EDITOR’S NOTE: Former Tucson High School and University of Arizona basketball standout Ernie McCray is a legendary figure to Tucsonans and Wildcat fans. McCray, who holds the Wildcats’ scoring record with 46 points on Feb. 6, 1960, against Cal State-Los Angeles, is the first African-American basketball player to graduate from Arizona. McCray, who now resides in San Diego, earned degrees in physical education and elementary education at Arizona. He is a longtime educator, actor and activist in community affairs in the San Diego-area. He wrote a blog for TucsonCitizen.com before the site ceased current-events operations earlier this year. He agreed to continue offering his opinion and insight with AllSportsTucson.com about Arizona Wildcats athletics. McCray also writes blogs for SanDiegoFreePress.org.
Last Saturday was a very pretty day and to celebrate the beauty of it all I took off on a walk at a nice steady pace. As I moved along I gave thanks to the very universe for my being able to take in such a sparkling day up and about on my old size 14 feet.
I thought of so many things I’m grateful for: a great childhood, athletic glory, a marriage that thrilled my soul until my soul-mate passed away and then another fine woman came my way; children, grand children, great-grand-children, leading positive lives; college degrees; having traveled to exotic places overseas.
After a while, with each step I took, I reflected on all the impressive people I’ve broken bread with on this journey, people who’ve made me grateful to have simply been around them while they breathed air: an old friend who is a writer of books that alert us to how our government has, against the rules that govern such matters, tortured and assassinated and is now using drones to terrorize the enemy and “collateral” folks like children and women; a newer friend who shares light on those who played significant roles in the development of Martin Luther King’s Dream – in the shadows; another longtime friend who wrote of a bat, Stellaluna, who is rescued by birds and later rescues them, a story of families and friends and the benefits of beings working together (and I read the story on PBS); a lifetime dear friend who wrote eloquently of our childhood in the Old Pueblo; so many poets who make the rhymes for our times that give our hearts a glow; confidantes, representing a span of religions, who show a commitment to their faith in their everyday actions, in their pursuits of a more caring and endearing and tolerant world; a friend and ex-student of mine who works in the field of international relations, helping people in wars, and other disasters, resettle and proceed with their lives; a daughter of a childhood buddy who created a magazine for which I submitted stories; a few filmmakers and screenwriters and playwrights, I have the pleasure of knowing, who tell stories we don’t often see or hear.
I could see so many of my allies in our pursuits: chanting, in front of supermarkets, “Farm Workers, Si, California Grapes, No”; fighting to revive Chicano Studies in Arizona; refusing, as we would in no way act like pawns of la migra, to ask students and their families for proof of their citizenship in our schools; supporting the Border Angels as they rescue hordes of hardworking brown folks who trek through blazing deserts and freezing mountains, seeking a better life, struggling to survive; beseeching the board of education to limit the military’s access to young minds on our school grounds; trying to convince a community that a Christmas Parade might make people of non-Christian beliefs feel more at home and at ease if it were simply called a Holiday Parade.
I can hear the sober tones in pleas for the city to stop doing business with the Boy Scouts who discriminate against atheists and gays and the stomping rhythm of footsteps and the melodies and ranges of collective voices singing “No More War” as we marched down the heart of Broadway. So grateful to have been part of such activities
There are sounds of joy from my past that still resonate loudly in my memory: the hum of creativity as some of the most creative teachers I’ve ever known and I sat down and planned a K-12 alternative school that is high among all my accomplishments in life; the generous applause at the end of a play when the other actors and I were feeling it all the way, in particular bringing Old Antonio, the symbol of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, to life; the tapping of feet with my spoken word rap beat; my voice in harmony with Pete Seeger for our buddy, John Handcox, in honor of his life and the anthems he penned for the labor movement.
Oh, there’s so much more I can be thankful for. I can still smell and taste the delicious food served at the celebration for those who worked so tirelessly in the recent elections for Yes on 47, changing felonies to lesser penalties for thousands of people trapped in prisons. Is anything more delicious than the taste of success?
I’m equally thankful for the many progressive women politicians who were honored the other night at Liberty Station by Run, Women, Run who helped them to be heard and counted as they confront the inequalities in our society. My hope lies in actions like these.
And nothing has raised my expectations for a better tomorrow more than a role I played in training a school’s “Natural Helpers.” We helped them hone their natural skills for helping their fellow students who find themselves in situations that are troubling to them.
I don’t know if anything could make me feel better than being around remarkable kids. What they are learning will be valuable to them when they’re adult citizens and take their place among the social and political activists who will be working towards “restorative justice” as an approach to focusing on both the needs of victims and
offenders in our country.
I give thanks for all who seek a world that features compassion as a way of life. What a delightful world that would be.