Thursday, July 31, 2014

Form and Freedom in Prayer

"Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen."                                                        
The collect (opening prayer) quoted above is one of my favorite prayers from The Book of Common Prayer for the Episcopal Church. The beauty of the prayer is that it welcomes an openness before God. I grew up among Southern Baptists who valued spontaneous impromptu prayers. The good thing about spontaneous prayer is that it encourages a conversational attitude that assumes God’s immediate proximity. The downside of spontaneous prayer is that there is often very little depth and a very narrow range of things expressed in prayer. Such prayers are often a quick “Thank you God for bringing us together, thank you for this lovely day, lead us and guide us, bring healing to my body and spirit, watch over our loved ones, etc.” Sometimes a spontaneous prayer will be one of thanksgiving and praise; often it will be a plea for help. All of these things are elements that belong in the realm of prayer but it is quite easy to remain very superficial and perfunctory with these types of prayers. One can go for years hearing very little variation from a handful of prayers. I have heard many fervent spontaneous prayers, and have participated in many such prayers, but I have also learned two other approaches that revolutionized my concept of what happens in prayer. Public liturgical prayer and personal prayer with the Rosary have added new dimensions to my devotional practices.                                                                                                                      
Public Prayer

In my spiritual pilgrimage, I moved on to explore modes of prayer found in Episcopal and Catholic traditions. My first introduction to liturgical worship was at an Anglo-Catholic parish in the Episcopal Church. When I first arrived, my attitude was that I would learn a new language for worship. I soon realized that the act of coming together for corporate prayer broadened my concept of prayer. My prayerful thoughts were turned toward the community and the world, but in specific details that caused me to examine my own life.

I heard prayers for creation, for our wise use of resources, and for justice and equity. I heard prayers for leaders, calling them by their first names (which forced me to see them as vulnerable people in need of prayer, regardless of political issues). I was guided to pray for things I might not have thought of on my own, but all were matters that were vital. Moreover, the process of praying helped me to let go of petty differences and to examine what I was doing to help bring about a more just and equitable world.  

Private Prayer

Another thing has affected my prayer life for the better is the Rosary. The basic concept of the Rosary is to use a string of beads to count prayers as they are said so that you pray one “Our Father” (the Lord’s Prayer) and ten “Hail Marys” in a series of five “decades,” or five repetitions of ten prayers focused on the Blessed Mother, each cycle separated by the Our Father. It is traditional to begin by reciting the Apostle’s Creed. There is also a series of meditations from the life of Christ called “mysteries” that are attached to the use of the Rosary*.

As I began to learn the Rosary, however, I found it more helpful to focus on the repetitive prayers. I thought at first that I would come back and practice meditating on the mysteries, but the simple use of the Hail Mary and the Our Father were so effective in bringing about a meditative state, I never did get back to contemplating the mysteries or reciting the creed. I kept it at a basic stripped down form. Years later I would hear Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr affirm my own intuitive take on the Rosary in a recorded talk he gave on “Emotional Sobriety.” He said that the Rosary had the potential for meditative practice, but that it had become so cluttered with other things that its original purpose had been crowded out. I was glad to receive affirmation that my pared down Rosary practice was not a neglecting of the gift but rather a true doorway to spiritual practice.

Structure Giving Rise to Freedom

The beauty of formally structured liturgical prayer is that it instructs me in things to pray about and it proceeds regardless of whether or not I feel like praying. The beauty of the Rosary is that it can focus me in quiet meditation even when I do not know what to pray or how to pray in a given circumstance. I also think that the interplay between masculine and feminine is a psychologically healthy practice to bring to meditation and prayer.                                          
I have found a freedom and renewed creativity in my spiritual practice through the structured forms of liturgical prayer and the Rosary. They both act as a center, a home base to which I can return. The key is to remember what Jesus said about spiritual structures: “The Sabbath was made for humankind, not humankind for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27, NRSV) If we can remember that spiritual tools are to liberate us, not to enslave us to form, then we can hold the form lightly enough to benefit from it without being bound by it.             

