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Something really rough happened during Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting, which I expected to see reported in yesterday’s Citizen, but it was not. Nor is it reported in today’s Citizen.
In a nutshell, two competing groups pitched the City Commission for permission to put on the annual Goombay festival this year. Traditionally, Goombay is the week before Fantasy Fest. Held on Petronia Street in Bahama Village, Goombay is a tribute to and celebration of African Bahamian/Caribbean culture. I am beside myself that the Citizen has not reported what happened Tuesday night. As if Goombay and Bahama Village do not even exist.
Here’s how it evolved for me to report the upheaval at goodmorningkeywest.com. The email below is to Rodney Gullatte, of African roots, who I believe is the leader of the group who were awarded a license to put on Goombay this year. The same group who put it on last year and the year before. A mixed-race group, consisting of immigrants to Key West, such as the leader, and local natives aka Conchs, white and black . The CC recipients are Kurt Wagner and city officials.
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Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2014 15:47:40 -0400
Hi, Rodney –
I’m the white guy who spoke to you last night right after the Goombay vote went your side’s way. I described your and my conversation in an email I sent a little while ago to a white guy currently living on St. Thomas, American Virgins Islands, copied to Mayor Cates and the city commissioners, in reply to what the white guy, a friend of mine, had sent to the mayor and commissioners and copied to me. All of that is down below. I will write more to you in a second email, of some of my “adventures” on Tortola and Jamaica, mostly, although my favorite Caribbean Island is Dominica, where I nearly moved once upon a time. As I told you last night, when I traveled down there, I mostly stayed with black people, in their guesthouses, lodges, hotels. Feel free to pass this and the next email along to your Goombay associates and to anyone else interested in Goombay.
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Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2014 07:17:03 -0500
Only in Key West! The divisiveness over who puts on the Goombay Festival is a total joke. Both sides claim to be volunteers and not make a profit. Both sides claim to want to do this for the benefit of community. Is this nothing more than an ego trip for either side?
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Subject: RE: GOOMBAY
Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2014 14:44:21 -0400
Looked to me, Kurt, both sides saw revenue generation for their own special charitable interests, and perhaps for their own pocketbooks. One side, the new group, the coalition, some of whose member organizations ran Goombay when it nearly fell apart and didn’t pay back the city and who knows who else didn’t get paid back. The side which ran Goombay the past 2 years paid the bills, got it done okay, although it seemed they strayed away from the African-roots theme a bit, based on what I was picking up. And, there seemed to be much made of the new coalition being faith-based, which caused me to wonder how much money the churches in that coalition were trying to end up with? African slave roots pre-date Christianity. As you saw and heard during citizen comments, I asked the mayor and city commissioners to mandate Goombay has to be African roots theme. After the the side which had Goombay the past 2 years was awarded it for this year, I told the fellow who spoke first for that side, Rodney Gullatte, that it was really important not to dilute Goombay with non-African influence. He said his wife is from Puerto Rico and that had to do with them including Spanish music during last year’s Goombay. I said that wasn’t a good idea, that’s not what Goombay is about. I asked if he’d been on the Caribbean and Bahama Islands I had named during citizen comments? Jamaica, Tortola, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Bequia, Grenada, Nassau, Grand Bahama? I left out Antigua. He said, no. I said, very few white natives. (I did not say church influence very strong.) I said, I see at Goombay food vendors with African Bahama/Caribbean roots food; same food vendors I see at other Key West events, they come down from the mainland. He said there is plenty of free space at Goombay for the new coalition’s members to set up. I said, in my soul, I’m African, because of the black slave’s daughter who raised me. But he would not know that, if I did not tell him. I said he is African in his soul. He needs to hold to that in Goombay, he cannot not pollute it with other themes. He said he wanted to talk more with me, then he went and sat down next to Margaret Romero and they got into what looked like a deep conversation. Goombay last night was a really rough time for everyone involved, and I imagine there was more not said, which bore on the decision the City Commission had to make, albeit not gladly. Money certainly was at issue, but I think straying from African roots was, too. And maybe more, which was unsaid.
P.S. to Kurt and All including Rodney Gullate:
I did not say last night that the black woman who raised me was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama, when the going there was very bad. I memorialized her in A FEW REMARKABLE PEOPLE I HAVE KNOWN, a link to which is in the top header of www.goodmorningkeywest.com. Hers is the 2nd portrait, beneath “He Used to Drink Moonshine, Cussed and Did Not Attend Church,” which is a memorial to the U.S. District Judge for whom I clerked upon graduating from law school at the University of Alabama.
