Saturday, October 18, 2014

Neckless Man

Chicken Bone Necklace Man

By Brother Tracy Gibson

He would spend literally hours making chicken bone necklaces. They were colorful, rustic, funny-shaped and they were made by hand by a Master. He also made colorful African Walking Sticks by hand. He sold a few each month to try to make a dollar stretch. The meager Social Security check he made was barley enough to pay the rent and the light bill. How He managed to pay for food on His budget, I'll still never understand. The necklace-making was no small task. It was no small task because He did this by taking time away from His family to do it, and He did this by taking time away from His 55-plus years of activism to do this.  He added weeks, months and days onto His work as an activist like a master painter added works to His repat twa. He would spend over 55 years on the stump as a radical, left-leaning social protest activist. You know, those generals of the anti-War and the pro-choice and the Black-rights era who breath life into this often otherwise boring existence of a world of police fantasy and Gospel music and over eating and racing cars and Blow-Up movies and such we find on TV and can live without. You don't find many of these social activist on TV unless you look really hard because they represent such a thorn in the side of the status quo that they largely get ignored by the White-owned, Goliath mass media. If there was a Progressive cause and someone needed support, if no one else in the entire World would join you in your protest--even if it was a stormy, NASTY, rainy or snowy Day--Mr. Bill Hill, Chicken Bone Necklace Man, would be there for you.  He would carry His home-made placard, an almost literal barrel of good humor, a smile, a cold baloney and American cheese sandwich and His signature hand-made African walking stick or cane with Him. He always added life and vigor, honesty and mirth to the things He did.  He was funny, good natured, larger-than-life and He was a lover of Black History and the old stories of progressive and left-leaning radical political warriors such as Himself. {I didn't know who the heck Leonard Peltier was until Mr. Bill Hill and several others at the All People's Congress told me}... And He really just loved people of every stripe, demeanor and tempo as if they were liner notes and He was the Maestro who just had to play them on his piano. 

Do you know anyone who had a Big Party and a dinner thrown for them, and them alone, to honor their years of dedicated service to the Progressive and Radical cause and community? The only such person I knew personally was Mr. Bill Hill, formerly of Marion Avenue in West Philadelphia.  And people came.  People of all sorts came.  There were White people and Black people, and Latin Folks and women and men, and Gay People, like myself, and there were transgendered people and even children at that dinner.  I was so thankful that His friends at the International Action Center, gave this dinner in His honor. We showed great honor for Him while He still walked the earth, and none too soon, for Mr. Bill Hill would be given back to the cold, cold earth a few short years after that.

He suffered from a heart ailment and High Blood Pressure. He left us from Hahnamman University Hospital before I really got to say good bye.  He was a bit overweight and stout for such a short gentleman.  He was getting up in age. He was my personal friend and like a Father to me.  We would go to I-Hop for breakfast and He would get the Pigs in a blanket. I never ate pork since I was 14, but Mr. Bill Hill proudly ate His pork and you had better not say a damned thing about it. It was one of a few things we disagreed on. He never had so much respect for the Black Muslims as I did.  He didn't trust them, like I seemed to.Mr. Bill Hill was like a Dad to many people. You see, My Father and I never really got along much.  Clashing egos and some mental abuse that really didn't add up to a Hill of beans, was my excuse for allowing myself to stay on the wrong side of my real Dad for many, many years. Dad didn't make it easy, but Mr. Bill Hill made up for the rest of the Fatherhood I never had through my real Father, Mr. Charles S. Gibson of 49th Street in West Philadelphia.....

Mr. Bill Hill was a Father, grand Father and a Great Grand Father as well.  He would extend to me, an invitation to a Christmas Dinner at His family's HOUSE {The home of one of His daughter's in South {Philadelphia} that I will never forget.  There were plenty of children there and Mr. Bill Hill knew I loved children and would take care to act correctly around them because I was and am basically a good person.  Many other people never took the time to find this out about me, but Mr. Bill Hill knew this and cherished me more as a person because of this fact....

