29 October 2020

And in the USA, they are trying to catch a falling piano


Walter Wallace. Who is he? Well, I didn’t know about him 24 hours ago. The entire world didn’t know about him. Just like they didn’t know about George Floyd a few months ago. The world wouldn’t have known had people not taken to the streets. And it will be the streets that will tell the world the story of Walter Wallace.

Around 4 pm on Monday, October 26, responding to a call from Cobbs Creek, a neighborhood in Philadelphia, two white police officers arrived to find Wallace carrying a knife. Wallace, a 27 year old black man, was a mental patient. The officers may not have known. Patient or not, condition known or not, if they found Wallace to be a threat, that threat could have been neutralized without spraying him with bullets. Wallace died.

Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw (yes, that’s the name and yes, it struck me between the eyes as well!) claimed that the officers didn’t have a taser or a similar device, because the department didn’t have the funds. Well, a taser costs US$ 399. It was pointed out that Outlaw, who had ordered the tear gassing of citizens on June 1, is the head of the department that has a US $ 4.9 million budget and has enough money, US $ 20 million, to renovate (!) A new building. No wonder Outlaw’s armed subordinates are now being called ‘an armed militia’!

There were protests in Philadelphia. In fact the protests haven’t stopped.
A resident of Philadelphia who took part in the protests spoke about a popular protest chant: ‘Whose streets? OUR streets!’

‘It means nothing when you can’t actually proceed down a street because the police are armed for war. Literally. They can barely walk.’

It reminded me of a comment about a piano. You might wonder, ’Of all things! Well, let me make it more grotesque; it’s about a falling piano. It’s actually about trying to catch a falling piano! Here’s the story:

About a week ago, I wrote about Willie Dixon. It was about his work and his life. It included the following: “Well, I didn’t know about Willie Dixon and I didn’t know that he was jailed by the US government for refusing to go to war against Korea. In 1983 he released what is probably the most radical song he’s penned. It was titled ‘It don’t make sense if you can’t make peace.’”

I emailed the article to my friend Tony Courseault who replied, ‘Nice thoughts.  Sometimes it feels like I’m trying to catch a falling piano when I fight for this country to do right.’

Tony was talking of trying to ‘save the piano.’  He was talking of his country or his image of the country that the USA could be (or better be!) or that which is best in that country or, simply, protecting those under threat. He was talking of the United States of America. The USA where George Floyd couldn’t breathe and where Walter Wallace breathed his last on Monday the 26th of October.

He was talking of streets too, in a way. Whose streets? Well, according to claim, the streets of the people. Some people, let me interject. If you are white you don’t really have to say ‘these are my streets,’ but if you are not, whether or not you make the claim you get to meet a trigger happy armed militia (aka ‘police’).
It might be easier to catch a falling piano.

Reclaiming the streets, catching a falling piano, determining to breathe. Tough assignments, yes even the last. That's if you are not white. That’s the ‘America’ where my friend Tony lives and where George Floyd, Walter Wallace and countless others were murdered.
They deserve music. And if catching a piano is what it takes, then it has to be caught. The streets have to be taken. The armed have to be disarmed.

A call to arms, then? Well, try catching a falling piano! You would need strong arms for that wouldn’t you? Strong arms, strong minds and a strong safety net. 

All of a sudden I am thinking of Malcolm X. And these words come to me: ‘By any means necessary!’

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']  
Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten   Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing

Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ alre
ady a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer