James Garner stood tall along side singers Joan Baez, group Peter, Paul & Mary, Odetta Holmes, Mahalia Jackosn and Bob Dylan, joining A-List actors Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman & wife Joanne Woodward, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Diahann Carroll, Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, Sidney Poitier, Maya Angelou, Josephine Baker, Sammy Davis, Jr., opera singer Marian Anderson, baseball legend Jackie Robinson and writer James Baldwin at the Civil Rights Movement’s “March on Washington.”
My earliest memory of James Garner on the big screen is in the film “Skin Game.” A movie about two con-men during a time when slavery was on the verge of ending, it’s one of my earliest memories of comradely between two men. The other man that he acted opposite, was Louis Gossett, Jr. The fact that one was black and the other was white was secondary to me, although it was primary for the duo in the film. Being in the company of men who’s skin color that was different from mine, or my father’s, was not a threat or strange to me.
My mother was an educator; one of her professional endeavors in addition to being a school teacher, was selling clothing through mail order. She worked with a woman by the name of Jeannie Mutz out of Edison, NJ. Mrs. Mutz had two daughters, and her husband, whose name to the best of my memory was Ray, all had a different skin pigmentation than the people in my family. We would visit them periodically, eat barbecue, swim in their pool; and on July 4th, Ray would shoot off fireworks, which are still a favorite thing of mine to witness. My mom went there from time to time to conduct business, but for me the trips were social visits.
My mom’s lawyer was white, so fortunately my experience of people that looked different from the ones I saw everyday, was a positive one. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I was confronted with the negativity of racism, when a girl in Jr. High said to me “Curtis is it ok if I call you ni**er?” I still remember her name. This is without a doubt one of my earliest memories of being shocked – I had no words. It occurred in a classroom setting, an environment of learning, filled with ignorance. “Don’t let that bother you, you could just call her whitey or a cracker right,” a fellow classmate said to me. Innately, I knew two wrongs didn’t make a right, and I was not about to respond with hate. My mom took care to move my sister and I to another city for our betterment, however all the dynamics of our new neighborhood, were not “All Good”. Despite the incident, I had a “happy childhood.”
These memories come to mind, as I was informed of the sad news of the death of James Garner this morning. My grandmother LOVED “The Rockford Files.” My favorite memory of the show was the opening that featured Jim Rockford’s outgoing message on his answering machine. Beyond that, the show was kind of boring for me – I’m a kid, I liked comedy shows. Years later as my social awareness grew, I came to know of Garner’s active role in the Civil Rights Movement.
While racism unfortunately continues to plague our country, other countries have different conflicts. As we experience global turmoil, I am compelled to write something of a socially conscience nature. Our situation in regards to our borders WTF!!! While I have compassion for children whose lives are being threatened and mothers who believe the best thing for their safety is to send them to the cradle of the U.S., this border situation is out of control. Sure, that goes without saying, but what are we gonna do? These mothers sent them here because they believed they would be welcomed with open arms, meanwhile millions of children that live here are being ignored. Levels of violence and the deaths of children in Chicago are at an all time high. What about these children? I don’t condone sending children to their deaths via the hands of drug cartels, but what about the children across the country that are victims of local thugs from state to state. What do you think will be the future of a multitude of unskilled, uneducated children whose mothers feel their only course of refuge is to send them here? Eventually the cartels they sought to avert, will no doubt convert some of them to new criminals, continually growing the illegal industry and potential death that they believe they have escaped – this is calculated by the ones they fear. There’s borders north and south of any given country. If we deny them, it’s Un-American, yet if we give them all asylum, we’re at risk, but we can’t be inhumane.
Any political figure that would spend millions of dollars on an event that was the Olympics rather than take care of his countries people is capable of anything. In my opinion, Vladimir Putin is responsible for the deaths of the 298 people that perished on that Malaysian plane. Yeah I Said It! This mutherfuc*er needs to be held accountable. Mass media has to skate around this because we don’t have all the “facts” — and what are we gonna do, start a war with Russia? Of course not — he knows nobody wants that, so the ego maniac is gonna do whatever he wants — it’s like he wants to re-ignite “The Cold War”. In other current events, lest not forget the ongoing crisis between Israel and Gaza. No matter how you slice it, at the end of the day, this ongoing feud between Israel, Hamas, Jihad, the Middle-East… is a continuation of the crusade — this dispute goes back to biblical times. This atrocity is over a thousand years old, and they still can’t get it together. It’s the greatest sin committed by any society on the face of the planet that violence in this region still exists. And the beat goes on… as we, as I continue to make a better life for myself and family in the midst of it all, battling our economic system day-to-day, while tomorrow is not promised to anyone – SIGH… I believe the souls of the righteous who continue to pass away are getting out while they can before the real sh*t goes down, as the sh*t that already hit the fan long ago continuing to fly. Unfortunately I could keep going, but I gotta stop, but I had to say something. I have to believe that these words will raise the level of consciousness of another that will effect the overall state of how things are.
This blog and website are dedicated to FUNK, however all that’s FUNKY, is not black or black and white. There’s good FUNK like the musical genre that the term is dedicated to, but there’s a whole lotta Funkin’ sh*t that’s bad. The funk of James Garner are positive images, good funky actions of Garner, helped shape my view of the positivity of others, that didn’t look like my mother and father. A celebrated actor on the surface, Jim Garner was a man of principle at his core. His actions in real society reflected through his work as an actor, hence this blog in his honor and all those that “Do the Right Thing,” as I reflect on the FUNK I can not change — but hopefully have an impact somehow.