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Singing In The Same Choir
10/8/2014 5:24:19 PM

By Jim French

I reached past 87 for three-quarters of an hour before I realized it. The impact was not powerful but arrived slowly, the way a summer night resists the coming of cool weather, and I'm out here hustling young people to get involved with the politics of moving forward. But there I was, in the organic garden of retired Navy Master Chief Jim Powe, and he passed a shot-glass of pure corn and asked me what time it was. I am disappointed because I have contemplated this event ever since I was 70. Shooting past 87-years, it was my birthday. Thank you Lord!

We sit there, in the great expanse of his West Oak Forest back yard that resembles a hot-house of vegetables that my folks in Kansas who grew natural foods in dirt polluted by chicken droppings and then asked, brother could you spare me another shot? The Chief asked me if I was disappointed, saying that when he reaches my day of maturity, would it be a somber day, dreadful with bitter reflections and a recognition of what has been achieved, while devoting our lives to families and a Navy life filled with difficulties, hope, achievements, glowing moments with the tinges of racism, that God enabled us to prevail.

The impact of passing 88, in my telling to Chief Powe, for me is not powerful but comes slowly, the way a summer night possesses a city. It is discreet, like a night in early October, and there is time for preparation. I told Chief Powe that it is not an unusual event, the night following the day on the anniversary of your birth and there is time for preparation. Symbolic is the freshly-turned soil in his yard, fertilizer bags resting nearby, but it is dusk, a commonplace day, a date of significance for me. I am 88.

But what the hell am I doing running this smack through my brain, a demi tasse of Sea Island corn, when I see brothers and sisters walking along side-streets filling their wire carts with the aluminum cans of solvency, and I wonder what they could have been. And then I see young brothers sagging, grabbing their crouch with a reefer dropping from their mouths, and I have this urge to stop and point out to the brother with the cart, and ask if that's their future.

But every year on my birthday I promise myself I'll tidy up the corners of my life but I know I'll never do it. The general pattern of my habits isn't going to change. I've been around too long to rectify the big flaws. I regret that I have not been formally educated but journalism is also a university and a cathredral if a man has affection for it.

But here I am, a day flirting with rain blurred by a hazy sun, as school buses rumble by carrying our precious young, and I think about the invisible in the Republic of Charleston. My radio is tuned low to Magic 107.3 and radio personality Terry Base foreplaying with his listeners intimating that "Everything is Everything" isn't it?

But enough of that, especially when I listen to the words of Fredrick Douglass who once said, when Blacks were listening, "Who you give your money to is who you give your power to."

Yet, as this newspaper celebrated, not really, but observed its 43th year of continuous publication, we find ourselves on the brink of facing up to the reality of following in the imprint of WPAL Radio, becoming a memory in the archives of Black History. The Chronicle and Black newspapers across the expanse in this land of opportunity, continue to be locked in a time-warp since advertising

And if you think this birthday rant is against white benefactors, you're wrong, but just recall what Fredrick Douglass said: "Who you give your money to, is who you give your power to."

So what good is power if you don't use it? What good is having Blacks at every level of city, county and state government, if you fail to use it?

For instance, if former city of Charleston mayoral candidate Williams Dudley Gregorie is documented as saying that as boss-in-charge of the HUD office overseeing operations in South Carolina, arranged a $400 million grant to MUSC for their development, and State Sen. Robert Ford has boasted of directing $4 million to the coffers of MUSC, then why is it that MUSC can allocate millions in advertisements to white-owned media, and none to Black media?

Why is it that S.C. State, which this newspaper has been aligned with since our inception in 1971, rehash for free their public relations promoting the university, but because of pettiness of certain members of the board trustees, can spend significant dollars on advertising in the white media and nary a dime in their own newspaper? And how do you spend millions of dollars, supposedly in the interest of funding for scholarships, when the funds raised has other dedicated functions?

When agencies of Charleston County government can ignore almost the 35 percent of Blacks residing within its borders, while placing few advertisements in this newspaper, is simply wrong! Like, when the County Election Commission place advertisements denoting different precincts for voting, they ignore that segment of the community who do not buy or read the daily newspaper, which they should, just to read on how they can spin the news as it reflects people of color.

While Trident Technical College and MUSC advertise programs that can impact the Black community, they have this misguided notion that it will be seen in the majority media by the Black community, not so! The bottom line in all of this is that these are state-supported institutions, meaning that it is our tax dollars they use to ignore us!

The major auto dealers, whose margin of profit is dependent on Black folks, will shortly become the target of demonstrations, why? None of them support quantatively, Black institutions such as the UNCF, the requests from area churches who simply ask for advertising in their annual church souvernir booklets, and when we ask: Whom do you think are buying your cars? In other words, whatever it takes to keep this newspaper viable, we shall ask the community to decide.

With me, it goes beyond the survival of The Chronicle. It's that attitude that Blacks are not important in the mainstream of Charleston life. Take the savings institutions, for example. For years the former president has been coming into our schools, under the guise of teaching our young people the rudiments of savings, can run advertisements in the daily newspaper, and not in this newspaper, as if our 20-some-thousands readers don't understand the dynamics of banking. So you can expect the banks in the heart of the Black community on Rutledge Ave. will become a target for protests. Personally, I sit on two boards that have significant business relationships with local banks and like other entities in this Republic of Charleston, we're the cash-cows and really invisible, until they reach for our dollars, and when you reach my age, the realm of patience runs low.

The laughter comes slower nowadays but there's no shortage. It may be the most terrible of all man’s ages but I’m glad I’m around. I suppose this is as happy a birthday as a brother is entitled to have with the poor and the well-to-do singing in the same choir. Mercy.

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