Winnie Mandela Rest in Peace and Power

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2018 by Josslyn Luckett

winnie(Haven’t blogged in so long, dissertation writing took over…still the news of Winnie Mandela’s passing hits hard. I immediately thought of Alice Walker’s Poem, “Winnie Mandela We Love You” see excerpts below)

Winnie Mandela

We love you.

If we had known you in a time of peace

we would have loved your peacefulness

your quiet so deep

it did not hear

the call

to fight.

We missed our chance.

Winnie Mandela

We love you.

In a time of war

we love your ferocity.

We love your vigilance.

We love your impatience

with killers

and charlatans.

We love your hatred

of the deaths of our people.

We love your hatred of despair.

Winnie Mandela

We love you.

We love your beauty.

We love your style.

We love your hats,


and various lengths of hair.

we love the passion in your body.

The fury in your eyes.

When you smile

We are amazed…

(from “Winnie Mandela We Love You” in Alice Walker’s collection: Her Blue Body Everything We know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers, 1991)

Katie, Cornel and Coltrane

Posted in Uncategorized on May 13, 2017 by Josslyn Luckett

john lewis mural of john coltrane now gone

I unfortunately missed a recent alumni celebration at Harvard Divinity School marking its 200 year anniversary, where I had especially hoped to catch a panel featuring Dr. Katie Cannon on the Women’s Studies Revolution at HDS. Googling this morning I found a video of her address and loved these words:

…from my first day arriving at Harvard Divinity School in the fall of 1983 until this very day, I have been researching, writing and teaching about ethics and rhetoric embedded in Womanist ways of knowing, wherein I debunk, unmask, and disentangle widespread, pervasive death-dealing activities in order to envision liberating strategies in our work of resisting unjust authorities.


Then I clicked over to a talk later in the celebration by Cornel West, where he closed with a soaring account of  a Philadelphia preacher’s gift to John Coltrane. Fast as Dr. West talks, I tried to transcribe the story below (but you can watch him tell it himself here):

…reminds me in some ways of the black preacher in Philadelphia, who knocked on the door of the Coltrane family when John Coltrane came up from North Carolina. And the young brother was blowing his horn, had lost his grandfather, his grandmother, and his father all within a matter of months, he was living all by himself. His mother and Cousin Mary had gone to Philadelphia and all he did was blow his horn trying to bring back his parents. When he finally got to Philadelphia he kept on blowing and kept on blowing. All day, all night, and the folks in the projects on the chocolate side of Philadelphia said we got to get rid of this negro, he’s making too much noise. And they voted to vote the Coltrane family out. And the day before they’re gonna move out, they got a knock on the door. And there was a black preacher, he was a baptist preacher, John Coltrane was AME Zion–nice ecumenical connection–but he knocked on that door and he said, “Son, I don’t know what your name is, but these are the keys to my church. You can come to my church and blow any time you want, all day or all night. And Coltrane would say as he played a Love Supreme in his own mind and soul, I’m thinking about that concrete love. I don’t exist without that black preacher who gave me that key so I can practice in that church cause I was being booted out with my mother working as a domestic maid. That’s the kind of soul warriorship that we need in the age of trump so that we can generate the kinds of coming together, with vision and with witness, and we’ll see whether we can do it.john c philadelphia landmark

This sign above still stands but the mural up above by John Lewis fell victim to “development” a few years back. This is why we can’t wait, whether we teach, preach, paint, blow or deliver liberatory keys to the newly arrived migrant tenor prophet in our midst–in the face of “pervasive death-dealing activities” we can love, listen, illumine, vision, protect and harbor now.

…makers and carriers of fresh meaning…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2017 by Josslyn Luckett


Bless the poets,

the workers for justice,

the dancers of ceremony,

the singers of heartache,

the visionaries,

all makers and carriers of fresh meaning–

We will all make it through….

Joy Harjo, from the epigram to her latest collection: Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems

Now let us rededicate ourselves…

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2017 by Josslyn Luckett


Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter–but beautiful–struggle for a new world…. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard…and send our deepest regrets?

Or will there be another message…

(From “A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967 Riverside Church. The photo is by LeRoy Henderson)

Strength when strength is NEEDED: The wisdom of Rev Dr. Kirk Byron Jones and clear creativity of Domingo Ulloa

Posted in Uncategorized on November 9, 2016 by Josslyn Luckett

“Racism/Incident at Little Rock” Domingo Ulloa, 1957

(My “Jazz of Preaching” and Howard Thurman professor and hero, Rev Dr Kirk Byron Jones posted the reflections below on his facebook page this morning. I pair them with this image by Domingo Ulloa, who many call the father of Chicano art. Immediately after seeing news clippings of the now iconic image of Elizabeth Eckford terrorized by a white mob as she tried to desegregate Little Rock’s Central High in 1957, the Mexican American artist living in Los Angeles painted this image of Eckford, not alone but linked with other black students…clarity leads to creativity according to Rev Kirk. And as he reminds us in #6, we have no idea the strength we are capable of when we stand together in times of need, with literal arms linked and/or by way of clear and creative expressions of solidarity from L.A. to Little Rock.)

Some Pastoral Presidential Election Reflections

1. If your candidate was not elected, be disturbed, dismayed, and even disgusted, but choose not to be destroyed.

2. Amid the personal and social fallout, protect your soul. Take moments to rest in the storm. Rest leads to peace. Peace leads to clarity. Clarity leads to creativity.