Here is Sister Charlotte Washington’s memorial:
2 SHE WORKS BEHIND THE SCENES
I wish to tell a story about a wonderful woman I once knew named Charlotte Washington, who was not, I don’t think, a descendant of George Washington, whose name her Negro slave parents or grandparents might have taken as their own.
As I was told it, Charlotte came to our home looking for work while I was in the hospital being born. She was there waiting when my mother and I came home. She would stay there, through two moves to successively larger houses, for twenty-five years, living with us except on Thursday afternoon and Saturday night and Sunday, when she went to visit her other family in Bessemer, which lies about twelve miles westerly of Birmingham, on the road to Tuscaloosa where no Negroes attended college in those days. Except I came not to call her Charlotte, but “Cha,” as that was about all I could get my mouth around when I was a tot. And as Sloan was a pretty hefty moniker for a tot, I was called “Bash,” borrowing the first four letters of my last name, which is Bashinsky. How that came about, Bashinsky, perhaps is a story to be told another time.
Cha called me “Bashlabuttons,” and she loved me like I was her own. She loved my parents and my younger brother and sister like they also were her own. And my grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins, and my friends. She cooked food so delicious, old Southern style cooking, the way the wealthy white folks had long eaten, that I was spoiled for life. Her biskits were a closely guarded secret, that is, how she made them. They weren’t big and fluffy but where thin and a bit crunchy, and with a pat of butter and some honey, yummmmmmmm. She cooked greens and peas and beans the old way, with bacon and pork back. She used Crisco to slowly cook fried chicken in a black cast iron skillet; I never yet ate any other that good. She cooked roasts (standing rib, rump, we never had pot roast), ham, leg of lamb, country fried steak (made from cubed sirloin), and stewed and fresh corn and homemade rolls that were to die for. I liked leftovers, and hash from the meats, as much as the first pass at it. Her chocolate pudding and whipped cream, and boiled custard, somewhat rare treats, still linger in my mouth at age almost sixty-two. She must have known the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Cha also must have known that in my soul I was a fisherman, because she was the one who first taught me how to fish: cane pole, string, cork, spit-shot, safety-pin or small hook, worms or grasshoppers in fresh water, a small piece of shrimp or cut bait in salt water. It may not be stretching it to say she probably liked fishing better than I did, but she didn’t get to go much when I knew her, with all the work she was doing for us: cooking, washing and ironing our clothes and bathroom and bedroom linens, and cleaning house. That was the first house, which was small. We had other Negro housekeeping help in the bigger houses, and to take care of the yards. About all I ever did was mow the grass and sometimes weed out crabgrass, all of which I did my best to get out of doing. Somehow I had gotten the notion that white children did not do yard work. I’d gotten some related notions, too, I’m now ashamed to say.
I don’t remember Cha ever preaching the Bible to me, even though she was always listening to Negro religious radio stations while she cooked and ironed, which she seemed to do most of the time except when she was sleeping. She had a schoolmarm way of tilting her head down, looking sort of up at me, hands on hips, or at her sides, saying, “Umh, umh, umh, ain’t you shamed!” whenever I did something that even I knew I ought not to do. But usually I acted as if I hadn’t done it, while I backed off from doing that I shouldn’t be doing. Usually is wasn’t all that awful, compared to some of the things I would get into when I wasn’t at home, usually on weekend nights, when I was allowed to stay out until about ten o’clock. Then came the misadventures away from home, as I approached manhood, and those that came afterwards. As if Cha, where she now perches, doesn’t see it all anyway. She will speak to me about it when I am there with her, and I sure do hope that she will not then threaten to leave and go to Bessemer like she sometimes did when my brother and I really gave each other and her a hard time, when our parents were out for the evening or off on a business trip. I finally got to where I didn’t believe Cha, that she would go off to Bessemer and never come back, but she finally did do that, and I’ll tell about that later.
In the meantime, there’s more to tell about just what a wonderful presence she was in my young life. She was joyous whenever I brought home some bass or bream, but catfish she loved most. She also liked the game I shot, doves, quail, squirrels, rabbits, but would have loved a possum, which I never wanted to hunt. I never shot a deer and am now glad for it, but in those days I would have liked to notch one or two up. Nowadays I’m not even glad I shot anything, but I don’t feel too bad about the fish I caught and brought home for Cha; sometimes I got to eat them but usually not, as my family was not into eating fish very much in those days. I can’t say I was all that fond of fish either back then, but I sure did like catching them. If I had to do it all over again, I might never get all those increasingly fancy rods and reels, spin casting outfits and then the fly rods. I might just stick with a cane pole, and I just might make a lot of noise about Cha getting to go with me. I’m getting sentimental thinking about that.
