“Trade Secrets” of the Poor

"Her Garage" by Brett Busang

Artist Brett Busang is spending his summer in Memphis – prowling the streets and painting. His e-pistles read as something holy – feral and complete within themselves.

He’s away from D.C. and in the land of the Chickasaw this summer – in part – because his Mom, who lived there, died in May; she who instructed him in both The Life and The Word of an artist.

Below are a few excerpts from his e-mails:

Memphis is a city of poor people ringed by pockets of privilege. I’m most interested in the poor – who have treated me with kindness and courtesy. Yet as I study the habitat of folk who don’t dream of tomorrow, I wonder what on earth is going to become of us all? A local art maven, upon looking at my portfolio, said I hadn’t told the whole story yet. I wonder whether that’s even a valid criticism – in part because any story is ongoing, but also because one person can only do so much, given his temperament and preferences. I fully acknowledge that I’ve just scratched the surface, but I consider the effort of scratching eminently worthwhile. …

I wrote a much longer essay about being here in Memphis among the poor, who will not only be with us, they will begin – as we sidle up ever closer – to share “trade secrets”. At one time, there was stone soup, made with an actual stone or the sole of a shoe. (Boots furnished a better aroma, but no appreciable elevation in taste.) In the future, our nourishment will center on various forms of temporary empowerment and may involve stealing from the rich; giving comfort to our botton lines, particularly if they’ve withered-up a little; and ministering to the Fallen Mighty, whose numbers will visibly swell.

Such is my apocalyptic version of. . .the following weekend. (I can’t wait for upper-case History. The way things are going, we’ve got to get up to speed right now.)

To read more of Brett’s reflections, especially about his Mom, go to his blog Painting is Dead and So Can I.

Rev. King: Christian Radical

I loved reading Joseph Ross’s blog post Dr. King in 2009. It’s an excellent reminder for us all. Here’s an excerpt:

Dr. King saw America’s economic system creating a nearly permanent under-class. This, he saw, as a gross injustice, this willingness to allow whole segments of our population to remain poorly educated, badly treated in the social realm, and unfairly treated as consumers, all resulting in a horribly unequal economic state. Many of us forget that the reason he was in Memphis in April of 1968, when he was killed, was not to rally for racial equality, but to support the sanitation workers’ strike and their “I Am A Man” campaign.

If non-violence and poverty reduction were the twin centers of his social strategy, what would Dr. King say to America in 2009?

Read the whole post here.

And I’d add to Joe’s reflections the quote in The Washington Post from King colleague Rev. Joseph Lowery:

They have made Martin a glorified social worker, and they have almost made our young folks believe that all Martin did was go around dreaming. He was a nonviolent militant. He was a Christian radical.

And for a great video to lift your spirits, watch Lowery’s address at Coretta Scott King’s funeral. Prophetic, funny, brave, and eloquent. (I love when he “critiques” President Bush, who is sitting right behind him.)