Death of A Journalist

There is no connection between my career as a journalist and that of an accomplished and inspirational icon like Gwen Ifill except for this one personal anecdote.

In 2008, I was an attendee at the UNITY convention in Chicago. UNITY was where four journalism organizations, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Asian-American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association held one joint convention. It was like a Woodstock for news scribes and it was glorious.

One afternoon, I’m walking through the convention center on my way to a seminar and approaching in the other direction was Gwen Ifill. I stopped her and told her how much I admired and respected her. She smiled a pleasant smile and accepted my fanboy platitudes, shook my hand and went on her way.

That’s my personal Gwen Ifill story.

I recall how Ifill moderated the 2004 vice-presidential debate between Dick Cheney and John Edwards and she asked a question about the high rate of HIV-infected Black women which clearly neither Cheney or Edwards were prepared to answer.  These powerful White men were stunned into silence and mumbles, by an intrepid Black woman doing her job and doing it well.

Discomforting the comfortable: That’s what a real journalist does and Ifill was a real journalist in an age where they’re in scant supply.    Gwen Ifill always treated journalism as a profession worthy of respect and she worked hard at The Boston Globe, The New York Times, NBC News and PBS to earn it.

Now more than ever we needed Ifill’s kind of clarity and integrity and with her loss we’re all a little poorer for it.

Muhammad Ali: Black Action Hero

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.

Impossible is nothing.

~Muhammad Ali

President Barack Obama’s remarks on the passing of Muhammad Ali:
Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d “handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail.”

But what made The Champ the greatest — what truly separated him from everyone else — is that everyone else would tell you pretty much the same thing.

Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time.

In my private study, just off the Oval Office, I keep a pair of his gloves on display, just under that iconic photograph of him — the young champ, just 22 years old, roaring like a lion over a fallen Sonny Liston. I was too young when it was taken to understand who he was — still Cassius Clay, already an Olympic Gold Medal winner, yet to set out on a spiritual journey that would lead him to his Muslim faith, exile him at the peak of his power, and set the stage for his return to greatness with a name as familiar to the downtrodden in the slums of Southeast Asia and the villages of Africa as it was to cheering crowds in Madison Square Garden.

“I am America,” he once declared. “I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me — black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”

That’s the Ali I came to know as I came of age — not just as skilled a poet on the mic as he was a fighter in the ring, but a man who fought for what was right. A man who fought for us. He stood with King and Mandela; stood up when it was hard; spoke out when others wouldn’t. His fight outside the ring would cost him his title and his public standing. It would earn him enemies on the left and the right, make him reviled, and nearly send him to jail. But Ali stood his ground. And his victory helped us get used to the America we recognize today.

He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes — maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.

Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace.

RIP to The Greatest.

Perhaps there’s a way to honor Muhammad Ali in his passing without mentioning how he wasn’t just The Greatest, but America’s most famous conscientious objector, America’s most famous Muslim, and a transitory figure of social justice and Black pride.    Don’t sleep on that last point.  Ali was an American success story, but he was a Black super hero first and long before one showed up in the comic books.

Obama not only knows that, he celebrated Ali’s undisputed Blackness.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but losing Ali is so much more than losing another great athlete, a great humanitarian and activist and the G.O.A.T. For any conscious Black person, losing Ali is losing a hero, a role model, a symbol of Black power, pride, potential and principle. Ali was all that and at one time he was literally the most famous man on the planet and was recognized wherever he went in the world.

The important thing now is to not let The Greatest be neutered into some sort of cartoon character who beat guys up and said outrageous things.    Ali was Black Power Personified.   Controlled anger with a dangerous edge.  Sex, swagger, and style.   Ali didn’t just talk it, he walked it.   Ali was our Black James Bond: men wanted to be like him and women wanted him.    I should know and I’m not a woman.

If someone wants to say, “Ali was the Greatest,” that’s fine. If someone wants to go deeper and say “Ali was a hero and here’s why” that is also fine.    Haters should step off.

That was always the difference between Muhammad Ali and the rest of us. He came, he saw, and if he didn’t entirely conquer – he came as close as anybody we are likely to see in the lifetime of this doomed generation.
~ Hunter S. Thompson

Don’t believe the hype: They love Ali now but they hated Ali then.