*For information about praying the Rosary, the Dominican Fathers have a good resource at

Photo by Charles Kinnaird


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Recipes My Daughter Likes: The Ultimate Veggie Burger

I saw it in The New York Times last week – a recipe for “The Ultimate VeggieBurger.” The recipe is by Melissa Clark. When I saw it, I wanted to try it, but there was just one problem. My daughter is vegan, and this recipe calls for eggs and cheese, both of which are by definition not part of a vegan diet. So I altered the recipe to make it vegan by using an egg substitute as well as a cheese substitute. I put all the ingredients together on Friday night, placed the mixture in the refrigerator overnight, then fired up the grill on Saturday.

Photo by Andrew Scrivani
for The New York Times
The results were great! It satisfied the vegan as well as the meat eaters in the family. My daughter said it had a texture that was better than any of the frozen varieties of vegetable patties available in the stores.  Everyone said that this recipe is worth making again. I am including Melissa Clark’s original recipe below, then I’ll tell you how I made it. There is even a video on You Tube if you want to see Melissa Clark making this recipe herself.
The Ultimate Veggie Burger
By Melissa Clark

You make a veggie burger because you want the hamburger experience without the meat. This one
delivers. It’s got a firm, beefy texture that takes on the char and smoke of the grill, but is adaptable
enough to cook inside on your stove. The enemy of a veggie burger is mushiness, which stems from a
high moisture content. To combat that, the very watery ingredients – mushrooms, tofu, beans and
beets – are roasted to both dehydrate them somewhat and intensify their flavors. Yes, the ingredient
list here is long; you need a diverse lot to make a good veggie burger. And each one adds something
in terms of flavor and/or texture. Garnish this any way you like, and don’t forget to toast the buns.

TOTAL TIME: 1½  hours, plus at least 2 hours to chill

  • 4 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
  • Olive oil
  • 1 /2 pound cremini mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed
  • Black pepper, as needed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 medium beet, peeled and coarsely grated (3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup tamari almonds or cashews
  • 1 /3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 ounces Cotija cheese or queso blanco, crumbled or grated (about 1 /2 cup)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon dulce pimentón or sweet smoked paprika
  • 4 ounces tempeh, crumbled
  • 1 /2 cup cooked brown rice


1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Slice tofu into 1/4-inch-thick slabs and pat dry with paper towel.
   Arrange tofu on one half of a rimmed baking sheet; brush both sides with oil. Spread mushrooms
   on the other half of the baking sheet; toss with 2 tablespoons oil and salt and pepper.

2. On a second rimmed baking sheet, toss beans and grated beet with 1 tablespoon oil and salt and
    pepper, then spread the mixture into one layer.

3. Transfer both baking sheets to the oven. Roast bean-beet mixture, tossing occasionally, until
    beans begin to split and beets are tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Roast mushrooms and
    tofu until golden and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 25 minutes. Let everything cool.

4. Place nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add cooled bean-beet mixture,
    mushrooms, tofu, panko, cheese, eggs, mayonnaise, scallion, garlic, pimentón and 3/4 teaspoon
    salt. Pulse until ingredients are just combined. Pulse in tempeh and rice but do not overprocess.
    You want small chunks, not a smooth mixture. Scrape mixture into a bowl and chill at least 2
    hours or up to 5 days (you can also freeze the burger mix).

5. When you are ready to make the burgers, divide mixture into 6 equal portions and form each
    portion into a patty about 1 inch thick. Return to the fridge until just before grilling. They grill
    better when they start out cold.

6. Heat the grill. Cook the burgers over a low fire until they are charred on both sides and firm
    when you press on them, 4 to 6 minutes per side. If they start to burn before they firm up, move
    them to the sides of the grill to finish cooking over indirect heat. Alternatively, you can cook these
    on a grill pan or in a skillet over low heat.

YIELD: 6 Burgers

*    *    *

When I made this recipe, I made two changes – I replaced the eggs and cheese to allow for a vegan diet. For the eggs, I used an egg substitute called Egg Replacer by Ener-G. I recently discovered this product at The Golden Temple Natural Grocery and Cafe on Birmingham's Southside and have had good success with it in baking. Eggs serve as a binder, and Egg Replacer uses potato starch and tapioca flour to do the same thing. For the cheese, I used a cheese substitute that I found in the supermarket in the vegetarian section (Go Veggie is the brand name) . The product is made of soy protein and claims to have the same melting and stretching qualities as cheese.

The burgers did fine on the outside grill. I cooked them a little longer than the recipe suggests, but I think that is because my grill is higher off the coals than some. The only word of caution I will add is that in my experience, the burgers sank a little bit below the grid on the grill. My first attempt at flipping a burger sheared of the portions that were below the grill spindles. I found that by moving the spatula parallel with the grill lines, I could lift the end of burger slightly and hold it up while I moved the spatula under the burger. With that adjustment in technique, the grilling proceeded with success.

[Addendum (July, 2016): In making my vegan version of these veggie burgers, I have found a better egg substitute -- chia seed. While the Ener- G Egg replacer is excellent for baking, chia seed does better for these burgers. Just use one tablespoon of ground chia seed mixed with 3 tablespoons of water (so for this recipe, I used 2 Tbls of chia seed in 6 Tbles of water). I used a mortar and pestle to grind them. Let it sit for about 5 minutes and you have a nice gel to add to the mix. Using chia seed not only added more nutrition to the burgers, it also made them firmer and easier to handle on the grill.]

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Music: Penny Lane

Here's an old favorite from The Beatles. The video is the original Beatles promotional film for "Penny Lane" but the audio is from a 1993 live concert by Paul McCartney. To hear the original Beatles recording, scroll on down to see how it was presented on the Beatles cartoon show back in the day.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Lessons from a Brown Thrasher

with great care
and diligent grace
proclaim life

                  ~ CK

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons by:

Matt Tillett , Ken Thomas , cbgrfx123 , and Mike's Birds

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things Are Happening in Birmingham

Birmingham skyline

For years, in spite of having institutions of remarkable quality such as the Birmingham Museum of Art, the McWane Science Center, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Alabama Symphony,  several theater companies, and a world class medical center in UAB Hospital, the city of Birmingham, Alabama was not thriving. It seemed to be a city always on the verge, but never quite following through. Flight to the suburbs had certainly taken its toll. Lately, however, we have been seeing some incredible changes. Those of us who have lived here for a while have been noticing these changes for the better, and the pace seems to be picking up as many civic improvements begin to coalesce.

Positive Changes in the City

First it was the loft apartments and new urban housing that began bringing people back to live in the city proper. The completion of Railroad Park brought a new focus to the downtown area, and the building of Regions Field brought the Birmingham Barons baseball team back to town after a twenty year sojourn in in the suburbs. We have also been seeing a return of grocery stores and shops to city blocks that had seemed like a ghost town ten short years ago. 

With the motivation of some farsighted civic leaders, not the least of which is Gen. Charles Krulack, president of Birmingham-Southern College, the city now seems to be on the move. Gen. Krulak issued a challenge to the people to invest in their city, embrace its human rights history, and make the city a place to celebrate. In a 2012 op ed piece Birmingham should embrace its human rights history which appeared in The Birmingham News, Krulak wrote:

No matter your political persuasion, the simple fact is that without Birmingham, there would not have been an African-American president
or an African-American national security adviser. Without Birmingham, there are many other men and women of different races, different religions and different cultures who would not have the opportunities they have today. To fail to embrace our rightful role in the history of human rights is to do ourselves a grave disservice.

General Krulak enumerated the tangible as well as the intangible assets that the city has to offer and expressed the hope that we might come together as a Birmingham that embraces its past and uses that past as a springboard to a bright future.

The Democratic National Convention

The latest buzz is that the city is being considered as a possible site for the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  When I first heard that Birmingham was in the running, I thought it was great that my city was being considered. There were some naysayers early on who pointed out that we don’t have the hotel space needed for some 15,000 visitors descending upon the city. Then when I learned that we were among the finalists, I couldn’t help feeling some pride, but didn’t take much notice beyond the daily news cycle. This week, however, it suddenly hit home that the city has great possibilities ahead.

People begin to gather at the historic
Alabama Theater
Blue Dot (of Bright Blue Dots) alerted the public via Facebook on Monday that people should go downtown to 3rd Avenue North to give a wave to the DNC committee that was currently in town looking over the city. With a little encouragement from my wife, I decided to head on downtown to see what was happening. I arrived at the Alabama Theater where some were beginning to gather. I was impressed with the sights downtown at eight o’clock at night. The place was well lit with signs of new and thriving businesses. I saw young and old coming together to catch a glimpse of the DNC, but the crowd was mostly young folks. There were people riding bicycles, lots of people milling about, waiting in anticipation.