3. Pray for all. Prayer moistens the heart for hope and journeying on through it all.

4. As your spirit allows, face the unsettling truths surfaced by this campaign and election with fresh humility, honesty, and courage.

5. Tell our children to listen, learn, and look to participate in a democracy that is an ongoing work in process.

6. Be encouraged. Sometimes you don’t know the strength you have until you need to have it.

7. Believe that there is an Eternal Force beyond temporary feelings forever making all things new.

Kirk Byron Jones

Solidarity and such deep thanks

Posted in Uncategorized on September 27, 2016 by Josslyn Luckett


I was reading a scholar’s work today who sounded surprised to know that the struggle for black studies in the late 1960s included other people of color working in solidarity. I had to stop and reflect and give thanks that this is known and not a surprise for me. Thinking of all my UC Berkeley teachers/mentors, I felt so full up I had to write some of the memories flooding through me down…remembering these teachers and “saying their names” the names of the living and the dead lifts me in this time of racial terror and reminds me why I am at work on the project I am at work on now…and what a time it was back at Berkeley circa 87-91.

This is not a surprise to me. Because, as much as I am the child of my black Mississippi father and my white Maine mom, I see myself as a grateful daughter of the third world student strikes at SF State and UCBerkeley. I see myself this way because of my political, intellectual and creative formation at UCBerkeley in the late 1980s. I see myself reading Alice Walker and Ana Castillo back to back, because of my professor, Carla Trujillo, who was ’bout to drop her first book: “Chicana Lesbians: The Girls our Mother’s Warned us About.” I see myself in Carla’s Third World Women Writer’s class with her two fierce T.A.s [soon to become Dr. Melinda Mico (Seminole) and Dr. Caridad Souza (Puerto Rican)], asking if we can do a modern dance/movement piece for our final project (at the time I am learning modern dance from Carol Murota). The “we” is me and my sister, Rona Taylor who is the daughter of a black father and Filipina mother. We also take class with Beatriz Manz and Margaret Wilkerson that year. We know that we are privileged to have access to this multiracial/third world mix because of the multiracial third world mix that sacrificed and struggled two decades earlier for our Ethnic Studies department and courses to be a reality. Margaret Wilkerson, Barbara Christian and my then T.A. now Dr. Rudy Busto think/predict/charge that I must go on to get my PhD. Rudy thinks my final paper for him comparing the Free Southern Theater and Teatro Campesino would make a hell of a dissertation if I added an Asian American theater company to the mix.

I’m all about film at the time. Terry Wilson, Mario Barrera and especially Albert Johnson’s film courses change my world. With Johnson it’s not just that he gives me Dorothy Dandridge beyond Carmen Jones, but in his Third World Cinema class he gives me Lucia, Xala, The World of Apu and I find out how instrumental he was in bringing Satyajit Ray’s films to the SF Festival decades before.

Then Loni Ding’s video production class changes my world again. I team up with future academic heavyweights then classmates Sarita Echavez See and Celine Parrenas, and we make a film about sexual assault, based on one of June Jordan’s poems. Jordan has recently joined the faculty at Berkeley so we get permission to use her poem in person. Loni and I talk one day after class, after she screens several of Marlon Riggs’s films for us. Though Marlon Riggs is only teaching grad courses in journalism, Loni still encourages me to go talk to him and let him know how meaningful his work is to me.  I take a pause now to imagine we had Marlon Riggs, June Jordan and Barbara Christian on campus together at the same time!

Barbara Christian…. Her Black Women Writers class gifts me with Sula, Gorilla My Love and Sister Outsider. Though Johnson is my undergrad thesis advisor, it is Christian who is most enthusiastic about my thesis on Dorothy Dandridge, and she writes then unknown names and phone numbers in her margin notes, “Must contact Jackie Bobo, Pearl Bowser.” Barbara Christian sees what I can’t see yet, and unknowingly I store that seeing, that faith in me somewhere deep. How could I know that 25 years later, after film school and television writing, after “jazz-on-the-sacred-side” curating and divinity school, I’d begin to write a dissertation on a multiracial group of filmmakers who enter UCLA’s film program ’bout the same time of the bay area’s Third World Student Strikes? And how, given my formation, could I only write about the black filmmakers of the UCLA group and not include their radical Asian American, Latina/o and Native American cohort? Unthinkable.

Barbara’s gone and Loni’s gone. Albert Johnson, June Jordan, Marlon Riggs too. Still, when I remember to get quiet, when I remember to remember, I feel their wisdom, legacies, generosity like a protective, warming and illuminating fire around this work. I will never have enough thanks for the gifts I received from them and as well as all of the living mentioned above. As my comrades from divinity school would say, “now that’s good news.”

(Still looking for info for the photo above of Loni Ding at work…found it online included in a tribute to her, check out this great youtube clip.)

“joy comes in the morning… hold me tight til then…”

Posted in Uncategorized on September 21, 2016 by Josslyn Luckett


how long…?

may the music hold us, embolden and bless us.

thank you don byron for the exquisite, “himmm” (whose lyrics provide the title to this post) it helps after so much trouble…


(image by dred scott…the naacp “a man was lynched yesterday” flags have been on my mind for months…only just became aware of scott’s update)