"Black History Month matters. Poetry, spoken word, history. Songs, stories, mystery. Slaves set free, the slavery in you, and me. Better times, when races find, and sing the ties that bind. Unbound, hear the sound? Sounder, the Founder, the Waker, and Maker. Begin your story with purpose and power. End it with Grace, this is the hour. This day of your Making, this Lifetime of our Awakening" (rory paul,'21)
Listen. Do you hear the voices? Echoing from the hold of a slave ship, from a secret meeting in a tiny cabin, in stories handed down from long ago, and poems spoken today about a better tomorrow. Listen, as we honor Black History Month. With voices, songs, stories, spoken word, and Hope. Listen to what echoes here. Songs of Freedom, and Grace.
"Oh Lord, have Mercy", grant me "The Strength of the Almighty"
|Rory Paul 0:05
You're in the creative coop with Marta and Rory Paul. The winter chickens.
Join us every other week, we'll tighten our hold on the rudder. Let the sails fill and take us home.
This week's episode is entitled, Black History matters, creativity through adversity. Today's episode honors Black History Month.
Hello there, Martin. Hi, Rory. Paul, how are you doing? I'm doing okay. How about yourself? All right, I've been kind of mulling over this podcast, because there's a lot to mull over. And I'm not sure how to start?
Well, it's something we want to be respectful and honor the people that we're featuring today and their stories. And I want to say it's not going to be a history lesson. There's lots that anybody can research. But I think the thing that makes this podcast specialists the fact that we have artists that are keeping history in their own unique, creative way.
Rory Paul 1:40
And even people that I didn't realize, actually are artists, that you can be creative in so many ways. And it doesn't have to have an art form that we usually think of as art. One working title for this podcast was creativity, and adversity. And that is a key point of it. And it runs a thread of the adversity, with the creative with creativity through this whole thing.
And you know, that interplay between creativity and history is it's ancient as prehistoric times, it goes back to when cave people do their history on the walls and express themselves creatively. This is something that's gone on, probably since the beginning of mankind. It's interesting to see how people keep their history. And our guests today have kept their history and beautiful ways.
Rory Paul 2:40
Well, beautiful, but sometimes.
Yeah, yeah, you're right, you're right. How about beautifully power, I was gonna say powerful, yes, powerful, true, true, powerful ways.
Rory Paul 2:56
Before we start with that, I want to thank folks for supporting us listening, subscribing, going to our new website, and keyword there is new, we're still kind of building it. If you have any suggestions about the website or this podcast, please let us know. You can do that through the website through emails, and even has a little voicemail button on it, which is kind of cool. And constructive criticism. That's the best kind. So, Marta, how are we gonna start this?
Well, we're gonna start for subject. Yeah, we're gonna focus on black history, because it's February, it's the anniversary of the Greensboro sit ins. And I just don't think I could let February pass without acknowledging it. I think we're going to hear some different perspectives, maybe different to our own. And we may even be a little challenged or convicted. But as artists, and as creatives, I think it's important for us to know where we are in the timeline of our culture, what happened before us what's happening now? And what might be happening next is if we know. But yeah, we're going to, we're going to focus on black history. So one idea of how perspectives can change is the example of the music that we had in the opening. That piece is called strange islands that comes from my CD, Mystic Canticle. It was inspired by St. JOHN of the cross. And I had a whole vision of what it could be about when we when we played it composed it and recorded it. In the background, you can hear this ship creaking in the water. Just so our listeners will know I teach at an elementary school with a predominantly black population. And so I thought it'd be a great idea to play this for my students here a few years ago and I had them close their eyes and imagine this creaking ship going along the ocean and coming across an island. And you know, I said we don't know if this island has dangerous. Treasure on it and their, their eyes are closed. They're completely innocent. And I'm looking at their faces. And I'm listening to that music. And I suddenly realized that that could be the sound of a slave ship. And that could be their story. And I was so convicted, I just had to stop playing the music. And they had no idea. But I knew I had tapped into that sound of that music had created a whole different perspective for me than the original intent of the piece. Before we go on, I'd like to dedicate this episode to Mrs. Ellen Morrison. She was my sixth grade teacher. She was the first black teacher at my school. And she was the first black teacher I ever had. She was absolutely magnificent. She was articulate and dignified. And she opened up a whole world to me about black history. She read sounder to us she read poetry by black poets. She had this 12 by 14 box full of autobiography, not autobiography and biography cards of important prominent African Americans. And I learned so much from her. And I'm so grateful for what she did, because she changed my world. And I just wanted to honor her. Black history was so important to her. And she told us about Harriet Tubman and Booker T Washington and George Washington Carver and Sojourner Truth. And that brings us to our next person we want to honor and that would be Sandra Jones. Sandra Jones is an actress and a singer. And for years, she has studied the life of Sojourner Truth. And she has actually written a play a one woman play called Sojourner Truth, A Legacy. And we're going to hear from her now.
