Winter in (black) America

Few had insight into that peculiar experience that is the Black American experience that Gil Scott Heron had. He died recently and the social networks were abuzz with people who likely heard little of his music, and if they did, understood none of it.  Mr. Scott knew the Blues and understood Jazz, which means  he knew what it meant to be Black. His music and life was almost a perfect analogy of post 1970′s Black America.

While Mr. Scott’s and my political differences make it likely we were looking at this from different perspectives. It is clear he also saw an intractable decline on the horizon in America especially with in Black America . This “Winter” the brothers speaks of features us gunning each other down without pause, assimilating into materialistic mainstream culture at a dizzying rates, forgetting all the traditions that sustained us during that long walk from chattel to “freedom”. We don’t get married anymore, we have almost all of our kids out-of-wedlock, since integration it seems the only thing we have gained was a marginal amount of wealth. Yet we happy that we are integrated, one supposes living next to white folk and being allowed into their institutions made all these declines worthwhile for most.  Hey, at least we can feel self-important for embracing diversity.

Undoubtedly those of us who actually care about Black communities, which are way different from ” the Black Community”,  see these issues for what they are, dismal signs of a dying culture and people. Can we be saved? I have no idea. But as Gil said in Winter in America  ” sister (and brother) save your soul”  if you can’t save anything else.

Fittingly the great Gil Scott Heron died, May 27, 2011 (62), in the dying former bastion of Black culture and self-determination Harlem, NY. I think the griot was telling us something.

As Charles Murray‘s book  and the general landscape in America shows, this decline isn’t limited to Blacks. But that’s another post.

From the Indians who welcomed the pilgrims
And to the buffalo who once ruled the plains
Like the vultures circling beneath the dark clouds
Looking for the rain
Looking for the rain

Just like the cities staggered on the coastline
Living in a nation that just can’t stand much more
Like the forest buried beneath the highway
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter
Winter in America
Yes and all of the healers have been killed
Or sent away, yeah
But the people know, the people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
‘Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your soul, Lord knows
From Winter in America

The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it’s hoping
Hoping for some rain

And I see the robins
Perched in barren treetops
Watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor
But just like the peace sign that vanished in our dreams
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow

And now it’s winter
It’s winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It’s winter, Lord knows
It’s winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America

And now it’s winter
Winter in America
And all of the healers done been killed or sent away
Yeah, and the people know, people know
It’s winter
Winter in America
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows, nobody knows
And ain’t nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save

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