When Harry Belafante appeared at the 2013 NAACP Awards ceremonies to accept the Spingarn Award he reminded us of where we came from and asked who is leading us today? Belafante, standing besides another entertainment giant, Sidney Poitier, also, reminded us that he and the stars of his generation, like Poitier, Paul Robeson, and others, had to struggle with their careers as Black pioneers. At the same time they walked with, and marched with, and supplied economic support for the Civil Rights Movement, helping giants like Dr. King.
I am reminded of a song by the great blues singer Billie Holiday (aka, Lady Day), written by a White school teacher, Abel Meeropol, who used the pen name, Lewis Allen. The song, “Strange Fruit”, laments and describes the sport of hanging, lynching, and burning young Blacks of the day. The song, written and sung in 1939, was controversial, to say the least in its day. The song goes as follows:
Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root.
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees. Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth, Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh, Then the smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather,
For the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot,
For a tree to drop, Here is the strange and bitter crop.
Today, we are faced with Black on Black killings on a daily basis. Most notably is Chicago where more than one young Black person is killed daily. By the end of January, 2013, more than 40 murders had occurred, to add to the more than 500 killed in 2012. What are those if not killing fields?
Here’s my attempt at describing what I see as the problem. As an lawyer who once represented a young Black man who was convicted of killing another gang member at a house party with a rifle, I have some knowledge of the situation, and I feel it must stop. Call it:
CITY HUNTING GROUNDS
City streets are strange places to hunt human targets, that can’t be eaten, highlighted by poverty and miseducation that can be beaten.
White hatred created the fruit of the hanging tree , an acquired self hatred that created the appetite for the urban hunting fields, if God is love, and He don’t like ugly, asphalt jungles provide for a bloody and strange meal.
Brothers killing brothers ain’t a new thing, with a choice of lover versus hater, keeper or killer, Cain chose being a life-taking hater and killed Abel in one of the first of life’s springs.
Today we see brothers killing brothers because he’s a crip or blood, wearing red or blue, on the east side, south side, or west.
Selling poison to his people is the skill he knows best.
Males’ providing sperm to produce a new crop of meat for the hunter to drop.
Where is the preacher in this battle of brothers? Hiding behind the walls praying for fees and tithes for a new day to shop.
The storehouses are empty when the ringing death bell stings bringing attention to the lack of what’s not happening when the school bell rings.
Death, they ask where is your sting? It’s in the wail of another mother crying out to God for mercy while the daddy is making a replacement for the one he abandoned, now dead.
During this Black History Month, it is time for Black Americans to stop and take a look at what is going on and how we can slow it down, at the least. After all, when there were only four people in the world, Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel. It won’t stop, but we can slow it down, and maybe even save your kid.