It’s difficult for me not to get sentimental about Cha. Maybe it’s because in my soul I’m half Negro? Maybe I felt invisible kinship with her many children and many more grandchildren and great grandchildren out in Bessemer and down in the country in middle Alabama in a place she called “Eeps,” but I later learned it was Epps. My mother told me Cha didn’t know how old she really was because the census taker had come around only once every ten years. She might have been ninety-eight instead of somewhere around eight-eight when her heart finally gave out on her out there in her grandchildren’s home in Bessemer. But how could I feel such kinship, when I was racially prejudiced against Negroes, didn’t think they should ride at the front of buses, drink out of the same fountains or use the same restrooms, or go to the same schools? Yes, for a brief while I was for George Wallace.
Came the freedom marchers, and fire hoses and police dogs and police with riot sticks and mace and probably tear gas. I was off in another state at a white prep school, getting ready to go to a white college, Vanderbilt, but I didn’t know yet I was going there. I was not emotionally involved in what was going on in Birmingham, Selma and Montgomery, but I really was emotionally involved because I was starting to experience mixed feelings. I was sometimes remembering when I once told Cha that I would not eat what she had prepared for the hired help, when I asked about lunch. It was turnip greens, black-eyed peas, corn bread and buttermilk. It was the buttermilk that caused me to say I would not eat nigger food. I can’t imagine the black arrow that shot into her heart, but my mother let me know about it pronto, and I felt so bad that I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.
I felt just as bad one night some years later, when I was readying to go out and discovered that I didn’t have a clean dress shirt to wear and demanded that Cha get me one ready. My shirts were washed but not yet ironed. She stopped what she was doing and fetched one of my shirts out of the ironing basket and started ironing, as I impatiently stood over her and watched. The longer she ironed, the more awful I began to feel. I’d never seen her iron a shirt, or anything, except in passing. I had no clue what was involved in ironing by hand just one long-sleeve cotton dress shirt. I told her I was going out the next day and buy drip-dry shirts, and that’s what I still wear to this day.
I don’t feel badly, though, about all the attention Cha, and my mother, lavished on me when I would get sick and not feel like even getting out of the bed. I doubt any child ever got better nursing care, even as my father’s brother, a pediatrician, came over — Leo made house calls until he retired — to look down my throat, sometimes stick me with needles, and tell them to give me dry toast and jelly and plenty of fluids until I started getting better. Sometimes I delayed getting better by saying I was sort of feeling dizzy, because there was nothing I hated worse than going to grammar school. They saw right through it, even when they let me pretend to be getting away with it, for a day or perhaps two longer than I really needed.
Then was the time when my favorite dog ever, George, a wonderful basset hound my mother had gone to New England to get and bring back on a train, got run over and killed and nobody even stopped. When I came home from school, Cha came to me and grabbed me in her arms and told me. I was so upset I went upstairs and got my .22 rifle and loaded it and made off down the road looking for the bastard that had killed George. But I didn’t get really out of my bedroom — the rest of it was in my imagination — because I was so heart-broken that I couldn’t hardly move. I cried and moaned and threatened and cried until Cha called Uncle Leo. My mother and father were in Colorado Springs on a business convention, and he read me the riot act, which shut me up, but it didn’t stop me from wishing George was still with me. The next basset we got didn’t match up to George, but when I was in law school I had one that did, until he got run over, too. That time the car stopped, after I started yelling after it, but I was so upset over Heathcliff that I didn’t really feel like loading my shotgun, but my wife, Dianne, gave him hell.
Cha saw me go through a lot of pretty awful things, but I don’t know if it was any different for any other little boy in the big scheme of things. But there was one thing she saw me go through that probably wasn’t exactly ordinary. I was not looking like a little boy my senior year in law school at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, after my seven-week-old son died of sudden infant death syndrome. I was a lot number then, than when George had gotten run over. I was so numb I couldn’t even cry. When the funeral was over in Birmingham, I headed with Dianne for the car to go back to Tuscaloosa. But before we reached the car, Cha ambled straight to me and even before she reached me I burst in to tears so awful that I couldn’t deal with it and I got into the car and somehow drove away. That night, my Uncle Leo, a man I had wanted to be my father because he loved to fish as much as I did, who had taught me some of the modern methods of doing it, called and gave me the dickens. He had no idea how many more times I would cry over the loss of that child, but I imagine Cha sort of knew.
I also will never forget when Cha cornered me and asked me to tell her what was wrong with my mother. “She’s got cancer, Cha, she’s dying,” I said, grabbing her to me. I’d been sworn to secrecy by my mother, I was not to tell anyone who didn’t already know. How could I not tell Cha when she asked? I could not not tell her, any more than I could not weep for George or for my son. Or now, maybe because I’m leading up to the parts of this story that I feel are the really important parts of it.