When the news came that the DNC motorcade was just a few minutes away, I looked around and became unexpectedly emotional. It suddenly registered with me: the very idea that all of these people were gathered to cheer on an idea for the city meant that there was a surplus of positive expectation. The city has lived too long in the shadow of naysayers, but now we seem to actually be building upon positive steps that have been moving incrementally toward greater possibilities.

When the motorcade arrived, I think most of us expected that they would drive on by as we waved and cheered. To our surprise, the motorcade stopped right there on 3rd Avenue in front of the Lyric Theater. Mayor William Bell got out of the first car and greeted everyone, then members of the evaluation committee for the DNC got out of their cars to meet the crowd. They were on their way to a “pitch party” at the Iron City entertainment venue on the south side of town.

                                                  Birmingham  Mayor William Bell with members 
                                                                  of the DNC committee

Whether or not Birmingham gets to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016, it is exciting to see the city reaching upward and outward. Hopefully we can continue to build upon recent positive developments and make the city a place that proudly proclaims its important role as a beacon for human rights, as well as a place where it is fun to be alive.

The historic Lyric Theater that once hosted
Vaudeville acts is currently being renovated

Photos by Charles Kinnaird


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Peace of Jerusalem?

[The following is a repeat post that was first featured on August 6, 2010. With the current tragedies taking place in the Holy Land, the poem continues to be tragically current.]

On the liturgical calendar, August 6 marks the Feast of the Transfiguration, celebrating the event witnessed by Peter, James and John of Jesus' transformation into a being of light. Since WWII, it has also been Hiroshima Day. It was the juxtaposition of these two commemorations on the same day that inspired the following poem.

Jerusalem and Hiroshima:
Legacies of Concentrated Effort

We are told to pray for the peace of Jerusalem,
But the peace of Jerusalem
I would wish upon no one.
Centuries of placing our noblest causes
and highest callings
In one geographical area
Has produced, not the heavenly city,
But rather a wasteland of unending struggle.

In Hiroshima, they do not just pray for peace.
They demand it.
It was there that our greatest minds with our human nature
Brought hell on earth in our fight for freedom.

Let us keep Jerusalem,
And let us embrace Hiroshima
To remind us not to try such things again.

    ~ CK


Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Music: Wynton Marsalis visits Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

I remember many happy times spent when my daughter was young and we watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood together. As a new father,  I learned a lot from watching how Fred Rogers talked to children, and I loved the way he showed children many enriching and encouraging things. Just one example is the day Wynton Marsalis visited the program. He is accompanied by Johnny Costa, jazz pianist, who provided background music for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Also featured are Joe Negri on guitar, Bobby Rawsthone on drums, and Carl McVicki, Jr. on the bass. The music was written by Fred Rogers. Scroll down below the video if you want to see the lyrics.

It’s You I Like   
By Fred Rogers

It's you I like,
It's not the things you wear,
It's not the way you do your hair--
But it's you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you--
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys--
They're just beside you.

But it's you I like--
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you'll remember
Even when you're feeling blue
That it's you I like,
It's you yourself,
It's you, it's you I like.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Lightening

sudden light
joins earth and sky
senses heightened

                  ~ CK

Photo by Peggy Farmer


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

New Poem on Limitations


                Word Limit

Words are to poetry as
Piano keys are       
To music.
They lie inert
With symphonic potential
While the music flows beneath
The surface.
When summoned, the keys
Are like a shadow
Or an echo
That inadequately conveys the
Yet beauty still emerges from
A limitation of eighty-eight
Black and white keys.

So press your words lightly –
Or pound if you must –
When poetry breaks through.
Those black and white limitations
Of form
May falter and fail,
Yet Beauty still arises
From what can only be
Seen as a poverty of words
When measured against the
Expansive symphony of being
That thunders
Beneath the surface.

