Thursday, April 26, 2018




From Ta-Nehisi Coates’s We Were Eight Years in Power, part of a paragraph about how the enslaved people reacted to their bondage:

‘African Americans understood they were at war, and reacted accordingly: running away, rebelling violently, fleeing to the British, murdering slave-catchers, and—less spectacularly, though more significantly—refusing to work, breaking tools, bending a Christian God to their own interpretation, stealing back the fruits of their labor, and, in covert corners of their world, committing themselves to the illegal act of learning to read.’

Tuesday, April 24, 2018




                                    'Once you learn to read, you will be forvever free' 

                                                                                                            ― Frederick Douglass

Monday, April 23, 2018




I feel a failure after I
talk to someone who
stops to ask
why are you here every day
holding this sign?
I see you every day they say.
I say too much at them trying
to say it just right when
the sign says it all
really.

Sunday, April 22, 2018


I'm reading this now. Coates's voice is so rich, his knowledge so wide, what he writes about is so close to his life, so important to him, you can almost feel him breathing. It makes for an exciting reading experience. You may have read his earlier book, Between The World and Me. If you don't know anythng about him, Google him, look at him on YouTube. He reminds me why I hold the sign. He gets me up and out in the morning. Books can do that.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


I binge-watched Sex and the City one day with friends in Cleveland when I was back visiting maybe 18-20 years ago. I think it's the only time I've binge-watched. I enjoyed it that day. I knew my daughters liked the show and it gave me a TV connection with them which I almost never had. I liked Cynthia Nixon's character the best. She was easily my favorite.

I didn't really keep up with the show when I got back to New York. I can be that way. But I liked seeing Cynthia Nixon go on to do great work on stage and in some movies. I found it way cool that she was interested in public school issues. Her kids go to public schools here.

So when one day a couple years ago she and her partner (arms around each other is how I knew) went into the Department of Education right where I hold my sign, I got a little excited, and kept an eye out for them. Some minutes later they came back out the door of the big building, walking near me, close enough that Cynthia Nixon looked at my sign.

You can't tell who's going to like the sign as they approach it. No more than the women in grocery store aisles handing out samples of cheese spread on a cracker can tell who's going to ask for one. I've been disappointed and pleasnatly surprised by how people react.

I was big time disappointed by Nixon's reaction. She looked mad at it. Disdain may be the word. She looked away and walked away, her arm over her shorter partner's shoulder.

It bothered me. I Googled her when I got home. Nothing I found explained it.

Maybe she was thinking about running for office then. Maybe the sign surprised her. Maybe she agreed with the sign and didn't have a quick answer to herself about the issue. Maybe that bothered her

She's running for governor. She's for and against all the right things. Progressive for sure. I hope she comes by again. I hope she stops this time. At least smiles.





Friday, April 20, 2018



The street, Chambers Street, that I hold my sign on is just two lanes. It's pretty jammed when I'm there from 8:00-9:00 weekday mornings. It's rush hour and there's usually some kind of delay up ahead. Some cars beep at me standing there with the sign. They give a thumbs-up, sometimes two thumbs. Sometimes a car in the far lane, if they're stopped for a minute, will roll the window down and make some comment that I can't always make out with the thrum of lower Manhattan filling my ears. Yesterday a good-looking car was thumpimg with rap music with the windows up. I could hear it four cars away. When it got right across from me it came to a stop. It was throbbing then and throbbing more when the driver rolled down his window and put his forearm out with a atrong curved thumb catching the morning light and said, 'Raise that sign higher, brotha.'