Cha began to decline after my mother died in 1966, more so after my son died the next year. After she went to live with her grandchildren in Bessemer, I remember going by there only once and seeing her in the big bed in the main bedroom in their not very large house, a midget house compared to the one she had left, which was my family’s house. She seemed sort of delirious and didn’t want me talking about her being sick. I didn’t even hug her, I don’t think, but I gave her family some money, maybe $20, for medicine, if she needed it; and said to let me know if she needed more. Then I headed back to Tuscaloosa. A couple or so weeks later, I was back up in Birmingham and had just gotten through playing golf at the country club all of my family belonged to, when Dianne came to pick me up and told me Cha had died. I collapsed into her arms, said I didn’t think I could take anyone else I loved dying.
We came back to Birmingham a few days later for the funeral at a large Negro Baptist Church in Bessemer. Dianne and I were the only two white people in that packed church. The minister said the congregation welcomed their white brother and sister, surely knowing I was one of Cha’s white children, and Dianne, too; she and Cha were very close. Only to Dianne had Cha revealed the biskit recipe, and then very begrudgingly, after I asked her who would cook me biskits after she went to be with God? Then the minister told a story I’d never heard: that “Sister Washington” had from behind the scenes led the civil rights movement in Negro churches, counseling tolerance, patience, loving their white brothers and sisters, never stepping forward and claiming any public credit for herself.
Then it was over and time for us all to pass by the open casket, where my Cha lay in quiet repose. When I got there beside her, I wanted to jump into the casket, never let her go. At the very least, I wanted to lean over and hug her, kiss her cheek goodbye. But all I did was keep moving, out toward the front of the church where her son, Tom Dew, was already sitting on the front steps, head in hands. Tom had worked for my family around and in the house for many years. He had worked for me in Tuscaloosa. I knew him pretty well. As I sat down beside him, he wailed out, “My momma is dead, Mr. Bash, my momma is dead, what’s I gonna do?!!!” He burst into tears. I burst into tears, didn’t know what to tell him. I felt embarrassed, crying like that. I stopped it, patted Tom Dew on the shoulder, got up and walked with Dianne down the steps to our car. I still remember crying out when I was a little boy and Cha wasn’t nearby and I was hurting about something, “I want my Cha! I want my Cha!”
It would be many years before I saw Cha again, early 1993, actually. She came to me in a stunning spirit vision, the first of a number of such visions. I am not going to describe those visions, which are indelible in my heart and I can tell every last detail if I wish. What I will tell instead is that I became convinced Sister Charlotte Washington is an angel in service to the Holy Spirit, who came to earth to live as a person. She instilled into me something I cannot describe, not so much by talking to me but mostly by simply being. The Holy Spirit has, I believe, been pretty much in charge of my spiritual journey since it consciously began in 1987, which is another story altogether. She has loaned me out to Jesus and angels to instruct, comfort, protect and refine me. But always, at a distance, if not always hands-on, She is behind the scenes, holding me to her breast, loving me, keeping me on this world from which I often have wanted so badly to leave.
Why was I was put into the stewardship of Sister Charlotte Washington, then Judge Clarence W. Allgood, about whom I wrote first when I started this writing the other day? Why was that priceless gift also given to me? Perhaps it is so some day I might write about them, as I knew them, both on this world and from heaven after they left this world. Perhaps there are other reasons I do not yet know and have not yet been told, that these two angels came down to walk among men and women, and were men and women. Perhaps it is that we are all angels, which we forget when we come to earth, and it takes the Holy Spirit using angels like Judge Clarence Allgood and Sister Charlotte Washington, working behind the scenes, to remind us of just who and what we all really are.
[I did eventually meet and get to know somewhat one other living saint - Dorothy Sherman, who started and ran the soup kitchen in Key West.]
Kurt replied to me, copied to ALL except Rodney Gullatte:
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Subject: RE: GOOMBAY
Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2014 14:49:27 -0500
You’re most likely correct about who’s making money, otherwise why the fight over who does it? Yes, I did read about Charlotte Washington in your post about “remarkable People” When my family lived for a few years in North Carolina in the early 50’s (my Dad was a radio DJ in Wallace, NC) the black lady who took care of me and my brothers was “Rosie”. She gave me my ‘nickname’ which I will not tell. It’s amazing the lasting influence someone from nearly 60 years ago has on us today.
