!
                                    So Free! So Free!
                        By this river
                                    So Free, so free,
                        In this morning
                                    Let us shout it
                                    like the gallant men we are.
                        We are marching!
                                    We are dancing!
                                    So Free!


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