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April 2015

A close-up look down Cortlandt Street in 1908

I much appreciate early New York City

Ephemeral New York

“Cortlandt Street, New York, showing the Singer Building,” reads the caption of this postcard.


What a time capsule we’re looking at from what appears to be West Street. Not only is there no more Singer Building (brand new in 1908, demolished in 1968), but the small-scale walkups on the right were obliterated to make way for the World Trade Center in the early 1970s.

Cortlandt Street at this time had not yet earned its wonderful nickname, “Radio Row.”


That’s the platform for the Ninth Avenue El, which ran up Greenwich Street. Compare the postcard to the actual photo it comes from.

Shorpy has the enlarged image here, so you can gaze at old New York in incredible detail.

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The 1968 Olympic Protest 40 Years Later: Smith, Carlos and Edwards Reflect on Black Power Salute

A excellent analysis of the 1968 Olympic Protest.

The Chris Murray Report

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report

The University of Pennsylvania students who attended the Race and Sports Lecture at Jon Huntsman Hall last April 24 were not born the day Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the Black power salute on the medal stand at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City.

And yet many of them wore the image of one of the most enduring symbols of turbulent 1960s on their tee shirts. Some of the students even brought their posters of Smith and Carlos’ protest on the medal stand.

At a recent forum sponsored by the Wharton School of Business and the Center for Africana Studies, Smith, Carlos and Dr. Harry Edwards talked about the 40th anniversary of their protest at the 1968 Olympics and the events leading up to the protest.

In what was one of the rare times that…

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To Whom It May Concern

Dear New South:

Commentators, historians, politicians, and intellectuals have predicted that you will be arriving soon to transform your older sibling into a more kind, gentler, and inclusive society.

Impatiently, I am waiting.

I’m looking forward to that day with great hope, as well as, anxiety. I’m hoping you will be the dawning of a New Age in my home region that will not only plant the seeds to change the old Confederacy, but, will change America.

It will be a time, I anticipate, that every child will be able to start out life on an equal playing field: provided a decent home, education, and the possibility of succeeding in any endeavors that he/she pursues.  It will be a place and time that will no longer find church as the most segregated place in America each Sunday.  A place where an African-American male will no longer be profile simply because of the color of his skin.

In this New South, no longer will neighborhoods be segregated based on race and class, where all children will be able to socialized and become lifelong friends.  Schools will be a space where children will be exposed to ideas, and learn critical thinking skills.  And, our society will teach history that will be inclusive and not create lies about heroic past that never existed.   Schools will no longer exist where black boys are suspended for minor infractions, and start pushing them into the school to prison pipeline.

I am very much looking forward to seeing you because the social health of my country depends on you arriving soon!


A.B. Nickerson

Size Matters

I was born in Osceola, Arkansas a small southern town of 2,000 hard by the Mississippi River.  Historians have said that Mark Twain referred to the city as “Plumb Point”.  It was the site of one of the major battles of the Civil War called the “Battle of Plumb Point”, and near the end of Reconstruction, the Ku Klux Klan had a presence in the town helping to disenfranchise blacks.

My small town values — honesty, industry, kindness — were formed there, and in the small Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. This church had an evangelical spirit.  Shouting, singing, jumping.  Baptism in the Mississippi River  I can remember walking from religious services over the levee returning home thingking about Sunday dinner — mashed potatoes, brown gravy, fried chicken, golden biscuit.  Walking from the mighty river, I recall holding my grandfather’s hand as stunned religious observers watched medical workers placed a body into an ambulance. Later, we learned that it was the body of a state trooper who had been shot by a black man who believed the officer was raping his wife.  My house was located across the street from the jail, and I recall a large white mob assembled as they brought the terrified man to jail. I don’t ever remember a trial, or hearing.  My grandfather later told me, he went into the lock up and never came out.

Segregation, “Jim Crow”, was the tenor of life in this town and all across the South.  I attended segregated schools that were financed by Chicago philanthropist Julius Rosenwald.  The teachers and students were hard working and dedicated to fulfilling the mission of providing basic education for blacks, even though we had few resources.

A part of southern culture for boys was learning to fight, and fire weapons.  You were around guns and rifles all your life in the South starting with B.B guns.  You had to learn the manly art of boxing in the South.  My first fist fight was with a kid named Emerson White who was a seasoned puncher.  I don’t remember what the fight started over – it could have been over a game of marbles, baseball, who knows — but Emerson whipped my ass.  I ran, and ran until I got home.

When I reached home terrifying and breathless, my grandfather was waiting on me, and he calmly said “I got a call that you were fighting and that you ran!  You can either go back and fight like a man or you can fight me!”  I turned around and walked slowly back to the scene of the butt whipping.  I was hoping Emerson had left, but of course, he was still there waiting on me because he knew I had to return.

I had disrespected my family by running.  Honor was important in the South!

I still lost the fight, but regain the family’s name.


Within seconds, she could change her face into a “Chuckie” frown that could literally send chills through your body!  I have known her since she was a little girl, and she has this amazing ability to disguise or masked her true feeling. Her level of genuineness is so thin that you can literally see through her but she never reveals the type of person that hides behind the green eyes and fair skin.  Someone who can be sincere, yet dishonest.  A person who can hold a level of vindictiveness that can be deadly.  She can talk to you for several hours, and not really say a thing.  After she finishes rambling, you won’t be able to discern a thing she said.  Hypocrisy is her calling card!