The Dirtiest of Prince’s Dirty Mind

Sexuality is all you ever need.

Sexuality is all you ever need.

For much of his career, there was an internal struggle within The Artist We Knew As Prince between spirituality and sexuality.    Prince reveled in sex.  Sexually explicit lyrics,  sexually provocative dancing, sexually ambiguity and androgyny, playing around with gender roles, and just generally taking on taboos and putting them to a beat so big you could live in it.

Everybody’s got a favorite dirty ditty and Prince got real dirty.   A lot.    Dirty Mind wasn’t just the name of a Prince album.   It was a operational statement.    Here’s a dozen Prince songs with a sample lyric you  probably  don’t want to sing in the car when your mother is with you.   Add “Do Me, Baby,” “Soft and Wet,” “Scarlet Pussy,” “Come,” or “Cream” to name just a few and you could put together a pretty nasty mix tape (do they still make mix tapes? )

1. Erotic City

If we cannot make babies
Maybe we can make some time
Fuck so pretty, U and me
Erotic City come alive
We could fuck until the dawn
Makin’ love ’til cherry’s gone
Erotic City, can’t U see?
Fuck so pretty, U and me

2. Sexy M.F.

U seem perplexed I haven’t taken u yet
Can’t u see I’m harder than a man can get
I got wet dreams comin’ out of my ears
I get hard if the wind blows your cologne near me
But I can take it, cuz I want the whole nine
This ain’t about the body, it’s about the mind

Come here baby, yeah
U sexy motherfucker
Come here baby, yeah
U sexy motherfucker

(an uncensored  8:00 video of “Sexy MF” is available for viewing–for now!)

"I want candy,"

“I want candy,”

3. Head

Head till U’re burnin’ up
Head till U get enough
Head till U’re love is red
Head – love U till U’re dead

U know U’re good, girl
I think U like 2 go down
U wouldn’t have stopped but ah…
I came on your wedding gown


4. Darling Nikki

I knew a girl named Nikki
I guess u could say she was a sex fiend
I met her in a hotel lobby
Masturbating with a magazine
She said how’d u like 2 waste some time
And I could not resist when I saw little Nikki grind


5. P Control

Pussy got bank in her pockets
Before she got dick in her drawers
If brother didn’t have good ‘n’ plenty of his own
In love Pussy never did fall
And this fool named Trick wanna stick her
Uh, talkin’ more shit than a bit
‘Bout how he gonna make Pussy a star
If she come and sing a lick on his hit
Pussy said “Nigga, U crazy if U don’t know
Every woman in the world ain’t a freak (Pussy)
U can go platinum 4 times
Still couldn’t make what I make in a week (Pussy)
So push up on somebody that wanna hear that
Cuz this somebody here don’t wanna know (Pussy)
Boy, U better act like U understand
When U roll with Pussy Control”

6. Let’s Pretend We’re Married

My girl’s gone and she don’t care at all
And if she did, so what, come on baby, let’s ball

I wanna fuck U so bad it hurts, it hurts, it hurts
Ooh, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna, I wanna fuck U
Yeah, I wanna, I wanna, ooh, I wanna fuck U
Look here Marsha, I’m not sayin’ this just 2 be nasty
I sincerely wanna fuck the taste outta your mouth
Can U relate?

My girl’s gone and she don’t care at all
And if she did, I wouldn’t care, let’s ball

7. Jack-U-Off

If U’re looking 4 somewhere 2 go
Girl, I’ll take U 2 a movie show
We can sit in the back and I’ll jack U off

I can’t give U everything U want
But I can take U 2 a restaurant
And if U’re not hungry, I’ll jack U off

If your man ain’t no good
Come on over 2 my neighborhood
We can jump in the sack and I’ll jack U off

If U’re tired of the masturbator
Little girl, we can go on a date, uh
And if U like, I’ll jack U off


8. Pheromone

I can feel the tension through the crack in the door
He begs 4 love, while she’s disgusted more
And I’m on fire, cause I never seen her nude before
I wanna save her (save her)
I want 2 watch (watch)
All my vital signs go up a couple of notches
When he unties her and she runs 2 the open door
He trips and grinds her (grinds her)
Right there all on the floor (on the floor)
She so close I can touch her (touch her)