Anyway, it’s Key Weird, nothing happens without money going into someones pocket. As long as the festival presents itself as an afro-caribbean celebration. Without someone or some organization making money, it won’t happen. Then it’s a loss to Bahama Village which has been and always will be the “red headed step child” of Key West. Unfortunately the poorest of any city always comes out on the short end. Look at any city, town, or village in the country. The “elite” always have their collective thumb on the poor.
In my humble opinion, Bahama village is the heart of Key West. These are the ancestors of those who made Key West. Not the money people from the mainland, not the kids of the 60’s, 70’s, who ran drugs, not the supposed “Conchs” who actually screwed the island up in hopes of making more money. (cruise ships, island tours, bar crawls, t-shirt shops, trinket shops, etc)
Every commission meeting I hear people preface their speach by saying “I’m a Conch” So what? Does that make them better or more valuable to the community? I don’t think so! I have more faith in someone who has life experience, not Key West experience. A Conch who has not lived anywhere but Key West has no clue about the rest of the world. They have always lived in the fantasy land of Key West.
I have written before of a relative of mine who bought a place in Key West back in the 60’s. He admittedly made his millions from running drugs. He owned and flew his own plane, had his own fast boat. He’s in his late 90’s now, and still lives in Key West, doesn’t deny anything. He knows who, what, when and where the city officials and their decendants got their money. You would be surprised what the old boy remembers.
I also had an in-law who drove from Chicago to Key West every month in the 70’s. He is worth millions. (he didn’t win the lottery)
I don’t deny anyone of their heritage. Just don’t tell me you are proud of being a conch. because chances are, your relatives were criminals.
Now don’t get me wrong, making money is a good thing. But making money to the detriment of the health of this country is WRONG!!!!!
My whole point is the city of Key West is as crooked as the Alcan Highway!!! It has been, it is now, it always will be.
St. Thomas, VI
I replied to Kurt, copied to ALL including Rodney Gullatte:
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Subject: RE: GOOMBAY continued
Date: Wed, 2 Jul 2014 17:50:05 -0400
Hi again, Kurt –
I agree with you about Bahama Village being the heart of Key West, and its soul, which I have published a few times in the past. And Bahama Village being the city’s stepchild. A black KW west friend, some generations back his family in KW, once told me he was not a conch in many white KW conchs’ eyes. He laughed when he said it, as if he could care less any more, it was a cosmic joke, maybe, although I imagined there once was a time when it really bugged him. I’d love to meet your 90 year-old former drug runner friend and hear his stories, even if I have to swear not to publish names :-).
I never experienced or knew or came from people who experienced being captured and put on a slave ship and nearly dying on it, as many others like me did die, before reaching a distant land populated by strange people whose skin color was different from mine, who did not speak my language, who did not know my tribe’s ways and traditions, who ASS-U-med my spiritual beliefs were the work of the Devil and righteously set out to cleanse me of them in God and Jesus’ name. I cannot imagine the trauma such a thing left in those traumatized people’s souls, and in their descendants’ souls even until now. I cannot imagine the strain on many of their descendants’ souls even until now, trying to fit into the ways of the descendants of the people who stole their ancestors’ lives and ways, and imposed their own lives and ways on them. A strain I saw plenty growing up in Alabama, and later in my life. A strain I saw plenty in the Bahamas, Jamaica, on Tortola and in the Windward Islands.
In the early Spring of 1996, I stayed two months in an apartment of Walter and Inez in West End, Tortola. Walter was waiting on me at the dock when the ferry arrived. As if by magic. Not only that, it turned out Walter and Inez knew a dear friend of mine, who sailed and had provisioned his boat sometimes at Walter and Inez’s bait and provisions shop. I learned they knew each other when my friend, after receiving a letter from me saying where I was staying, called the bait and provisions shop from the States. Walter and Inez told me that racial prejudice is a white problem, black people don’t have it. On Tortola that seemed true. On Jamaica, where I stayed, Port Antonio, that seemed true. On the Windward Islands, that seemed true. I don’t know what it’s like there now.
Let me back up.
Flying into Kingston in June 1995, I sat next to a Rastafarian. I’d never met a Rastafarian before. He said his name was Bertrand Letsome, but his Rastafarian name was Mawasha. He was from Tortola, where he worked for the Tortola government in the environmental department. He was attending a Caribbean environmental conference in Kingston. He gave me his mailing address. After that trip, I wrote to him from time to time. On Tortola in 1996, I went by his office in Road Town and met him again, and we went to lunch, and then we had a conversation in his office, which I will get to later on.