                                ~ CK

Photo by  Evette from Phoenix, AZ
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Music: Charlie Haden

Inovative jazz bassist, Charlie Haden, died last Friday (July 11) at the age of 76. To read and hear about his life and his music, check out NPR's a blog supreme. On the video below, you can see Charlie Haden performing "Sandino" with the Liberation Music Orchestra on Nightmusic.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Caterpillar

wandering on leaves
one creature finds its nature
in waiting to fly

                           ~ CK

Photo: A Zebra Longwing (Heliconus charitonius) caterpillar
Credit: DeadEyeArrow
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commoms


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Letting Go

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
              ~ Mark Twain
                                                                                from Innocents Abroad

This is a story of how I began to let go of some prejudices that I had been carrying around for a while. Having traveled and lived in other parts of the world, I can say that Mark Twain was right about travel being fatal to prejudice. Sometimes a journey to the other side of the world can open one’s eyes; at other times, all it takes is a trip across town.

First Came the Music

For most of my life I did not think very highly of Primitive Baptists.  I was raised Southern Baptist in a household that valued education.  I didn’t know any Primitive Baptists when I was growing up; I just heard stories about those “Hard Shell Baptists,” or “foot-washing Baptists.” They were typically not interested in higher education. I remember my father, a seminary educated pastor, jokingly saying that the Primitive Baptists had no seminaries because “they believe that if the Lord wants an educated pastor, He’ll call one.”

My attitude did a complete 180 a few years ago when I attended my first National Sacred Harp Convention. I was absolutely blown away by the experience. As the ones who kept Sacred Harp music alive down through the years, I saw that the Primitive Baptists had something very important to bring to the table. I wrote about it on my blog in 2011 and again in 2013. There is a growing interest in preserving the music, with Sacred Harp organizations being formed in places like Chicago, New York, Ireland, and Poland. The music really does a number on me. One year, I took an Episcopal priest friend to the Sacred Harp Convention with me who later described it as “a wondersome and transformative experience.”

This is how I described my first encounter with Sacred Harp singing:

I was captivated, stirred on the inside, tears threatening to well up – and no words had been sung yet. It was that bracing harmony of pure notes filling the sunlit space. The sound reminded me of the Bulgarian women’s folk singing that has attracted many listeners since the 1990 recording, Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares. There was a similar directness and exuberance, a hearty primitive and uplifting – even startling – vocal effect. Yet these were regular folks, local people from Alabama and others traveling from points near and far who were producing that fantastic harmony. The visceral effect was also similar to being in the presence of bagpipes as they are played. It grabs your attention and stirs you on the inside.

In that first blog post, I went on to explain that:

Sacred Harp came to this country by way of the early English settlers. It was first established in New England before the American Revolution, but gradually died out in that part of the country. For years it was kept alive in the hills of Appalachia, particularly among the Primitive Baptists. Nowadays it continues to be preserved by Sacred Harp gatherings and conventions.

I became aware on that day of a particular treasure that had been preserved through the years by the Primitive Baptists. They were no longer some unknown oddity removed from my experience. They were conveyers of a sacred tradition that until that day I had not been privy to. Standing within that undeniable experience, I had to sift through and re-think years of uninformed prejudice.

Then Came the Book

There was this other thing I grew up hearing about those “Hard Shell” Primitive Baptists: they didn’t believe in missionary work because their Calvinist theology led them to believe that God has already decided who goes to Heaven and who goes to Hell. In the Old South, some Baptist Churches called themselves “Missionary Baptist” as one way to distinguish themselves from their Calvinist Primitive Baptist cousins. A few years ago, friend who is an expert in Appalachian culture and history, and who also happens to me a Unitarian Universalist minister, told me about a fascinating book, In the Hands of a Happy God, by Howard Dorcan. The subtitle of the book is The “No-Hellers of Central Appalachia, and it chronicles the development of a universalist strand of Primitive Baptists.  I was intrigued by the notion because I like the idea of Universalist theology – which is something that the Southern Baptists of my childhood were quite leery of. I was especially intrigued that a group of Primitive Baptists managed to arrive at such a positive outlook that most Christian denominations cannot bring themselves to believe to this day.

The title of Dorcan’s book intentionally contrasts the Primitive Baptist Universalists with that famous Calvinist New England Congregationalist preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who is best known for his sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  In the Hands of a Happy God is part history, part sociology, and in a way a detective story. Dorcan writes about his work in tracing the development of the Primitive Baptist Universalist churches. He mentions that the churches were so similar in organization, and they simply call themselves Primitive Baptists, that he at first was not aware of their theological distinctions until further discussions with their elders. Moreover, in the Primitive Baptist tradition, there is very little "written record" of theological beliefs. The PBUs see God as a happy God because he figured out a way to redeem all of humanity. They may be the only Calvinists in the world who can say, “Yes, God has already decided who is going to heaven – and it’s EVERYBODY!”