Pheromone, rush over me like an ocean
Pheromone, controllin’ my every motion
Pheromone, I’m helpless as a pet
Pheromone, when your body’s wet (body’s wet, body’s wet, body’s wet)

Her eyes are closed but there’s no penetration
He just makes her point the pistol 2 his nose
While he masturbates and now I see a tear
Heading down towards her smile
What happens next it all depends upon your style


9. Rock Hard In A Funky Place

Rock hard in a funky place

Here comes a lady so u cover up
She’s a freaked out,
Funky electric mama with double cups
Say u, u could cop if u wanted 2
Because something near your leg
Is haunting u, such a disgrace
U’re rock hard in a funky place, ow!

Rock hard in a funky place

U was workin’ on the line
U could drop on her
But u couldn’t concentrate
When your dick saw her
Maybe if u cop a nut in the car (Maybe if u cop a nut in the car)
Maybe u could think
About playing guitar

10. Ripopgodazippa


I lay me girl down on the fake lamb fur
It’s fake but it’s still soft as what’s between her
Lavender oil come from the bottle like I do
Whenever I think about me zippa rippin’ so good
All down the body and devil between the thighs
Ripop go zippa and U get a big surprise

Ripopgodazippa, ripopgodazippa
If U flick of the pink plush, then this brother trippa
My girlie, how in the world did U learn this that U know?
Ripopgodazippa, etc. etc. so


Instead of walking inside, I just knock on the door
I take a look around until she beggin’ me “More, more, more!”
When I finally come inside, I’m standin’ perfectly still
“I can’t take no more!” Pump U then I will
“I just wanna call your name, but I don’t know what 2 say”

1980, Manhattan, New York City, New York State, USA --- Prince backstage at The Bottom Line. --- Image by © Deborah Feingold/Corbis

1980, Manhattan, New York City, New York State, USA — Prince backstage at The Bottom Line. — Image by © Deborah Feingold/Corbis

11. Tell Me How U Wanna Be Done

Shall I write the alphabet? (A B C D E F G)
Or shall I just write my name?
U tell me, U’re the ruler in this telephone game
I could be a slave when it comes down 2 U (Slave)
I’ll do any and everything U want me 2 do
U know why? (Why?)
Cuz I want U 2 have fun
So how U wanna be done?
(Yeah, baby, yeah!) (How U wanna be done?)

Baby, how U wanna, how U wanna be done?
Just say the word and we could start from number 1
And go the distance, baby, till U tell me 2 stop
I’d lose myself inside U till U get all I got
Talk 2 me, baby (yeah), tell me how U wanna be done

(Yeah, yeah)

I want U 2 imagine U’re making angels, angels in the snow
And kiss a hundred revolutions nice and slow
Then I see U on the beat do a def striptease
No, no, leave the Chanel around your neck – please, baby, please
Now do something I’ve never seen before (How U wanna be
Crawl over 2 me on your stomach – more, baby, more
Now pull me down on top of U and grind really fast
(Tell me how U wanna be done)
Take both hands with all your might and squeeze my… yeah!
Roll me over until U’re back on top
Then I want U 2 kiss me until I make U stop
That’s how, that’s how I wanna be done (Tell me how U wanna be

(How U wanna be done?)

But the absolute DIRTIEST of dirty Prince tunes is from Dirty Mind and it’s..

12. Sister

I was only 16 but I guess that’s no excuse
My sister was 32, lovely and loose
She don’t wear no underwear
She said it only gets in her hair
And it’s got a funny way of stoppin’ the juice

My sister never made love 2 anyone else but me
She’s the reason 4 my, uh, sexuality
She showed me where it’s supposed 2 go
A blowjob doesn’t mean blow
Incest is everything it’s said 2 be

Oh sister – don’t put me on the street again
Oh sister – I just wanna be your friend

I was only 16 and only half a man
My sister didn’t give a goddamn
She only wanted 2 turn me out
She’d take a whip 2 me until I shout
Oh motherfucker, she’s a motherfucker, can’t U understand?