On Good Friday before I reconnected with Mawasha, I went to the Episcopal church in Road Town. A black Anglican priest, trained in England, was the Rector. We got to talking. I said I felt moved to ask God to let me know my Father. The priest said okay. I asked God and was overcome with something enormous. I burst into sobbing tears, my chest was heaving, for several minutes, uncontrollable, snot oozing out of my nose in great gobs, as the priest held my hand and kept handing me napkins. I returned to the church on Easter Sunday. The priest started his homily with Jesus speaking first to Mary Magdalene outside the tomb, and telling her to go tell the other disciples that she had seen him and he would be with them soon. The priest asked the congregation, “If that wasn’t an ordination of a female minister of the Gospel, then what was it?” I nearly fell out of my pew seat. That was the same question I had been asking Christians in the States for several years.
Back to Mawasha. He told me over lunch that when he came out of the terminal in the Kingston airport, an older Rastafarian he did not know walked up and handed him a tract and left. It was an article in which the Ethiopian Regent Haile Selassie, whom many Rastafarians had deified, was interviewed and said he was only a man, not a deity. Mawasha asked me what I felt about that? I said I agreed. I asked what he felt about it? He said he had talked it over with his wife, and they had agreed Haile Selassie was not a deity, but it had been their belief that he was.
About a week before I left for Jamaica to meet Mawasha on the airplane the year before, this vision came to me when I was in a deep trance. I added the pics later.
something about lions.
Once upon a time there lived a woman named Alya. She was the medicine woman
in her tribe, using herbs and poultices and spirit ways to help her people.
Yet she had one flaw: she hated lions, because once a lion had killed her
father. Her hatred caused her to cast spells against lions, which caused her
husband great concern. He often told Alya that her war with lions was going
to get her into big trouble, but she was a medicine woman, she knew the ways
of the spirits, and she did not listen to her husband.
One day while Alya was out gathering herbs, she spotted a lion sunning
himself in tall grasses on the savannah. She hatched a scheme in her mind to
sneak up on the lion and cast a spell on him, which would enable her to
steal his spirit and have it for herself. As she crept closer to the lion,
she began chanting softly and seeing in her mind’s eye her spell taking over
the lion. However, she was so focused on what she was doing, that she did
not see in her mind’s eye the lion’s mate returning from hunting. Nor did
she see the lioness catch her sent, drop her kill from her mouth to the
ground, and circle around behind. Too late, Alya realized her peril, just as
the lioness took her from behind.
Next thing Alya knows, she is in the spirit world, standing before the Lion
Spirit. Trembling with terror, Alya wants to run away, but the Lion Spirit
speaks to her heart, says, “There is something you do not know.” Then,
Alya is back on the savannah, watching a hunter from her tribe sneaking up
on a nest of lion cubs, whose parents are away hunting. The hunter has a
twisted spirit and decides to kill the lion cubs just for the fun of doing
it, even though killing any animal just for sport is taboo in his tribe,
which worships the Lion Spirit. On returning to his village, the hunter
tells no one what he has done.
When the lion and lioness return to their nest and find their dead cubs,
they are enraged. They catch the hunter’s scent and track him back to the
edge of the village, where the lion hides in a thicket and begins roaring
and bellowing out his rage over what has happened. The hunter knows why the
lion is there, doing that, but still he tells no one. Alya’s father, the
tribe’s leader, prepares to go out and face and kill the lion, because it
his duty to protect his tribe from marauding lions. And so he sets out to
face the lion, even as the hunter lets him go without saying what has
happened to bring this about, and that a lioness is also out there with the
lion. Alya’s father quickly finds and confronts the lion, and is preparing
to kill it with his spear when he is taken from behind by the lioness.
In her horror, Alya helplessly watches on, even as she now realizes her
hatred of lions was completely misplaced. She feels awful. Then suddenly she
is back on the savannah, stalking the lion whose spirit she once wanted to
steal for herself. The lion looks up, stares into Alya’s eyes. She shakes
all over, is terrified, but does not look away. Then something takes hold of
her, she says to the lion, “I have lost my father and you have lost your
cubs. I will be your cub.” The lion looks deep into Alya’s spirit, nods,
says, “And I shall be your father and will always protect your front.” Then
beside the lion is the lioness, who says to Alya, “And I will always protect
The vision was burned into my soul, and I retold it to Mawasha in his office after we had lunch. The Lion of Judah, Jesus, was the Rastafarians’ pole star. The way the Rastafarian men, especially, wore their hair, in dreadlocks, was to pay homage to the male lion’s mane. I asked Mawasha, “What good is a lion without a lioness?” Mawasha looked at me, puzzled. I asked the question again. Mawasha said, well, the lion was alone, could not reproduce. I asked, “Who is the lioness in the Holy Trinity?” Mawasha looked at me again. I asked the question again. He got up out of his chair and started pacing back and forth in his office, agitated, genuinely trying to get an answer to my question. Then, in a flash, he said, “It must be the Holy Spirit!” I said, yes. “And who was Jesus’ lioness?” “Mary Magdalene,” Mawasha said. I smiled, said, “If she publicly washed his feet with her hair and tears and precious ointment she scarce could afford, what did she wash him with in private?” Mawasha said he and his wife would be discussing all that.
