Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Back from New York

I got back from New York on Monday. It was quite a weekend. About 500 people showed up for St. Clair Bourne's Memorial at River Side Church in Harlem.

Like many others, I still find myself dumbfounded by his passing. I saw lots of people I had not seen in years. People came from California and Arizona, all over New York, my son Djibril and I from Chicago.

St, Clair's sister Judith had called me to let me know I was an honorary pallbearer. I was a bit shocked but honored. St Clair's friendships run deep. We were activists, filmmakers, writers and artists, family and friends joined together to honor his name and works.

I was glad Djibril could be there. This was a good introduction to Harlem and New York for him. He is at that age when he uses his headphones to shut the world out but I think he saw what he needed to see. It is imprinted, maybe a seed planted. It is something for him to look back upon and be glad he was there.

I ran into St. Clair's first wife, Sylvia Azure-Bourne as soon as we got to the Church. I had never met her before. I ended up sitting next to actor Danny Glover and in front of NYU scholar Manthia Diawara. It was good to see Clyde Taylor, St. Clair's longtime friend Tanoa Rodgers, and Faith Childs, Dr Linda Miller, Julie Dash, Greg Tate, Amiri Baraka, Melvin Van Peebles, Kathleen Cleaver, Thomas Allen Harris and many others. My longtime friend from Northern Illinois University, Ajene Washington, his son Jason was there also. They had been with St Clair in Cannes the year he shot Making Do The Right Thing.

Being in New York was not the same. As I prepared to leave on Thursday, I did as I always do, I called all the folks I wanted to see and the first number I dialed was St Clairs. Habit. One hard to break. It was a good farewell.

The image above is one of St Clair during his time in the Peace Corps. His social commitment was solidified here, after being thrown out of school for civil rights activism. He started a newspaper in a slum in Lima, Peru when he was 22 and tried to start an educational TV program. His plans ran afoul of US Embassy officials who decided he was interfering too much in local affairs.

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