He Loved Him Madly

You know his name.

I was doing a pretty good job of taking a blog break because after eight years of blogging every so often I need a break.  And then Prince died today and the light poured out of me.

Every generation has its timeless legends and usually its the artists who are the ones who come along and say, “No, we’re gonna do it like this now.”

I bought my first Prince record, For You, at a used record store on the Ohio State University campus. Maybe it cost two bucks. There were a few standouts, some clunkers and some “not quite there but getting there” tracks. A good-looking kid with a big Afro. My wife-to-be thought he was cute. Didn’t know how short the little fucker was. The dude wrote, produced, arranged all the songs and played all the instruments. That was odd, but he was good at it.

Prince Rogers Nelson was only going to get better.

Things might have worked out differently if he hadn’t won the battle with Warner Brothers (one of many he would wage) and rebuffed their suggestion that Maurice White of Earth, Wind and Fire produce the album. Prince wasn’t about to allow anybody else shape his vision.

I used to say about Prince his failures were more interesting than most folks successes. Eventually, the sheer tonnage of his failures (Under the Cherry Moon, Graffiti Bridge, Chaos and Disorder, Rave Unto the Joy Fantastic, etc) wore me down. But Prince never became a novelty act or a fat, lazy joke dutifully cranking out his hits for a buck. He was a genius and a moron. A sexy MF and an observant Jehovah’s Witness. He sang about masturbating with magazines, getting oral from a newlywed, and sex, sex, sex until he stopped singing about boning and started singing about God.

Prince was a lot of things, good, bad and indifferent, but predictable wasn’t one of them.

Prince dying on me is like a friend dying on me. I’ll miss everything he did for music and everything he still wanted to do. One thing’s for sure. There’s enough Prince music in the vaults to make Elvis and 2Pac look like one-hit wonders.

We’re we just blessed to have lived in an era when a legitimate legend no longer strides the earth the earth itself slows down to pay attention and give respect.   Sooner all the giants leave us.  Even the ones who stand only 5’2″.

All n’ all it’s not a bad way to step off the stage.   I only want to see you laughing in the Purple Rain.   Today was a horrible day.   It was gloomy and cloudy and dark and it rained.   It should have.   The doves were crying.

My name is Prince and I am funky
My name is Prince the one and only
I did not come 2 funk around
‘Tll I get your daughter I won’t leave this town
In the beginning God made the sea
But on the 7th day he made me
He was tryin’ to rest y’all when He heard the sound
Sound like a guitar cold gettin’ down
I tried to bust a high note, but I bust a string
My God was worried ’til he heard me sing

My name is Prince and I am funky
My name is Prince the one and only – hurt me

What Black Women Write When They Write About Love

Don’t ever think I fell for you, or fell over you. I didn’t fall in love, I rose in it.
Toni Morrison, Jazz

“Back then I confused passions and orgasms with love. It took me years to realize the two weren’t synonymous.”
Terry McMillan, Getting to Happy

I found God in myself, and I loved her, I loved her fiercely.
Ntozake Shange

Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style.
Maya Angelou

Some say we are responsible for those we love. Others know we are responsible for those who love us.
Nikki Giovanni, The December of My Springs

I have learned not to worry about love; but to honor its coming with all my heart.
Alice Walker

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.
Maya Angelou

The greatest lie ever told about love is that it sets you free.
Zadie Smith, On Beauty

Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever.
Audre Lorde

“What looks like crazy on an ordinary day looks looks a lot like love if you catch it in the moonlight.”
Pearl Cleage, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day

Love, I find, is like singing. Everybody can do enough to satisfy themselves, though it may not impress the neighbors as being very much.
Zora Neale Hurston

“Kindness eases change.
Love quiets fear.
And a sweet and powerful
Positive obsession
Blunts pain,
Diverts rage,
And engages each of us
In the greatest,
The most intense
Of our chosen struggles.”
Octavia E. Butler, Parable of the Talents


“Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God. You do not deserve love regardless of the suffering you have endured. You do not deserve love because somebody did you wrong. You do not deserve love just because you want it. You can only earn – by practice and careful contemplations – the right to express it and you have to learn how to accept it. Which is to say you have to earn God. You have to practice God. You have to think God-carefully. And if you are a good and diligent student you may secure the right to show love. Love is not a gift. It is a diploma. A diploma conferring certain privileges: the privilege of expressing love and the privilege of receiving it. How do you know you have graduated? You don’t. What you do know is that you are human and therefore educable, and therefore capable of learning how to learn, and therefore interesting to God, who is interested only in Himself which is to say He is interested only in love. Do you understand me? God is not interested in you. He is interested in love and the bliss it brings to those who understand and share the interest. Couples that enter the sacrament of marriage and are not prepared to go the distance or are not willing to get right with the real love of God cannot thrive. They may cleave together like robins or gulls or anything else that mates for life. But if they eschew this mighty course, at the moment when all are judged for the disposition of their eternal lives, their cleaving won’t mean a thing. God bless the pure and holy. Amen.”
Toni Morrison, Paradise

David Bowie: Loving the Alien

If you’re lucky…really, really lucky, you get to live in the same time as an Original. They don’t have to proclaim it themselves and nobody has to tell you they are. You just know it.

David Bowie was an Original.   One of that rare breed who can get away with just the surname.  Bowie.  Nuff said.  There were some like him before and there will be some like him after, but nobody was Bowie but Bowie.

There have been many guitarists but only one Hendrix or buried alive in the blues singers like Joplin or visionaries like Lennon. They are artists in every sense of the word and David Bowie was an artist. Never will forget when he appeared on Soul Train, probably coked to the gills lip synching “Fame” which was huge on Black radio. It was singing backup to Bowie on the Young Americans tour a future soul star named Luther Vandross would first appear on the scene.

Bowie was so White he was clear and he never claimed to anything as obnoxious as a “blue-eyed soul singer. ” However, many of his bands were interracial and his passion for R&B and soul was without doubt gliding through musical genres like a chameleon over wet leaves.

His last album, Blackstar became his first Number One album, knocking the mighty Adele from her perch.   This would not have happened had Bowie not pulled the greatest sales promotion tactic ever: dying unexpectedly and shocking the world.   To his last Bowie never stopped coming up with ways to amaze us.

There’s something incredibly bad-ass about dropping a new album on your birthday and then as the accolades begin rolling in, check out at home with your family around you. It’s both making the definitive artistic statement and maintaining your reputation for being unpredictable and playing by your own rules. Even in death.

All things considered, if you gotta go, go out your own way and Bowie went out the way he came in.   With style and cool to spare.

Ziggy Stardust. Rebel, Rebel. Major Tom. The Thin White Duke. Heathen. Actor. Musician. Madman. Genius. Icon. Ashes to Ashes.

requiescat in pace. Ch-ch-changes. Turn and face the strange.  We are the Goon Squad and we’re coming to town.  Beep-beep!

The Godfather Is Gone. Amos H. Lynch: 1925 – 2015


Amos Lynch was a true social justice warrior.

Tomorrow the National Association of Black Journalists holds its annual convention/group therapy session in Minneapolis.    I will not be there.   I attended my last NABJ convention in 2011 and didn’t renew my membership in 2013.

Last week, one man who was one of my greatest inspirations as well as someone who did a lot to convince me journalism was truly my calling in life was laid to rest.  His name was Amos H. Lynch and he was the undisputed Godfather of Black Journalism in Columbus, Ohio.

A few of the attendees will know why and how he earned that title.  Most won’t, but such is the state of the business today.  Yesterday’s icons are as swiftly forgotten as yesterday’s news, if they were ever known at all.

Long before I became a blogger I was a journalist and I still think like one.   Blogging is for most the work of a soloist.   Journalism means you’re part of a band and everyone has to play their part.

Journalism is a collaboration and if you can’t work as part of a team, you’re not going to be much good at it. Particularly not if you are working for a newspaper.  In 1999, I walked away from the security of a state job for an opportunity to pursue my life’s calling after Mr. Lynch, the publisher of the Columbus Post.   The former editor-in-chief of the Call & Post had left that paper to start one of his own and before too long the city had a new press war going on but since it was happening between the Black-oriented papers,  the mainstream media mostly ignored it.