A few days later, I was headed to Dominica, via Antigua, where I spent the night in the Mt. Pisgah Hotel, run by a black family, waiting on my flight to Dominica the next morning. The first trip to Dominica the year before was straight from Jamaica on a British airliner, BOAC. I laid over in Antigua and stayed at the Mt. Pisgah Hotel. In the Caribbean, I flew on Liat, whose pilots were black. I learned on Tortola and on Dominica that high school graduates there were considerably more educated than American college graduates.
I’m thinking again about Alya’s story. Walter and Inez were devout Methodists. I don’t think I told them Alya’s story. I told it several times on Jamaica, and later in the Caribbean. It was well received. Even more strongly than ever before, I’m feeling Alya’s story is a Spirit Bridge for descendants of African slaves who were ripped out of their culture and rich spiritual traditions and forced into Christendom, something Jesus never would have condoned. He never used force. He was into living in sync with God’s will. He was not into the form. He was into the substance.
I’m thinking about Alya’s story again. I knew when it came that it was from Cha. It had to be. The tears welling in my eyes and heart agree. I was emphatically told in my sleep before dawn today, “Seven thirty”. I wrestled with that all morning, trying to get down to the meaning. Then, I started a reply to your first email, Kurt. Then, I set it aside. Then, I dreamed in a nap of the job I had in my father’s company playing out, and I had no paying work lined up anywhere else. I awoke, wondering what in front of me was I not engaging, which I needed to engage?
I went back to the first email to you and wrote more into it, and sent it to you and Mayor Cates and the city commissioners, and then copied all of that to Rodney Gullatte. I understood then the meaning of “Seven thirty”. In my spirit and dream code, 7 is the mark of God on an event, and 3 is the Holy Spirit’s number. 30 meant a lot of the Holy Spirit, the Lioness of Judah, the Lioness of Africa. One and the same. Watching my back, and lots of other people’s backs, too.
Boy, did that bring more tears.
As I walked through the departing gate leaving Dominica the first time, the Dominican attendant asked me, “How did you like our island?” I said, “I” … I was taken over by something huge, which I thought maybe was the spirit of the island, or the spirit of the Dominican people. It was all I could do not to burst into tears. I finally caught my breath, said, “I LOVED IT!!!” Seeing I was overwhelmed, the Dominican smiled and pointed toward the Liat Otter waiting to take me away. I knew I would be back.
Kurt wrote just to me:
I don’t think you received it. Some how i am not smart enough to understand my dreams and thoughts. I don’t know why. I have my dreams, i have my waking dreams, I wonder what the world has in store for me. I don’t know why I care so much about Key West. I don’t know why I care so much about the homeless in Key West. I don’t understand why I care about what happens in Key West. Does it effect me, No! Will it effect me? yes, when I come back. Why do I want to come back? I don’t know. I must be a masochist, waiting for the KWPD to beat me, or kill me. Maybe I don’t like the government running my life. Maybe I don’t like the libs, telling me i can’t own guns, maybe I don’t like the Key West commission telling me I can’t sleep in my van, Maybe i don’t like the KWPD killing people, maybe I don’t like the commission trying to rid Key West of all homeless, maybe I don’t like any of the commission. They all lie to their constituents to get elected. Help me understand Sloan! Kurt
I replied, by now bone-tired and needing levity:
Darn if right now I can answer your questions. Pedaled my bicycle up to Stock Island this afternoon to see Mike Tolbert who is pretty hurting and laid up at his and Patty’s place, after his second kapow on his moped in a month. He kept bitching and moaning about Key West and everything else, and finally he said Key West is so fucked up, it can’t be fixed. I said I never did think it could be fixed, but it is all fucked up and what fucked it all up was developing it all out. Whereupon, what at the time seemed a brilliant insight came, which was, since the place is beyond fixing, why not quit holding back and fuck it up all the way. That seemed to calm Mike down, sooth his frayed nerves the Oxy prescribed by the doctor wasn’t soothing – for a little while. Then back to bitching and moaning. I thought about going inside Mike and Patty’s trailer and looking for one of their pistols and coming back out on the front porch and putting the poor sorrowful Mud Dawg clean out of his horrible misery, but there were all the feral cats and wild chickens lounging around, and I just didn’t have the heart to scare them out of their ever-loving wits with a Glock blast. I mean, God’s creatures have rights, too, don’t they? There also was a discussion about a fellow Mike calls from time to time to trap and haul the neighborhood wild chickens to somewhere not disclosed, and I said, well, if Key West ever gets rid of all its wild chickens, then the residents quickly will learn what