Once a junkie friend in His neighborhood left a child out in the cold one Winter's day. Mr.Bill Hill scooped the baby up and found a place for the child to stay--If I remember correctly it was a little Black child--a baby girl.  I drove around with Mr. Bill Hill and this little girl, she couldn't have been more than three years old, until we found a safe harbor for the child. He was NOT turning Her over to the department of Public Welfare or , GOD forbid, the police. Now that Mr. Bill Hill is gone I think about that cold day and that baby girl...  That female child could grow up to be another Rosa Parks, another Mehalya Jackson, another Maya Angelou, or another Barbara Jordan, or another Nona Hendrix, or another Mississippi God Damn or another Angela Davis,  or another Winnie Mandela or even another Betty Gains--now THAT would be something.... She would not have had that chance if the incomparable and heroic Mr. Bill Hill hadn't scooped this child up and saved yet another life. She was the cutest little baby girl with a pink hat on and a yellow snowsuit.  A lost neighborhood soul in distress who had turned to drugs and just given up... she just couldn't take it any more, but had left this sweet darling baby child behind to fend for Herself. Thank GOD there was someone there so save Her.

Someone there so save Her or Save Him--save us ALL.  That is what people like Mr. Bill Hill did in life. But there are no statues of Mr. Bill Hill foolishly placed outside the Municipal Services Building that some Philadelphias defy the police guard and pee on every chance they get, like there is of one Frank Rizzo, a Mr. Bill Hill nemesis. Mr. Bill Hill served as a role model for me to do similar things, but maybe I'll never measure up to Mr.Bill Hill and guess what, that is OK as Well....  I loved me some Mr. Bill Hill, but NOT in a sexual Way.  I loved Him for his spunk, His tenacity, His True Grit, His positive demeanor, His love of mankind and woman kind and transgendered kind as Well.  That's right--Mr. Bill Hill even loved the people who many so-called great people in our society would rather spit upon than hold close and love--He even loved the poor people like Himself--who weren't even mentioned during the whole Presidential election season of 2012; and even the transgendered people and the Gay people and the Lesbian people and the bisexual people who it has now become a bit more in Vogue to accept... Look back 20 years and you find more Anita Bryant attitudes getting their oranges off about gays and lesbians than you find acceptance.  Find the old Phil Donahue TV tapes and it will be proven true.   Mr. Bill Hill was in love with us all way back when Anita Bryant was throwing nasty spit ice sickles at us and throwing lighter fluid on the names that people would call us. Faggot. Dike. Queer. Hateful names spewing from the lips of hateful people--not ALL of them White...

Mr. Bill Hill would attend Gay and Lesbian and Transgendered and Bisexual Rights demonstrations Way, Way before it became cool to support Gay Marriage and Gay Rights in the eyes of the general public. He helped defeat Robert Bork from getting his sorry ass on the Supreme Court; he fought against South Africa's Apartheid system for about 20 to 25 years; he helped fight for a Free Haiti.  He enlisted as a communist and found even they could be racist.  Something He and my tapes on Richard Right helped inform me of years ago.  Mr. Bill Hill told me how the Communist Party used Him as a patsy--taking credit for what he did while Mr. Bill Hill would end up in jail--and never took His causes on totally until he met up with the Workers World Party and their people's political front at the time, the All People's Congress.

I met Mr. Bill Hill on a summer's day when I attended a demonstration against Racism--a People March Against Racism--that was held over the summer of Circa 1983 in Philadelphia.  A Lesbian woman named Betty Gains {or Smith} also joined us along with about 10,000 other people. Our All Peoples Congress march would wind around city streets chanting ``The People United Will Never Be defeated'' and several other chants and slogans as we turned the city literally upside down for a short time.  We stopped traffic, but were peaceful. The racism across North America and in other parts of the world and in Philadelphia was stinking to High Heaven and we were there to let our voices be heard.  Where are the protesters now? Where is occupy Philadelphia? They have been suppressed and usurped and driven underground with the proposed building of a $50 Million Dollar ice skating rink around City Hall.  A buy-out to take away God Given Constitutional rights if ever I saw one. {But then most people don't know that because of the Patriot Act and the Patriot Act II the right to assemble and for Free Speech have long been taken away in this so-called bastion of democracy we call North America.}