Sandra (sings traditional spiritual) When I get up in the morning, with my face pressed in my hand, I asked for the strength of the Almighty tea to conquer this life. Oh, I just can't start my day, i I don't get on my knees and pray for the strength of the mighty army to conquer this life. For the strength of the Almighty to conquer this life I'm in.
You read books, and I talks to God. Oh, I goes out in the woods and in the fields. And I talked to God. One morning and I was out in the wheat field. And the wheat was holding up his head look at Mazda. Hi. So I goes over and I grabs a hole to this year wheat and you believe, there ain't nothing there? Well, I say Lord, what else this year wheat. And God say. Sojourner. There's a little boll weevil in it.
When He is talking about the Constitution, and the rights of man, well, I grabbed a hold of this here constitution. Oh, and it's looking mighty big. And I search, I search a search for my rights and you believes it. I said "God, what ails this here? constitution?"
And God's say? Sojourner, there's a little boll weevil in it.
(sings traditional spiritual) We have trampled through the valley. We have sailed the stormy sea. We have found ourselves in bondage. We have seen ourselves sick free. Now we go up the mountain to proclaim our liberty as we praise the Lord who brought us here since time for Jubilee. Jubilee. Jubilee. Yes, it's time for Jubilee.
Well, children, where there is so much. There must be something out of kilter.
I think that the negros of the South and the white women of the North all talking about rights, somebody is going to be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped in the carriages, lifted over ditches and should have the best place everywhere. Well, nobody helps me in the carriages or over mud puddles, or gives me in a best place. And a nice a woman. Look at me. Look at my arm. I have plowed and I have planted and I have given into bonds, and no man could add me.
And as a woman, I could work as much and eat as much as a man when I could get it and bear the lashes way. Anyhow. I have born five children, and seen them most all sold off into slavery. And when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus for me.
And ain't I a woman, then they talk about this thing in the head, they call it a intellect. Well, what's that got to do with women's rights? Or negros rights. If my cup won't hold but upright, and yours holds a court, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure fool.
And then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men. Cuz Christ wasn't a woman. Where did your Christ come from where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman, man had nothing to do with him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women ought to be able to turn it back up again. And then they asking to do it. And the men better let 'em.
Rory Paul 12:22
Whoa, Sandra, I am listening. Thank you.
I would like to introduce the pillar family to our listening audience.
When I first was hired to teach at my school, I wanted to know everything I could about it school was named after Silas peeler. The school was called peeler open school for the Performing Arts. And I just felt like I just felt a need to understand where I was in the background of the place I was had. And I did a little research and I found this photograph of Silas peeler when he was president of a local all black college. And in this photograph, it was a music class. And there were two young black men holding violins and I thought wow, here I am a violin teacher with a predominantly black school with a prominent advocate for the for education, Silas peeler, and I just felt like I tripped over you know, an ancient forgotten well. And then I learned about Abraham Taylor, his son, Abraham peeler was a principal at another school in Warner's Ville. He was a principal there for over almost 40 years. And Morrisville is a part of Greensboro that was named after Yardley Warner who was a Quaker, and the Pennsylvania Quakers would purchase land. And Mr. Warner actually would sell the land to the slaves because they had nowhere to go. And this is solid, very inexpensive, very inexpensively helped build a school. And he himself was had rocks thrown at him and his life was threatened for what he was doing because of the racist south. But this is what many Quakers said I think you have a relative that was a Quaker
Rory Paul 14:01
I do, he was an interesting Quaker. Most of the Quakers tried to not fight in the Civil War. They were mostly pacifists, although quite a few of them were active in the Underground Railroad.
