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Reflections on Gil Scott-Heron (Wonderful article of reflection.)

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Reflections on Gil Scott-Heron

By Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali

We do what we do and how we do because of you. And to those that don’t

know, tip your hat with a hand over your heart and recognize.” This is

how Chuck D of Public Enemy summed up Gil Scott-Heron .

Scott-Heron’s musical career spanned five decades; he released twenty

albums, and many seminal singles. He was a key figure in the creation

of spoken word poetry and many maintain he is the “Godfather of Rap.”

However, he never referred to himself in that manner. His socially

conscious work has been described as, “savagely satirical, and

disarmingly tenderhearted.” His death on May 27, 2011 robbed Africans

in America and the whole world of one of its most eloquent and

influential artist-activists.

Like the Washington D. C.-born Duke Ellington, Scott-Heron was beyond

category. His music covered the waterfront. He dealt with racism,

capitalism, the environment, Pan-Africanism, substance abuse, nuclear

power, women's liberation and just plain "silly" little love songs.

"Whitey on the Moon", "Shut Down", "The Bottle", "Angel Dust",

“Johannesburg” and "Your Daddy Loves You" are parts of his catalog.

I have recently completed reading Scott-Heron's memoir, The Last

Holiday, which discusses his tour with Stevie Wonder and which helped

create a formally recognized observance for Dr. Martin Luther King's

birthday. Today Dr. King's January 15th birthday is a national holiday

thanks to the efforts of Wonder and Scott-Heron and millions of people

in the United States. Scott-Heron was a last minute replacement for

Bob Marley and the Wailers. When Marley was diagnosed with cancer, the

"Eighth Wonder of the World"—Stevie—hand-picked Scott-Heron to tour

with him. I was fortunate to have caught the concert in Montreal as

well as an exclusive interview with Wonder. Instead of this coup

firming up my relationship with the "Big White Folks" in the corporate

media, I was fired. More about that at a later date.

I covered the event for Al Hamilton's Contrast, "the eyes, ears and

voice of the Black community" and the Toronto Star, "Canada's largest

newspaper.” I was able to pull this off because Wonder and his

management wanted someone with crossover appeal but who still had ties

to the African community. Contrast had a corner on Canada's African

community and the Toronto Star gave me a readership from Canada

coast-to-coast. I was just what the doctor ordered. At that time,

Wonder’s team included an individual named Keith who happened to be

from Sierra Leone. It did not hurt that I had done my homework when it

came to Africa and Africans. I passed the test that Keith put me

through.

Scott-Heron spent his childhood with his Alabama-born grandmother,

Lilly Scott, in Jackson, Tennessee. I found this out the hard way on

my first encounter with him in 1976 in Toronto, Canada. His bio that

was circulated by Arista Records talked about him being the son of a

Jamaican professional soccer player, Gil Heron. When I raised this

with him he quickly rebuked me. "The Scotts raised me," he responded

with his booming bass/baritone voice. I would find out years later

that at that moment of our exchange in 1976, he had not yet met his

father. Later, he does talk about meeting his father when he was 26

years old on the song "Hello Sunday, Hello Road.”

Gil eventually left Tennessee and his grandmother since by the time

Gil reached his teens, his mother, Bobbie Scott, had taken a job in

New York City and he joined her there. She was an opera singer who

performed with the New York Oratorio Society and the daughter of Bob

Scott. Says Scott-Heron, "My grandfather was "Steel Arm Bob”, a

pitcher who bested Satchel Paige's barnstorming team 1-0 when they

came through Jackson."

Both sides of Scott-Heron's family stressed education. Africans born

in the Southern part of the United States, like their counterparts in

the Caribbean, were united on this issue. Scott-Heron described his

grandmother as a "God-fearing woman with high ideals, strong

principles, and most of all, a belief in the power of learning." He

went further to explain, "And she scrapped, scrimped, scrambled,

scrunched, scrubbed, scratched, scuffled, slaved, and saved until

somehow all four of her children had graduated from college with

honors." This laid the basis for him to gain entry to New York City's

prestigious Fieldston School.

Scott-Heron attended Lincoln University, the first and oldest

historically Black university in the United States. Kwame Nkrumah,

Langston Hughes, Cab Calloway and Thurgood Marshall inspired him to

choose Lincoln. And he did make a name for himself there by leading a

strike to demand better student health care.

Scott-Heron was in struggle with himself near the end of his life. The

one who stood in the vanguard of the anti-apartheid struggle in South

Africa momentarily lost his way. In 2010 he was due to perform in Tel

Aviv, but this attracted criticism from Palestinian groups who stated,

"Your performance in Israel would be the equivalent to having

performed in Sun City during South Africa’s apartheid era... We hope

that you will not play apartheid Israel." Fortunately, he heeded the

call and cancelled the date.

While he expressed a Love Supreme for his mother and grandmother, he

publicly admits in The Last Holiday that his record on the question of

other women in his life was less than stellar. Says Scott-Heron , "And

it may be that I will never get another chance to say this to those

children, as well as I know I have never taught them by example so

that they can turn to each other for this when they need it. I hope

there is no doubt that I loved them and their mothers as best as I

could. And if that was inevitably inadequate, I hope it was

supplemented by their mothers, who were all better off without me." He

had three children, a son Rumal, and two daugthers Gia and Che.

Like all human beings Scott-Heron had merits and demerits. I

personally always saw him as a tortured genius. Like many who came

before him and those who are living today and those who will emerge in

the future.

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Hi Mystic Woman, just post the youtube long link

http ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2EhaPUqG3M

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2EhaPUqG3M

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No problem, I see you URL starts with "https" This is how you obtain the long link; when you at at YouTube clikc the share button, then select the long link option, then copy that URL (or you can just change "https//..." to "http//..."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2EhaPUqG3M

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