But Mr. Bill Hill's life was one to be celebrated, not one to get bitter and resentful about concerning political issues.  I have to say, I remember the sad occasion of His funeral was made more sad for me because the family--His Family--saw fit to allow the government--the military--to put a U.S. flag over his casket. {Bill was a veteran, but He spent His life fighting against militarism, war, bombings, military intervention and the like perpetrated by the U.S. against other countries}.  To me, this was a slap in the face--that flag over his casket. I doubt that Mr. Bill Hill would have wanted that because His life was spent fighting against the military and using high teak and low teak arms and armaments to fight for ``democracy'' when we don't even have it here, and for the peace we never reached while Mr. Hill was alive.  There was always some damned war to fight against. Viet Nam; Cambodia; Laos... and ALL the bombings. Iraq; Afghanistan; Haiti; Panama; Nicaragua and Cuba... They ALL experienced the fight against so-called terrorists, communism, foreign aggression and what ever else the racist and the war profiteers of doom decided to build a package of hate around. All the war mongers wanted was to make a political, social, media and economic justification for U.S. aggression.  Mr. Bill Hill stood against all that and He stood for steadfastly for peace, justice and real freedom.

He was against the death penalty and Pam and Ramona Africa were close and beloved friends of His. He stood with them for Mumia Abu Jamal's fight for freedom of a new trial. {Even I would only go as far as another trial for Mumia, like Amnesty International wants, because I think this is still one of the best Ways to expose what our government, the police and the district  attorney's office, the prosecutors and so forth were up to when they imprisoned Mumia--almost killing the Brother}... But Mr. Bill Hill said, what the heck, let's totally fight for freeing our Brother Mumia.

He wanted greater adherence for all the social justice agenda by our government at every level--the Supreme court, The Presidency, Congress, the Senate, the other courts and the entire war machine and the military/ industrial complex, and Mr. Bill Hill never lived to see a Black man, Barack Obama, elected President...      But it is and was Black men and Black women on the grass-roots level like Mr. Bill Hill, who died when he was some 80 years old, it was people like Mr. Bill Hill who made that Black Presidency possible. Mr. Bill Hill would put on a good pair of sneakers or some of those old beat-up sandals of His and he would actually lay the ground work for ALL the progress that has been made over the years. He did this like a gifted craftsman carving out His wooden African walking sticks or the colorful chicken necklaces He was famous for.

He fought with Tom Cronin for labor rights and with Rita Addessa for Gay and Lesbian Rights, but he also knew a little lady from Egypt named Fisa who He loved dearly. The struggle became international in scope in more people's minds because Fisa was also with us at the All People's Congress for several years.  I could have never, ever made my 1991 journey with the Ventreamous Brigade to Cuba without the ground work that Mr. Bill Hill Had done.  He gave me the courage to want to see what that island country was like along with a Mr. William Mena, a Puerto Rican Gay activist who helped me interpret Spanish in Cuba during that personal historic journey there.  Bill probably wanted to go, but I guess He couldn't afford the plane ticket.  You see, Mr. Bill Hill was one of the poor ones like I am myself am right now. Saying you are poor doesn't mean you will be poor forever.  We can work ourselves free from this mess.  But it takes time, work, endurance and patience and tenacity.  ALL the things Mr. Bill Hill was made of.  All the things He dedicated His life to.  All the things He instilled in His friends, His family and His comrades through the example He set for us.