But my great grandfather actually lied about his age and enlisted in the Union army at the age of 16. He was a staunch abolitionist and fought the last year and a half in the civil war around Washington DC.
Rory Paul 14:36
I'm kind of proud of that. Yeah, he should be. But what came out of this through Marta, having been in the Greensboro area and intertwined with these people. I knew nothing about the pillars. And the more I learned I was that's why the the the thought of creativity In adversity came to me. That's what these men did was hugely creative. It's huge like to take black history, support the creative efforts of their students through these times of adversity and just do these amazing things.
I just, it left me just speech while I'm not speechless because I'm talking. Right, right. That's what I meant about beautifully powerful.
Right. And Abraham Peeler was so innovative at JC Price he actually even started a radio show for his students to broadcast in 1942. They had pageants, he loved the arts band, a band dance, art, galleries, art exhibits, all kinds of creativity, and he documented everything. He knew he was keeping history, because he knew he was making history.
Rory Paul 15:56
Oh, I was gonna say NPR should do a show about this. But we are.
I mean, he even he photographed so many events. He started his own sports teams for these children because of segregation. They weren't allowed to play on competitive teams. He was so creative. And the year before he came to the school, JC Price School, he was at another school, it was 1932. He was only 28 years old. And he had the students. They were sixth and seventh graders go to family and and neighbors who had been slaves and interviewed him. And that's what he wanted those histories not to be lost. Exactly. And that's what we're going to hear from your friend and Angela Willis. She's your teaching assistant. She's a colleague of mine. And I was wondering who I should, who should I get to read this? And I went and asked Angela, and she immediately agreed, because she's kind and sweet. We love each other. And she pointed out that her mother and a lot of her family went to the school. So I asked the perfect person. She's the perfect person to do this. Yeah, yeah.
Well, I had heard Marta mentioned Angela, but I had never met her till we went over to her church. Actually, my principles church, your principles, church? Yeah, we had a challenge because of Covid. Well, you tell the story. Um, well, you know, no, no.
Well, we had a challenge to interview her or actually to record her because of COVID. I had hoped we could record her at school. But because of the COVID policies, I couldn't bring, I couldn't bring you Rory Paul into the building. And I went and asked my principal's permission, and she was very gracious and pointed out that wasn't possible. And then she got on the phone, and called her church and asked if we could record there. And that's how we got to record Angela. So there we are.
Rory Paul 17:59
Everybody was a mask on, of course, until Angelo was ready to record because it's hard to record through a mask. And I have heard, you know, we've all heard the stories of what they actually some of the transcribers in this call the slave times. But I'd never heard them passed down firsthand, to children to children who kind of put this It's a strange combination of innocence. I think that's what makes it even more powerful. AndI sat there like, just, I can't even describe it. But everybody see, I'm proud of what my grand great grandfather did in the Civil War. But I I needed to hear that a different perspective, right. It's a different perspective. We think I think, oh, hey, I'm, I'm behind the blacks. I'm I'm for African American equality. I know about this stuff. No, not from what I heard that you're going to hear shortly.
And these are not the worst case scenarios. These are the stories that people tell children. I think they knew they couldn't tell some of the atrocities that happened during slavery. But you're right. The minute Angela started to speak, you and I both I could just, I could feel it in the room. We had touched on something holy.
years ago, my great great grandmother was a little girl. Her mother was captured and sold as a slave. When she was on the ship on her way to America, her mother died. And they buried her in the water. And our daughter, my great great grandmother was carried on to America. She was at that time four years old.Later, she married, her husband was stolen, and so to a cotton farm down in the south.
My mother says that my grandfather was a slave. He said that some slaves had to go barefoot in the snow and ice. His mother was sold and he stayed with his master. My grandmother worked on another farm. She was sold to many owners. She said one of the Masters wives taught her how to read and write. Once she was reading, and her master caught her and whipped her with a long wheel. She got many weapons.
She said, if they were caught writing, their fourth finger would be cut off. Even if they was caught with a piece of paper with any kind of business on it, they would get whipped.
Angela (sings traditional spiritual) "Oh, Lord Have Mercy"
And they had a square in the middle of town where they would sell them. And the people would have them lift different things to see how strong they were. They had to work hard to feed the soldiers while the soldiers were fighting. My mother said that her great grandfather ran away one time, and they could not catch him. So they shot him in the leg. But he did not kill him. He got well and did not die. So they worked him a long time. Then he got bad off sick, and they sold him.