those boisterous fowls were good for. About two weeks after the wild chicken extinction event, the entire island will be overrun with roaches, centipedes, scorpions, lizards, snakes, mice, rats. Just fucking with Mother Nature a little bit can lead to horrendous unexpected nuclear blow back. However, having someone come in and trap all the politicians and take them somewhere unnamed might do wonders for Key West. Test market the politician extinction here, then take it state-wide, then nation-wide. Maybe a fleet of ET’s hovering in the next dimension over will pop into this dimension and do the deed in the nighttime, ray gun vaporization, and the next morning nobody knows what happened, but things all of a sudden feel different and seem to be going better. So, it must have been the Rapture, although final destination of the departeds not entirely golden parachute. Way I look at it, Kurt, all I can do is deal with what’s dead in front of me. Today, you and Goombay are, so far, and the fallout from that, which turned out rather MASSIVE, so far. Father Steve Braddock put the starfish wisdom on Facebook today. And the karma wisdom. I think maybe Steve wrote LOL under the karma wisdom. What do I know? I went to Tortola through St. Thomas. Maybe I left a virus in the air, or water, down there. Maybe you are down there to catch it. Maybe you wake up one day and are wearing a blue suit with a big S on the front.
This morning to Kurt, copied to ALL including Rodney Gullatte, containing Kurt’s just to me yesterday and my cheeky reply.
Hi again, Kurt –
Well, why was I not surprised the angels were not entirely happy with my cheeky reply to yours to me last night, after getting back from trying to cheer up Mud Dawg. So, back to the hard rock pile.
When I headed to Tortola in spring 1996, I was beat up something terrible in my soul; fair to say I was ON THE LAM. Fair to say I was ON THE LAM in places where I hoped I would be comfortable, liked. That worked out well. Even as a great deal of arrows pointing me to look at myself arrived. Perhaps your time in St. Thomas is similar? Time for inward as well as outward reflection?
I still have to be careful not to let my past struggles with authority figures, such as my father and his father, my mother and her church, influence how I engage city and county officials, for example. It goes better when I don’t let any unresolved stuff from my childhood and later coming of age years color how I deal with, say, the Key West City Commission, and each of its members – the mayor and the six city commissioners.
One of my dreams before dawn’s early light today had me taking a test administered by Bill Clinton. When I was on Tortola in 1996, it came out in the news that an American military aircraft carrying twenty or so US top corporate executives somewhere in Serbia/ Croatia/Bosnia area had crashed and killed everyone on board.
I had written a few times to Clinton before he was elected US President, when he was still Governor of Arkansas. I had told him in the last letter, because he had opposed the Vietnam war, if he was elected president, his mission was to make a national US apology to Vietnam, which he did during his second term.
Anyway, I whipped out my ballpoint and writing journal and wrote him a letter saying the point of the US military being in that horrible civil war was to stop it, if possible. The point was not to send in US corporations and profit from it. And that was the meaning of the plane crash and the death of those top US corporate executives. Even back then, I could be a real pissant.
That brings me back to what happened Tuesday night in Old City Hall. While people from the different sides were making their pitches during citizen comments, I turned to Rodney Gullatte sitting near me and asked what was really going on? A fellow sitting nearby heard me and rubbed his first two fingers and thumb together – the money sign. Rodney followed suit.
As you kicked off this discussion yesterday:
“Only in Key West! The divisiveness over who puts on the Goombay Festival is a total joke. Both sides claim to be volunteers and not make a profit. Both sides claim to want to do this for the benefit of community. Is this nothing more than an ego trip for either side?”
To that, I will added Jesus was crystal clear in the Gospels about not being able to worship mammon and God, and about it being more blessed to give than to receive. There was, as you know, a great deal of talk about Masons and churches from the coalition, which was not awarded the bid. For me, that talk drowned out the reason for Goombay, which is African roots.
My time in Key West, for better and for worse, has taught me that money is more important than anything here. Nothing else comes in a close second.
The link below should take you to last year’s, or maybe the year before, Goombay festival – includes photo slide show and historical explanation of Goombay and the festival.
About the Bahama Village Goombay Festival. “Imagine the sound of a steady booming bass drum, accompanied by the triumphant blast of a dozen horns, …
Political advertisement paid for and approved by Sloan Bashinsky, for Mayor of Key West, aka “southernmost the nut house”