Couldn't Help It

Eddie

Eddie is amongst the most beautiful and powerful beings I have ever had the blessing to meet. He is brilliant beyond measure. He is clear as a bell. He is a teacher, a visionary, and a master strategists on the level of vibe that I experience Nelson Mandella. And his laughter makes you feel home ~ maybe for the first time in your life. Eddie is the epitome of what African Elder means to me. Eddie is the best of what certainly Man has to offer.

Eddie’s mom died last week. She will be laid to rest today. Eddie is not allowed to see her. Yeah, I said “not allowed”, Eddie has spent the last 40 years behind bars. Incomprehensible, right? Gets worse. Eddie didn’t do the crime.

People who don’t understand life on the inside always say. “Of Course! There is no such thing as a guilty prisoner.” I’ve heard it a hundred times when I talk about Eddie. That’s TV. Truth is, I have known a lot of people behind the walls. This is simply my experience. The folk I have known are the most truthful folk I know. There is something about living in an 8×8 box for 40 years, or even 40 months, that makes anything but truth seem really like bullshit, unless bullshit is all you know. Folk inside ~ especially the lifers ~ like Eddie, can smell it from miles away. When you get down to the bones of it through poverty or through pain, truth is one of the only things that feels real, so the smart ones work the magic of giving meaning to what is intended to take it away, through the most powerful tool on the planet. What I call “THE ROCK” ~ TRUTH.

I can smell it too. I have been blessed to only be within the walls by choice. But I was also blessed to have experienced enough pain that I can feel it. Not with the near the degree of clarity as Mr. Conway, but enough to see the crystal clarity with which Eddie does everything. He simply did not do it. I would stake my life on it.

So we, All of US, have allowed this innocent and amazing man, to sit in a cell for 2/3rds of his life, because we aren’t him. That’s the truth ~ down to the bones.

What cuts deepest into my soul, is that Eddie, after enduring this, has to say goodbye to his mother, who is finally free of the pain a mother who knows her child was consciously, blatantly and wrongfully put behind bars, from the one place on the planet that was overwhelmingly the source of her daily pain.

This is insanity.

So even if you don’t believe that he isn’t innocent ~ for what ever reason. He has been doing nothing but overwhelming good every day of his sentence. How have we faired in the good-for-the-planet department for the last 2/3rds of our lives? I know I have some catching up to do ~ a lot. What kind of society will not lift up an example of, at the worst, incredible transformation, at the best ~ saintliness beyond measure. What motivation does that offer to our young people who are struggling to decide whether to take the impossibly rough road out of poverty, or the easy one. Where does being a Saint get you?

Its time for Justice!

Google Marshall Eddie Conway and see what feels real, or at least just, to your soul.
Send a Letter, Make a call! Thoughts and Prayers are good too.

President Barack Obama

Governor Martin O’Malley

Gary D. Maynard, Chair
Secretary, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions
6852 4th St, Sykesville, MD 21784-7433

Telephone: 410-875-3400, Fax: 410-875-3582

And for those of us who can stand in witness to represent Eddie, you are invited to attend the funeral. The family has arranged for the services to take place Thursday June 17th at 1:30 pm at March Funeral home.

The address is:

March’s Funeral Home
4300 Wabash Ave
Baltimore, MD 21215

Lets keep calling until Eddie is Free!

Blackbird

I walked into the restaurant and over to the bar and greeted the bartender. My eye was caught by a slightly familiar, partially balding man who seemed to recognize me. The memory slowly returned as I moved to the corner of the bar where he was purched. We had talked about the music the last time we met. I had played a few songs. He smelled our era through the lyrics and chord choices. He said he was about to go to some music festival, a throwback to the post Woodstock days when 3-day festivals filled with unshowered hippies abounded. They have apparently returned, only now the young tiedyed dervishes were munching on ecstasy, not mushrooms and acid as was the trend in our day some 35 years ago. He loved the music, he said, “And besides that,” he smiled, “I still love the young girls.” His words hung silently in the air between us.

Tears pushed out of my throat and down my cheeks as I reached the first-third mark of the 90 minute soul masterpiece, Blackbird, at the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore just days before. I am not really a theater aficionado, though I have taken in enough professional and amateur performances to judge what moves my soul. I finally began to understand the deep and painful mystery that had illuded comprehension these 35 years of emerging manhood. It is the deepest reason that I haven’t been able to trace the source of so many women’s rage. It has been violently suppressed ~ to protect men from taking responsibility for our acts, and to provide cover for our ability to continue to perpetrate sexual violence against girls and women.

Blackbird takes on this reality in an unbridled form, laying bare a brutally honest view of the complexity of this all-to-pervasive reality for women. The brilliant writing peels back each emotional layer, exposing a story that gradually coils the stomach as it weaves the context of this hidden, ugly truth. Blackbird leaves no room for the simple duality of understanding we men long for in stories that have a villain and damsel in distress. It forces our face into the mirror of our own complicity, revealing the collusion we have with the continuation of this unbearable, silent pain that has been carried by our daughters, our girlfriends, our wives, our mothers, since the beginning of time.