Another lady told me that her grandfather was a slave. She told me that when they got ready to whip her grandfather, it would take four or five men. She said that her grandfather would have to work all day and did not get anything to eat. Some of the slaves had pretty good homes and others had homes where they had rough treatment.
Another lady said that she was born in the time of slavery. She said that some slaves were treated worse than some of the white people's dogs. Some of the slaves slept in long homes with dogs. She said that some of the colored people fled away in the wilderness and died because they did not want to be treated like a dog. And some were found and killed.
Their master when their children got large enough, would take them to sale. The master found out whether they was healthy, so he sold them to a master who had very little slaves. Their children were put out on blocks and sold, their mothers would cry. The master would beat them and send them to work. He would make them work till dark then call them in and give them their supper. That's the way slaves were treated.
When Mrs. Lee was born, she said that her master was very good. But when she was seven years old, her master sold her mother for a man slave. The man that became mother's master was very cruel.
And those days, when children were sent off, the Masters would give them such a length of time to get back. And if they were not back in time, they would get a whipping. They would not let the slave men live with their wives. But they would let them see them once in a while.
Now, I will attempt to tell you some of the things that my grandmother told me. She told me that the people in slavery didn't go to church, but they would have meetings by themselves. They would put tubs pans and pots at the doors so that the white people could not hear them. If the white people heard them, they would beat the slaves.
Marta and RP play tradional spiritual traditonal style.
They would sell the wife from the husband, the husband from the wife, the children, from the wife, the wife from the children.
This week, Mrs. James told me about slaves. Some of the things she would tell me was how they fed them. They would feed out of a tub, they will cook up a large tub of skins and put it on the ground, and many as good would eat out of that term. They would take the little boys and make them stay out in the cornfield, to watch the crows. If they let a crow get one grain of corn, they would get their backs torn up. The largest boys, they would take them and make them plow. When a boy got large enough, he was sold.
This last segment was written by sixth grade student Pauline Winter. Her writing stood out in that she's processing more than events and information. You can tell she's starting to question and to feel the injustice of it all. Here is what Pauline wrote.
The punishment. It is very unhappy and sad to think of the punishments that the Negroes got. Some of them were beaten to death, and some of them half to death. Others hurt very badly.
They would whip these people in that they would toss onto low posts and trees. They would whip them with cowhide fixed on a stick. When they got ready to whip you they would wet the cow Hi. Dip it in salt. I think it was a very cruel deed. Don't you?
Angela (sings traditional spiritual) "Oh Lord Have Mercy"
Rory Paul 29:06
When Marta and I were recording Angela speaking the stories. We were pleasantly surprised when she said she wanted to say
and we're so glad she did. The song she chose was perfect for this reading.
Rory Paul 29:23
And it sounded so authentic Marta and I wanted to add some authentic sounding instruments. So I played the banjo and Marta played her violin fiddle style..
And a lot of people don't know that the banjo was originally an African instrument. It was a gourd strung probably some kind of animal gut.
Now we're going to attempt to fast forward nearly 100 years since those students wrote the accounts of former slaves. There are endless stories to tell of heartache, suffering and injustice that has occurred over the years. And sadly these stories do continue. It's impossible to cover the hardship and trauma endured in a single podcast. Now the ability to be heard is breaking forth in one of the most powerful art forms I know spoken word. We're getting ready to hear from Josephus Thompson. I've known Josephus for over Gosh, 12 years. I've worked with him. I've witnessed his integrity and his talent. like Abraham peeler he has poured into the youth of our city and our area. He produces a radio show every week and a monthly show called the poetry cafe. And in March, he will release a program on Amazon Prime called Poetry During the Pandemic, here is Josephus.
Do your capital punishment, or people or police or capital or United States of America for which it stands one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all until it all falls down?