They couldn’t ignore Mr. Lynch though.   I’d go into his office and he would be working the phone.   Calling up community leaders, prodding politicians to take out a larger ad, placating a ruffled reader and otherwise being extremely busy supporting his favorite causes, dogging out his rivals, promoting events such as the annual MLK Breakfast, and being the Presence that made the big boys in Downtown Cowtown take his calls when he was on the line.

You don’t disrespect The Godfather.


Amos Lynch, former editor of The Call & Post and publisher of the Columbus Post

Nothing about Mr. Lynch (as I referred to him then and now) reminded me of Don Corleone except they were both men who commanded respect based on their reputation.  He could be kind and gentle, but Mr. Lynch had his stern, no-nonsense side when it came to The Columbus Post.  At the Call and Post,  he worked for someone else.  Now he was running his paper and he wouldn’t hesitate to tell a reporter or contributor who hadn’t delivered what he wanted where they had fallen short.

I came to the Post after Mr. Lynch had broken away from his old publication to start his own weekly newspaper.    Leaving the stability of a steady paycheck with the state for a struggling start-up paper that had problems making payroll and never got much support from advertisers was a risky proposition, but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time.  I was hired as a reporter and I left as the editor-in-chief.  I worked hard and spent many a Tuesday night going into the wee hours of Wednesday morning putting the next edition together.

Becoming the editor was never something I aspired to.  I wanted to be a reporter and go after the news than stay in the office and make sure the right news went into the right places.   I killed off long-running columns and beats and opened up the opinion page to voices I felt were missing from the paper.   I went after gay and lesbians,  conservatives and others in the Black community the Post had shut out and ignored.   This caused Mr. Lynch some heartburn such as the time when a radical lesbian wrote a column and some of the ministers got their nose out of joint.   He called me into his office and said, “Winbush,  you can’t have that woman on the opinion page again.”

I protested a bit, but I didn’t go to war over it.   After all, It was his paper,  While he let me run it pretty much the way I wanted there was only so much change he was going to go for.

Without my time at the Post I would not have formed friendships that endure to this day.   Charles Farmer was my closest ally at the paper and though he covered the sports desk he could have handled any beat you gave him.  Someone at ESPN, Sports Illustrated or USA Today should have snatched him up a long time ago but that’s a common theme to working in the Black press.  The talent pool is deep and wide.  Kim Tolley, was a rival reporter at the C&P, but to this day is one of the smartest and most dedicated reporters I’ve ever met.   We both kept a watchful eye on what the other were doing at the two weeklies.   We would scoop them and then they would scoop us.   There were no losers as the competition only made both papers better.

The connecting thread between almost all the Black press in Columbus is if you didn’t work for Amos Lynch you knew who he was  and you knew what he had done.    Among those celebrating his life is Wil Haygood, former Washington Post reporter and author of several books  The Butler: A Witness to History which was adapted into the film The Butler,  told the Columbus Dispatch, “I recall having to rewrite stories to get them up to speed, but it was the first job that I had where I was paid to write, so I will always look back upon my time under his tutelage as being very important.”

I know what Haygood means because I feel the same way.   Mr. Lynch was a giant of journalism, a crusader for civil rights and social justice, and simply a gentleman. It was a privilege to have known and worked for Mr. Lynch. He was the Godfather of Black Media and we will never, ever see his kind again.    I hope they take a few minutes at the NABJ convention to mention the man’s name.

Amos H. Lynch, Sr., left, is helped to the podium by long-time friend Angela Pace, right, who was mistress of ceremonies, to give a few words of thanks after being inducted into the Civil Rights Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium Thursday, October 13, 2011. (Dispatch photo by Shari Lewis)

Amos H. Lynch, Sr., being inducted into the Civil Rights Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium Thursday in 2011. (Columbus Dispatch photo by Shari Lewis)

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? by Frederick Douglass


The preacher preaches and the teacher teaches.

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a y...

English: Portrait of Frederick Douglass as a younger man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

Frederick Douglass portrait

Frederick Douglass portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

(excerpted from Frederick A. Douglass’ July 5, 188 speech to New York abolitionists )

Source: Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings, ed. Philip S. Foner (Chicago: Lawrence Hill, 1999), 188-206.