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A Radical, Gentle Spirit

Eric James aka JahHannibal Abba-Ra.

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James aka JahHannibal Abba-Ra . . . [recently] died in a car crash.

The May 9 paper had the last words of a great human being/poet/musician/activist printed in it. I am referring to the letter ”Christ All Whitey” (Mail) penned by Eric James aka JahHannibal Abba-Ra. He died in a car crash the day the paper came out. [Editor’s note: James actually died on May 7, two days before the issue came out.]

For those of us who knew and loved and respected him this was a great loss. He was a small stocky African-American with a heart like a locomotive or an Art Blakey solo. He moved with a lope the way Coleman Hawkins would sound playing “Body and Soul.” He spoke like Ben Webster sounded: rough with tones of love.

I met him at a poetry reading hosted by Tom Divinty where he was reading a poem about a friend of mine, the notorious flag desecrator/artist Dred Scott Tyler of the then Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade. The poem was an eloquent incitement of the capitalist system—not the agit-prop I was used to hearing. We became fast friends and involved in support work for the homeless in the area, and Mumia Abu-Jamal.

I remember he was a calm, soft-spoken man who never angered. Once after his three-piece Jazz-Hendrics ensemble had finished a fiery first set at a Refuse and Resist benefit a local ACTIVIST who was soon to abandon all serious politics came up to my brother. He asked if she liked the set. She replied with all the attitude of a non-performer: “All you did was play reworked Elvin Jones riffs!” Eric smiled, rubbed his chin, got up from his drum chair, dusted it off for her, handed her his sticks, and said in that subtle Ben Webster voice: “OK, sister. Next set I’ll play hand percussion and you can play all those reworked Elvin Jones riffs!”

That was my lost brother. Charles Mingus wrote a piece about the loss of Eric Dolphy called “So Long Eric.” Tonight I burn my yahrtzeit candle and some sage, play the disc, and pour some raspberry ale in libation and in honor of a beautiful warrior gone way too soon.

Alan Barysh


When the “G” is for Geriatric

In responding to the story about Roosevelt Drummond (“Metro Crime Stopper,” Mobtown Beat, May 2), I have a few questions I have always wondered about: What are the perceived benefits of being in a gang such as BGF, Bloods, or Crips?

The images of Hollywood and television lead us to believe gang membership entitles you to drive fancy cars, wear expensive clothes, and take extended vacations to the islands of your choice. In reality, I see men in their 20s, 30s, and 50s fitting none of these perceived benefits of gang membership.

Once again, I ask myself, what are the perceived benefits of being in a gang other than flashing secret handshakes, using code words, dealing and using drugs, carrying guns, and constantly being around felons who do not love you or care about you? What is the use of being a member of a gang terrorizing, selling and using drugs, and looking over your shoulder? In the black community I see elderly men like Mr. Drummond, in their 60s, wasting their lives by being a drug runner, user, and gang member with nothing to look forward to except their next disability/Social Security check.

Do these men realize that drug money does not go to them and when they get locked up, end up at the hospital or at the morgue none of their so-called “family” gang members will pay them a visit? Where is the perceived benefit or prestige?

Charles Washington


Walls I’m Sayin’

It was an extraordinary pleasure to read your cover story about Open Walls, featuring street artists from around the world (“Wall to Wall,” Feature, May 9). What better way to spend last Saturday than to explore these treasures with the map you provided. Some were tricky to find (in between alleys, behind trees, and on the ground) but well worth the search! These beautiful murals celebrate art and the community and we were fortunate to find them. Seeing them in person was a real treat. Thanks very much for one of the most enjoyable days we can remember.

Nancy Tabor


The Shizzle!

I may not attend a single event nor visit a single location, but the number of events and places you packed into your “Sizzlin’ Summer” edition totally bowled me over. I can’t begin to imagine how you did it.

Congrats on a big job well done!

Herman Heyn


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