I left feeling embarrassed, that as a “conscious” man, how unconscious I have been for so long about this reality, and how ever subtly, I have ~ and virtually every man I know has ~ helped to build this invisible prison in which girls are forced to live. There is no passageway out of this sentence. If you tell the truth, you are pulled into the light of ignominy. If you remain silent, you remain in a purgatory of perpetually reliving the violence in the isolation of suppressed or conscious memory. Even if they have never been touched inappropriately, we see the eyes of men of all ages lingering too long in the calculation of their thoughts that form the cave of isolation in which these acts are conceived and committed, and are silenced by the shame and fear that keeps them locked within our sisters, to carry alone in their souls for a lifetime.

It is without question that I recommend that each and every man see this play, and in particular, this performance if possible. Megan Anderson and David Parkes offer a window into the silent scream of integrating the incomprehensible that, if you are courageous enough to face, will leave you changed ~ hopefully.

As a young woman stood waiting in the line to be seated at the restaurant, the dark, drooping stare of this all-too-typical man hung locked below her head, scanning up and down her exposed legs and sundress. I felt the sick feeling well across my soul as the silent, “harmless” violation took place right in front of me. Thankful now, to have some medicine to offer in response to the illness I witnessed. As he was leaving the restaurant I called him back for a moment, “Hey man, have you seen Blackbird at the Everyman Theatre?” “Its the most powerful 90 minutes I have experienced in, maybe, ever. Take some of your boys and definitely check it out.”

“Oh, no, I definitely will, thanks man!” Thank you Everyman, for the courage to stage this amazing work. And thank you Megan Anderson, for the courage and power to bring this truth into the light!

The Cell: Are They Really Our Friends

It was churchtime Sunday morning. I religiously pulled out my aging Power Book at the Starbucks after puring my brown libation into the receptacle beneath the carved silver goddess of the sea, stirring in just enough cream to take the edge off. There were a few couples, and a handful of solo fellow worshipers. Each of them actively accompanied by their electronic companions ~ looking longingly at them, stroking them gently, like lovers.

My iPhone got jacked out of my car last week. Mistakenly left her alone for one night in my complex’s garage and the evildoers abducted her. They broke the big, expensive window. Is there no honor amongst thieves these days? Called AT&T. No upgrade til June. So I am using this lame flip with a keypad the size of my left thumb. I had to grow nails to be able to push the buttons. All day, I’m missing my friend…

Wow ~ do I really feel like I lost a friend? Answer — Yes. It is crazy.

My daughter, 13, just walked in to meet me. In typical teen style she plops down across from me, without saying hello, pulls out her laptop. 2 minutes later she is leaning her head over our touching laptop screens demanding, at the far boarder of frustration, “I NEED INTERNET”, cause she can’t get her newly purchased Starbucks card to give up the web. Its a beautiful day, and here we sit ~ tethered to these machines.

How did these machines push their way past human relationship for the number one seat?

Michael invited me down to a latin jazz performance the other night. He was with a couple friends ~ grown-ups. Mid conversation, one was texting incessantly under the table like a schoolgirl in her desk as if we couldn’t see, saying, “this is rude, isn’t it?” She didn’t stop.

I heard Larry King once describe the hardest part of quitting his addiction to smoking was that it felt like loosing his best friend. He said butts are right there keeping you company when you want to be alone, they act like your wingman, keeping you feelin’ “Kool” when you are in public, and are the perfect partner for a drink or a cup of coffee. As smoking has been banished from our living and working spaces, our portable d-vices have become the new cigarettes ~ and it seems we are all having click-fits.

I am struggling not to replace my iPhone. Not even because there is a new one coming out in a minute. I don’t like the hold it has on me. I haven’t had a drag in a decade for the same reason. Still love em both.

At the same latin jazz show, the sister with the phone said that she was a “military intelligence” pro, soon to be working in “Northern Virginia”. I asked what she will be doing hoping this would be my first encounter with a real spy ~ at least that I know of. Turns out she will be amongst those to decide which countries get the new 83 Million dollar stealth jet that can take of and land anywhere like a helo.

Wow ~ what goes into a decision like that?

Her proud response ~ “Five years of training.” Comforting. I told her I was glad that a woman was making that decision, particularly one with a 1-year-old child. I asked her to include him, and every other child on the planet, as she parses the equation.

Daniel J Gerstle, founder of Helo Magazine, informed me that helo is what they call choppers in the world of relief work. Not sure if it’s pronounced “hell-o” or “heal-o”. Guess that depends on which application we are referring to. Won’t it be lovely when healing is the only application of our most elegant and efficient technologies.

At what point do machines deserve to be treated as our friends?

My emerging answer: When they give life rather than taking from it. I’m out of this cell ~ going to hang with my beautiful daughter on this lovely day. Leaving you with some peaceful green from the Helo crew…