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Way back once upon a time long, long ago in my struggling musician days when I was sitting in at various and sundry bars and dives on Chicago’s South Side, it was a given that you would run into any number of characters. It was as much fun interacting with them — or just watching them — as it was getting up on stage to play my two or three numbers before I had to take my seat. That was about as many songs as George would allow, and it was usually the same blues tune each time. I guess I became kind of like a sidekick novelty act, which got old after awhile. …


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A small statue of Jimi Hendrix given to me by a dear friend that now sits in my office.

Until Jimi Hendrix, all my heroes were white.

I see no need to apologize for this fun fact, but I may as well be honest about it. Malcolm X, Miles Davis, and George Clinton didn’t enter my teen world until years later, although I did start reading Richard Wright (Native Son, Black Boy)at a young age when I saw it in the middle room library of my childhood home in Denver, Colorado. I think it was on the second shelf. But Bigger Thomas didn’t exactly qualify as a hero, no matter how much I loved Wright’s painfully violent story of what it meant to be Black in America. I may have been young, but I knew I didn’t want a hero who killed his girlfriend and then killed a white woman by accident. Plus all I knew about Richard Wright was that he wrote the book. …


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3B Story, the early days…

Yesterday I was up in Berkley, a nearby suburb of Detroit, getting my guitar worked on. It’s been more than a year since my last set-up, which is generally regarded as a sin by any working guitarist who even pretends to be serious about the calling. But I haven’t performed live on anything close to a regular basis for several years now, and that has led to some rusty habits.

Back in the day, when I was performing at least three to four nights a week even with a full-load day job as a journalist, I would get a setup at least several times a year, and always with the same guy who has worked on my guitars for more than 20 years. Because I’m loyal like that and because, quite frankly, there’s no one better. I pride myself on being one of his earliest customers when he first began handing out cards in the Soup Kitchen Saloon when me and a band I was working with at the time hosted a weekly blues jam session there every Tuesday night for about three years. …


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Trying to find a reason to still hope…

America would not exist if it weren’t for racism. Consider that.

It was white racism that fueled the mass slaughter of Native Americans, and it was white racism that figured it was OK for the visitors to shove the occupants onto reservations.

That covers the land.

It was white racism that powered the cotton industry, America’s first great economic engine which powered its ascent into the super power colossus that it is today. Of course, there would not have been a cotton industry without slavery. Which is why when you may hear some so-called radicals make the claim that America was built on the backs of Black people? …


If my father were alive today he would be celebrating his 107th birthday. But he died when he was 62.

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I actually just discovered this — or, I guess, re-discovered this — several days ago when for some reason that has already receded in memory I was going back through my electronic records to track down his death certificate.

Wait, yeah, I remember it now. My brother-in-law celebrated his birthday several days ago, and I decided to call and wish him a happy birthday rather than just send him the obligatory one-sentence email or text. …


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In some ways, it can be an uncomfortable thing to acknowledge; the fact that Black Panther, one of the most widely successful black-themed movies of all time, perhaps the most unapologetically and culturally black movie of all time (without question this is so if you’re not including independent and/or smaller film releases not backed by major film studios and resources), one of the most successful Marvel movies ever, and what I read somewhere described as a cultural earthquake…

Was conceived of and created by a couple of white guys in the 1960s.

One of those white guys, the comic book artist Jack Kirby, died on Feb. 6, 1994. The other, a much more widely known and revered Stan Lee, died today at the age of 95. I’m not much of a comic book historian, but I do know there was somewhat of a rift that developed between Lee and Kirby, a lot of it over whether or not Kirby received sufficient credit for his contributions to the amazing creative collaboration between the two men. Certainly this wouldn’t be the first time such a rift ever happened between two former partners when one goes on to reap the fame while the other seems to fade away. …


We’ve been knowing Kanye is crazy for awhile now — or at least perfecting his ratings grab. Nothing new there. But I guess watching Kanye’s latest eruption is like watching a man sit still and sing opera after he sets himself on fire; it’s kind of hard to look away.

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Photo Courtesy of MSNBC

Last week was a little different though. Not because Kanye sounded any more sane because he most certainly did not. It was because of where he chose to lose his mind on this particular occasion. Kanye lost his mind in the White House last week, in full view of the current occupant and the rest of the world. …


By now, I hope most of us know that this really isn’t about Kavanaugh. It’s not even about the Supreme Court, despite the flood of headlines that are predictably focusing on nothing but.

Not saying that the recent appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court isn’t significant, because of course it is. But it is only another twig tossed atop the blazing fire of ever multiplying catastrophes that have been assaulting us virtually every day since Trump’s election. We should know by now that this will not be the last, nor is it likely to be the worst. …


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Rep. Maxine Waters

Maxine Waters is right; the hell with civility.

Too many Democrats insist on being kind and sweet and gentle in the face of madness, trying to convince the rest of us that polite behavior will slay the beast. Try petting an alligator and you’ll draw back a nub.

“No one should call for the harassment of political opponents. That’s not right. That’s not American,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer last week in response to Rep. Maxine Waters’ comments when she advocated aggressively pushing back against the Trump administration.

Here’s what she said:

“Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. And if you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd. And you push back on them. And you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere. We’ve got to get the children connected to their parents. …

About

Keith A. Owens

Longtime Detroit-based journalist, musician and writer. Co-founder of Detroit Stories Quarterly.

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