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October 30, 2007

Message to the People - Can we talk?: A forum for Message readers

I had the great fortune of attending an outstanding undergraduate school. A number of things make Morehouse College great. It is the only major American college I know of whose primary mission is educating black men. It frequently shows up in national rankings of superior liberal arts schools. Morehouse sports an impressive list of graduates, professors and presidents spanning back to 1867, including John Hope, Benjamin Elijah Mays, Julian Bond, Maynard Jackson and the legendary Martin Luther King Jr. It’s a hell of a place.Morehouse men are expected to achieve — to rise to higher heights than most. It’s just part of the deal. As a result, many people see us as respectable, intellectual, well-heeled, renaissance men. Others think we’re pompous asses whose idiocy is only surpassed by our sickening self-importance. As the old saying goes, “You can always tell a Morehouse man, but you can’t tell him much.” To be candid, both views probably carry a bit of truth.Whether you love us or hate us, Morehouse forces most of its students to do one very important thing — think. The “think” mandate was so heavy for me that I decided to become a professor. Morehouse gave me a strong desire to teach because such great men taught me. Research and writing were distant seconds. Years later, I still love and value teaching but have discovered that writing is much more important than I ever imagined.By writing scholarly articles and books, I have reached people that I will never meet. I must say, though, that the thing I’ve enjoyed most has been writing the Message to the People since November 2002. Yep, that’s right — we’re coming up on the Message’s fifth anniversary! Who woulda thunk the good old “Bastard out of Georgia” would be around this long?In those five years, we’ve rapped about everything from dastardly preachers and politicians to political philosophy. I’ve made a few friends and a lot of enemies. I’ve written things that have pissed off hordes of people, opened a few eyes and, as one Message reader wrote a couple of weeks ago in Erosia, I have even “sometimes ways to stumble onto the truth.” That was a good one. Most of all, I’ve had fun!Occasionally, some of my readers get a little anxious. Lately, some have decided that the old Gunslinger shouldn’t make them wait for e-mail responses to questions and issues they have about occasional rants. In fact, one reader, Brother David Klein, thought it might be a good idea if Message readers had the opportunity to get together and have a face-to-face discussion with me about some of the pressing issues of the day. Another reader, Brother Don Hensley, agreed. Being a man of the people, I promised Brother Klein that I would honor his request and set something up.To that end and to celebrate the Message’s five-year anniversary, I’ve planned a dialogue for Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. We should be done by 7:30 so everybody can get home to watch “Smallville.” It will be held at Chao Auditorium in U of L’s library. It’s new and quite nice. This is a couple of days after the election, so we can talk politics, race, poverty, hoops, love, Michael Vick, O.J., stinky armpits — whatever. Your choice. I really have no idea if there will be two people or 200. All I know is I told David Klein that I would be there, so I will. Hope you will, too.As that great sage and prophetess Joan Rivers says, “Can we talk?” For all of you who’ve wanted to give me a piece of your mind for years — here’s your chance.By the way, I was just tugging your chains when I said O.J. was set up last month. Got a lot of notes on that one. Damn, you folks really don’t like that guy! Too bad.Hope to see you all on Nov. 8.Remember, until next time — have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools. Dr. Ricky L. Jones is associate professor and chair of the Department of Pan-African Studies at U of L. His LEO column appears in the last issue of each month. Contact him at blackvanguard@hotmail.com