December 19, 2003


Thoughts of Beauty in an Old Black Man’s Mind

by Ernie McCray

I saw something truly beautiful the other day in the form of Gary Payton going around a defender, who was leaning to far in, with a 360 degree spin and then dishing a no-look bounce pass to Kobe who, in full stride, takes to the air like he had bounced off a trampoline and gently kisses the ball off the backboard ending just about the prettiest play I have ever seen. 

But then the camera zoomed in and kind of negated the beauty of the play with a closeup of a tattoo that monopolized one of Kobe’s arms like a monster in a dream. Hey, his arm looked like an art exhibit at a Taggers Convention. Know what I mean?

And he’s not alone. Everytime I check in on the games in the NBA and the NCAA or tune in to BET or MTV or read the latest edition of VIBE I see a whole bunch of young soul brothers and soul sisters with soulless artistically challenged words and sketches etched all over their bodies. And some of them with gold teeth where pearly whites should be are telling me “How they be living” and there’s not a flower or a sculpture or a painting or a book anywhere to be seen among the video games and Matrix and Terminator DVD’s in their fine estates. No gourmet foods on their  fancy plates. Nobody in the spacious pool. Nobody running on the beach with the pitbull.

Man, when I was growing up black in a society that loved to remind me how much it despised me, I used to indulge in “What a beautiful world this could be” kind of fantasies. But I’m sure I never imagined that someday people like me would have millions of dollars along with mean street mentalities that, seemingly, have robbed them of a sense of beauty and a sense of responsibility to the wideeyed children who go with the beat they set as the “elite.”

Oh, it spills over into the street. Always has, always will. When I was a little boy the “cats” were wearing zoot suits like those worn by Cab Calloway. Some of the “chicks” were wearing flowers in their hair ala Billie Holliday. My homies and I thought we were cool as we could be wearing shirts with a style of collar we called Mr. B. Now, I’m not trying to put down today’s attitudes and ways by hyping my “Good Old

Days” but we operated in a spirit of fun. And that’s not what I’m seeing in black dudes like the one I jogged past the other day who was wearing white and black britches that were folded so far down below his rearend he looked like he was standing on an accordion.

Then I passed another kid, a tall skinny brother, who flashed up his hands at a passing car with his fingers pointing ever whichaway, all the while rapping some song about “ho’s lying, bullets flying, and homies dying,” the kinds of sounds we hear so much today from our young people at play. And did I mention he wore a Lakers Jersey that would make Fat Albert look thin? In my day fads would come and go in a steady flow; when one went out another rushed in. But this ugliness has been around a long time. When will it end? It’s time for a hope inspiring trend.

Oh, there must be another direction Rap and Hip Hop can take this generation  aesthetically; some higher place where grabbing one’s crotch every other beat, while women, in real “ho’s” clothes, gyrate like they’re in heat, would no longer be “fly;” some higher place where our Tupacs and B.I.G.’s and Jam Master Jays no longer die; some higher place where tender love songs are sung in soothing melodies and where there is less shying away from soul stirring four part harmonies.

Today’s young celebrities could bring so much beauty to the world in the simplest of ways. Like if when they take us through their “Cribs” they showed us colorful gardens on their spacious grounds and paintings and art pieces that question and challenge and exude passion and depth along their expansive hallways and walkways. Wouldn’t this truly be a new day?

Might our children then learn to appreciate beauty, to pause and smell a rose or two and find ways to love and contribute to their world like they’re supposed to do?

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