Dorcan’s book let me see that even among these stern Calvinists who have no formal schools of theology and no centralized institutional structure, there can be a dynamic debate and exploration of ideas. Furthermore, they can shatter their own stereotypes to arrive at a happy and optimistic world view. It was just one more reason for me to gain a new appreciation for Primitive Baptists and to let go of some of my preconceived notions.

And Then There Is the Food   

One of the traditions of Sacred Harp singing is that everyone shares a big potluck dinner, or “covered dish” dinner as they used to say down South. You may have heard the expression, “All Day Singing and Dinner on the Ground.” This has its roots in the Sacred Harp tradition. Periodically, a church would designate a day set aside for singing – no preaching or formal worship service – just singing. At these gatherings people would bring their prepared dishes from home and there was always a time of fellowship when everyone would sit and eat together. The National Sacred Harp Convention continues that tradition with a pot luck meal served in the middle of each day of their annual gathering. They always invite all visitors to join them in the meal. One of the best ways to see beyond differences and into the shared humanity of another is to share a meal together. Joy and commonality can always be found around food.

If you want to get to know a group of people, spend some time singing with them; spend some time eating with them. It will not make you agree with everything they say, but it will help you to see that agreement in every detail is not really the point. Sharing life in all of its joys and sorrows, accepting people of other traditions, listening to other points of view – all of these things can contribute to a fuller life and a greater understanding of your neighbor. Next time you get a chance to travel, especially if it means singing with someone else or eating with someone else, make the journey, even if it is only across town.

Upper:Salem Primitive Baptist Church in Adel, Georgia
          Credit: Michael Rivera
          Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Lower: Church potluck
           Credit: Nehrams2020
           Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Music: I'll Remember You

"I'll Remember You" is one of several memorable tracks by Bob Dylan on his 1985 album, Empire Burlesque. Grayson Hughes' version of the song was used on the soundtrack for Fried Green Tomatoes. For me, the song very effectively underscored the emotional impact of that film as the credits began to role at the end. 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Saturday Haiku: Seacoast


looking from the coast
blue waters and misty skies
unending vision
                                ~ CK

Picture: Cliff near Pourville, by Claude Monet 
             Oil on canvas, 1882
             Public Domain
             Courtesy of WikiArt Visual Art Encyclopedia


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Newspaper Boy: A Memoir that Looks into the Heart of a City

I just finished reading a very important book. The Newspaper Boy, by Chervis Isom, is a well-written and entertaining memoir, subtitled, “Coming of age in Birmingham, Alabama during the civil rights era.” I first met Chervis a few years ago at the Alabama Writers’ Conclave and have always enjoyed my conversations with him. When news of his book came out, I was eager to get a copy.

The Newspaper Boy is fascinating on several different levels. It is delightful and engaging as a story about a boy growing up in a working class family, going to school, discovering girls, and getting his first job delivering papers. It is also an important first-hand account of an historical time in the city of Birmingham. I have written before on this blog about civil rights and growing up in the Deep South under the apartheid of racial segregation, but in reading Chervis Isom’s memoir, I gained a much clearer picture of what was happening in Birmingham during those days leading up to the civil rights movement. I learned important details about how local government was structured, and how speeches by a rabble-rousing Ace Carter of the White Citizens Council revved up the populace in an attempt to preserve segregation. I also learned about the important work of some open-minded civic leaders such as David Vann and Abraham Berkowitz.

It was inspiring for me to read about how an ordinary young fellow growing up in a society steeped in racism began to question a way of life that had once been accepted without question. It is a story about being able to listen to another point of view and thereby beginning a slow process of change. It is a story about how a liberal arts education can propel a young college student to approach life with a much broader view. It is a story about quietly finding liberation from the shackles of cultural ignorance.

For more information about this important book, you can visit the author’s website for The Newspaper Boy at . To read a very fine interview with the author in Weld, go here. For another review of the book, go here. The Newspaper Boy is a thoughtful reflection of a life lived during times of change. It is also a book that is important for our time as we face new hopes and challenges for building a city that works for the benefit of all.

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