When I turn on network t000000v and see all the police shows I realize how invisible the established order, the oligarchy and / or the ruling class would like to make people like Mr. Bill Hill and our labor leaders; and our Gay Rights leaders--represented in people like Act-Up members; and our Civil Rights leaders like Alphonso Deal, Georgie Woods, Nina Simmon and Roxanne Jones and Cecil B. Moore; and our other women activists like Harriet Tubman and Winnie Mandela {I actually met Ms. Winnie Mandela in South Africa}seem.  The former Ruling Class want to hold on to their sinking dollars and make us invisible. In place of their stories we get police show after police show after police show and the price is right and more monkey shire and stupidly like dancing with the stars.  We are lulled to sleep with the likes of David Letterman and we think we are free. We are made to think that this JUNK TV is OK and that the world is just fine without people like Attorney Miclael Coard who works with His group Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, or Pam and Ramona Africa who work with MOVE and The Friends and Family of Mumia Abu Jamal, or Brother Rob Gray and Sister Silvia Gray who gave years and years of their lives dedicated to building the community and respecting Black living ancestors through an agency called The African American Freedom and Reconstruction League.... And internationally Brother Minister Louis Farrakhan and His work with the Nation of Islam to build a backbone for Black men and Black women by arming them with the truth....These are our Freedom Warriors, our Heroes and Sheroes. There are literally hundreds or thousands of others as Well in different parts of the city, the country and the world who go temporarily unrecognized, but times are changing and the sheets and covers and masks are being pulled off every day to reveal the true beauty and vivid work of these people like Mr. Bill Hill.  But the TV keeps telling our people about old White Boy Jim Bob on that TV news--a White man who gives the news and weather and looks just like the other White man on the other TV stations. Or we are able to dream of joining the military {and letting our children join the military} and come back from war in Afghanistan with an arm or a leg blown off--if we are lucky. But don't ask for your right and proper benefits, because they won't be coming unless we fight for them... That is what Mr. Bill Hill did, he fought for the benefits and the rights.  More young people MUST take up this banner and real soon, or I don't want to think where we will be very, very soon. Start editing PRocess here...

Where are the stories about people Mr. Bill Hill and I? They are not even on the cutting room floor.  They are like Ralph Ellison's book ``Invisible Man'' just not there, in the eyes of the established order.  We can't find funds for Paul Robeson's House being reconstructed, modified and open for regular hours with rich and fulfilling programs, seminars and workshops and classes about Paul Robeson--an All American football hero, a noted actor, thespian and movie star, a political activist and a writer and singer and an expert public speaker, but we can build a multi-million dollar ice rink around City Hall; and we can build a New {and ominous-looking} multi-million dollar Youth Study Center at 48th and Haverford Avenue in West Philadelphia which could be used to lock up and examine and pick and prod at our young men, and young women and young transgendered people--if we let them, but let's NOT let them.  And, at the same time, we can't find jobs for our youth.  And when I talk about Jannie Blackwell as the female dog that she is and I talk about Darrell Clark as the Dog that he is I get this blank unforgiving and questioning stair that people just don't understand. Clark and Blackwell have made this mess along with the so-called Mayor, and they want us to live in Hell and act like it is some sort of dignified privilege to be a poor Black person about to be jacked up and moved out of Philadelphia through a process called gentrification.  Another issue that Mr. Bill Hill fought against and exposed through part of His life's work.

His life was a life worth living. He loved Black people and Gay people and Poor people and people who fought against injustice like the mother of Amado Dialo and Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X and Fanny Lou Hamer.  But such people are rarely ever made into movie history like so many police shows that find their way onto the airways. So many, many useless police show that aggrandize the police and help keep the people in check through intellectual fear and intimidation and an underhanded, undercurrent of ``law abiding citizenship and adherence to laws'' that have just about been totally corroded by our government at all levels--including By the PResident of the United States who signed the Patriot Act II himself

As I was sitting here writing this, I decided to take on yet another task to go along with the seemingly hundreds of things I'm doing {even though I have tried to boil the things I'm working on down to three things, I always want to do more because there is so much to do and so few of us doing this work, or so it seems to me at times}. I am going to demand and work towards a special day being commemorated and set aside by the Mayor and City Council of Philadelphia for Mr. Bill Hill in honor of Him and His work.  Let's see if we can do something besides honor the Philadelphia Symphony, the hoagie and those nasty hard, cold, nutritionally worthless mustard pretzels in this damned city.

Copyright warnings and infringements from ``It's Your Biz,'' By Susan Wilson Solovic, with Ellen R. Kadin and a forward by Edie Weiner. Page 150...

``Because I write many columns and blog posts for a variety of companies and media organizations, I use search-engine tools to alert me if anyone is picking up and using my material. Some people have literally copied my writing and presented it as their own, even though this is an obvious copyright infringement. There are both civil and criminal penalties for copyright violations, and the severity of the penalties depends on the situation.''

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