She demands your attention when talking, but turns to her cell phones, and social media giving you a scant bit of attention, while you are talking — ignoring whatever it is you needed to say.  But she is aware enough that when you finish, whatever it is you were saying, she will start her conversation again, and not remember a word you said.  Your concerns are a missing 10 seconds in her narrow universe that is so transparent : with nuggets from the social media, gossip, rumors and innuendos that are repeated as truths.

In her world, the social media is the fountain of truths.   She touts being different, but really comes across as being typical, trite and unintelligent.  A great deal of her time is spent scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, and various social media posts that she regurgitates as facts.  She says one thing, and immediately contradicts it.  “I am going to a meeting this morning,” she intoned.  “What is the meeting about?” She quips, “I don’t know I’m not going because they made me mad!”

She most closely acts and behave similar to the character Lisa Rowe in “Girl Interrupted”.  Her personality borders on sociopathic behavior that finds solace in chaos, disorder, and the power she has to manipulate other people, especially family members.

Well, did you know that…

The 314-foot R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Building, built completed in 1929 with 21 floors, located in downtown Winston-Salem, N.C. was the design inspiration for the Empire State Building completed in 1931.  The staff of the Empire State Building would send a Father’s Day card to the staff at Reynolds acknowledging its kinship to the Reynolds Building.

reynolds buildingNYC_Empire_State_Building

Be Brief

I saw a piece of paper floating in the gentle breeze as I walked to work.  The Carolina sky was blue and clear this spring morning, the air fresh.  I noticed a piece of paper floating along the path as I walked. It was a handwriting letter.  It began “Dear Son: I have started this letter a hundred times, and a hundred times I can never find the words to express my love for you.  I know you and your lady friend are having problems but trouble don’t last always and you’ll find way to solve them.  Put faith in God !..”  And, the pain, and love from mother to son was evident from the letter, and I wished that I return the heartfelt letter to whomever lost it.  I knew it had to be comforting to the son. Bu I needed to get to work at the barbershop because time is money, and I need dollar bills.

Stuffing the letter into my pocket, I decided to try and find the owner later because these were life-saving, hopeful words from a mother to a son — and could give the son hope in this difficult time.

Suddenly, I noticed a heavy set black man fleeing from a white police officer pulled his gun — then, the awful sound of gunfire. And, the horror of the scene hit me, the letter flew from my hand and gently drifted away into the morning sky.

Uptown Funk You Up!

Have you ever been to Harlem?  Not today’s gentrified Harlem, but the Harlem of old: where Jazz was born with Duke Ellington; Harlem of James Baldwin and Billie Holiday.  Harlem of Langston Hughes and his everyday people character like “Jess B. Simple”.  Harlem of the A Train by Duke Ellington which told us about the quickest way to get across 110th Street where the working and black middle class live along Strivers’ Row (all of the elite black New Yorkers live along 138th and 139th streets between Eighth and Ninth avenues).

Bruno Mars captured a slice of old Harlem in his funky song “Uptown Funk You Up!”

Let’s stand on the corner of 125th and Lenox on Saturday night as the players, hustlers, and gorgeous ladies get ready to “show up and show out”.  So Hot! make a Dragon Want to Retire Man.  Here comes all the local Harlemites: there’s Tout Harlem, Red, Black Willie, Slim Goody, as they prepare to hit the Cotton Club (that they couldn’t get in during Prohibition Era), Small’s Paradise, Carl’s on the Corner (145th and Broadway) as they get ready to dance, finger pop till the early morning hours.  If you’re shy stay at home, not a place for the faint hearted!  And, you know there will be a fight over some beautiful, brown woman.  So put on your Boxing Gloves, may the best man win!!  Let’s go to the Theresa Hotel, and see who’s singing.  Billie Holiday could be doing a set with Lester Young.  Count Basie could be holding court!  We’ll drink gin, dance, listen to jazz, fight and head for the nearest house party!

Let’s get some golden waffles, and fried chicken to soak up all that booze and sleep a couple hours.

Get up early and head for church to Praise the Lord!  Get ready for work on Stormy Monday and look forward to the next time the eagle fly on Friday when we’ll do it again!

Uptown Will Funk You Up in a good way.

That Harlem is no more!!

Day Three – Free Writing

Staring at the blank page is tough.  To get beyond the block is gut wrenching like getting water from a rock.  the writer, i should say me, can find any excuse not to site down and write.  arrange furniture, getting a drink of water, checking your email.  the distraction are many — watching your favorite televsion program or sports broadcast…looking out the window.  But once you get pass that block maybe the ideas start to flow, and you can actually get something down on paper or the computer screen. thjat is after i call barnes and noble to check on buying writing to the bones.  if i can get that book my writing problems will be solve, can really began to stretch creatively..It is also 9 a.m. and i can get on the phone and call the bookstore,a nd take up 15 minutes to avoid facing the writing tasks!  I wonder if Hemingway, or Ben Hecht ( who in the hell is Ben Hecht? One of the greatest newspaper reporter/ writer/novelist/ screenwriters of the 20th Centurey.  Ever heard of Scarface or the Front Page.)  Writing leaves so much of yourself unprotected and causes so much fear as you want your audience to appreciate or respect what you have written.  i think some writers feel/believe it is a rejection of your own humanity.  But somewhere on anoterher level you reach that spirtual plane where you create art, and connect with the universal spirtual values that educate us all.  Boy Stephen King certainly broke any writing block many years ago.  How does he continue to crank out fiction, non-fiction, poetry(?) year after year.  He is an amazing writer.

I will committ to writing at least 15 minutes each day, and once those writing muscles have developed hopefully I will extend that time by additional minutes, or hours.  Does an artists ever get to the point where he ask him/herself is this the art form for me or am I deluding myself?

A.B. Nickerson

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