Or crumbles or mumbles right before your eyes on national television and they let it implode, explode with zip ties. As they scale the building and break windows and Congress barricades doors and highs and runs and prays and escapes while we watched them tour with flags in hand and no fear of repercussions, or death, or taser, or knee and neck or restraint or arrest or being detained and they hold open doors
and hold back troops and help elderly women down steps. And I'm not sure if I'm watching an insurrection or an inside job from watching pure disbelief as they enter and exit unharmed, cheering posing for pics and posting into social media pages. And I wonder where are the charges of the SWAT team? Or the National Guard? Where is the riot gear and the canisters of smoke? Or maybe maybe this is the smoke screen? Maybe they are the smoke screen and justice is blind and they say they say this is not who we are not what our country represents. But isn't it an eight that what they chant the distance 1776 and speak of Civil War, which last time I checked, divided the country north and south by slavery. They bombed black Wall Street and burned down rosewood and anything else that was black and thrived? Is this exactly who we are and what we have become we've always been a war waiting to happen when things aren't going their way. When the tide of power shifts. They read line and judge a five centers overseas to win their wars and don't reparations while in New Jersey brothers still locked up over weed when Colorado is a billion dollar industry and because of his felony he can never own dispensary how interesting and this is festering in my spirit. It's not that we want you to shoot them. We want you to not shoot us like you don't shoot them. But they always do. And they always will. And the truth be told, I kind of wanted them to get shot. A host or mayst want to see them pit and cuffed and paddy wagon up but it looked more like a state fair. A picnic as they all emerged with souvenirs don't and red, white and blue to their virtual court hearings with no bond returning to their own homes to await their day in court. Because they're innocent till proven guilty by a court of law, a jury of their peers I turn off the TV and the fences and barricades go up long after the people are gone. And the right is over. And Briana died in her own home.
Brianna died in her own home. Her power and privilege seem to be so white. And so right all the time and a time where kneeling peacefully seem to be so wrong and the song change is gonna come play softly But my question is when when do we get to be capital or equal or even when we can stop being peaceful and turning the other cheek when we get to arm ourselves and live I live for the day they call our stand patriotic are to testament to the people. But until then we'll keep dreaming. Keep turning our dreams into reality. Keep keep loving and fighting and voting and being the change we want to see But until then, just know this not easy. Sincerely, me.
So I'm pulling up a Walmart and notice the caution tape, the steel metal grates and the blue dots making the bricks the door six feet apart but feel more like six feet deep six degrees of separation in order to keep a safe mass intact and if I didn't think it was real before now seeing is believing
It's hard to see opportunity when every day feels like a sci fi movie, and we continue to fall, waiting on spring, waiting on the storm to pass behind closed doors, we watch screens, starting the fine line between depression and inspiration between racism and denial, redlining, and Time flies and we're crying and marching and hoping and wishing and praying and standing in the streets. And the blue dots become red balloons. And we see six feet deep as an option, or possibility. And the reality is I was just trying to make it to Walmart stocked up on water and groceries for another week. And they say that the meeting I have with the earth, so we huddle and converse, strategize. Some stories of inspiration and motivation, that occasion on how we can forge a new nation with liberty and justice for all and the room fall silent. What I mean is they move up one more blue dots. It's not that people don't believe it's just that they don't see how it affects them, or why it should matter, or why we matter. So we wait patiently, and people exit, but the baskets filled to the brim mass of flapping in the wind like the American flag.
So by the time I get in, just the water, or toilet paper, or bread left, and the arrows on the aisles point in one direction and this section of life feels so familiar. There are places where races, share humanity.
(original song by Maker's Wine, Marta and RP, plays in background)
First over on aisle three. And ironically, there are no arrows on that aisle. Those sections or directions on the circles of gravity and social distancing, either visible smiles feeling like like the foundation of something different.
Rory Paul 36:54
Inspired, but what Josephus said, Marta and I wrote the song you hear. Dream it, say it, sing it, pray it.
The foundation of something different. When I returned home, my basket may not be full. But my heart is, my hope is, and my mask is on. I don't feel so alone. The world is changing right before my eyes.
We want to thank all the wonderful people who contributed to today's podcast. All our guests are listed on our website, www dot winter chickens.com.
Rory Paul 37:54
All music and other creative content on this podcast is the original copyrighted material of Maker's Wine and their guests.
Please look for our next podcast in February aligned with Valentine's Day, about Love. Please submit all your creative songs, poems, and great love ideas to us as soon as possible. Thanks for listening
Transcribed by https://otter.ai