We People Who Are Darker Than Blue

1 Mar

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I was up the other night waiting for sleep to capture me and carry me away. In my waiting I flipped through some channels on the tv and I landed where I always land, on PBS. It seems that I was supposed to be up and flipping through channels as I ran into a documentary called, “Movin’ On Up: Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions”. I was not to sleep for a bit longer and that was cool with me.

The documentary was the normal fare of “when he started, to how it all ended”, I was familiar with the M.O. and it was welcomed as I wouldn’t have to do to much thinking. I enjoyed listening to the music and some I had never heard and other I haven’t heard in a long time. The one that hit me like stone was “We People Who Are Darker Than Blue”, I can’t ever remember hearing this song and I listen to hours of music everyday. I was floored by the words in the song because it’s what I had been trying to say for at least 30 years. The memories came back to me like they happened yesterday. I felt the same feelings and saw the same people. I was that little Black boy again and I was abused for being that little Black boy, again. The tired, dried out streets of Washington, D.C. were vivid in my mind. The corner store where I bought all my Now & Laters, Lemonheads, Alexander the Grapes, Boston Baked Bean, half smoked sausages, pop-sickles and the rest of it. The little girls where jumping rope and chanting cheers like “on the list”. Anybody that grew up in D.C. in the 70’s know what I’m talking about. I was again with the neighborhood boys looking for trouble in the alleys, but finding nothing but crazy dogs that loved to chase us over fences or on top of cars. Mr. Johnson from across the street was in his yard with the hose watering his grass. Some soft music was coming from somewhere, out of someone’s house as it always was. There was ALWAYS music playing in my world which is also known as our block. The old lady up the street was sitting on her porch swing with that same pleasant, peaceful look on her face as her husband push a manual lawn mower. I loved watching him cut the grass, those strange looking turning blades cut right through the grass as they rotated so fast as he pushed. The young couple a few houses down were washing their car in cutoff jeans and tank tops. My mother had just come back from the corner store with red skin bologna and sliced cheese. Those sandwiches had magic or something spread on them because I have never had one as good since. OH!! an orange Rock Creek Park soda, another D.C. thing.

But back to the song and I’ll put the lyrics here. I had always felt like a lesser person because of my skin tone. Not something that was generated in me, but introduced at a very young age. My skin was to me something to be ashamed of and I was. I also grew to not like lighter skinned Black people, I think it may have been jealousy but my young mind had no concept of jealousy. Now understand; in my world only Black people existed. I bet I could go months and never see another race of people and if you watch the clip all the way through you’ll see exactly how my life was growing up . It was normal to me and that was D.C. back then.

I won’t drag this out because…..well, because I don’t want to. And I’ll stop now as to not get to deep. It’s really about the song and here are the lyrics and a clip from the documentary:

WE PEOPLE WHO ARE DARKER THAN BLUE 
ARE WE GONNA STAND AROUND THIS TOWN AND LET WHAT OTHERS SAY COME TRUE 
WE’RE- JUST GOOD FOR NOTHING THEY ALL FIGURE 
A BOYISH GROWN UP SHIFTLESS JIGGER 
NOW WE CAN’T HARDLY STAND FOR THAT 
OR IS THAT REALLY WHERE IT’S AT 
WE PEOPLE WHO ARE DARKER THAN BLUE 
THIS AIN’T NO TIME FOR SEGREGATING 
I’M TALKING `BOUT BROWN AND YELLOW TOO
HIGH YELLOW GAL CAN’T YOU TELL 
YOU’RE JUST THE SURFACE OF OUR DARK DEEP WELL 
IF YOUR MIND COULD REALLY SEE 
YOU’D KNOW YOUR COLOR SAME AS ME, 
PARDON ME BROTHER AS YOU STAND IN YOUR GLORY 
I KNOW YOU WON’T MIND IF I TELL THE WHOLE STORY 
GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, LEARN TO KNOW YOUR SIGN 
SHALL WE COMMIT OUR GENOCIDE BEFORE WE CHECK OUT OUR MIND 
I KNOW WE’VE ALL GOT PROBLEMS THAT’S WHY I’M HERE TO SAY 
KEEP PEACE WITH ME AND I WITH YOU 
LET ME LOVE IN MY OWN WAY 
NOW I KNOW WE HAVE GREAT RESPECT FOR THE SISTER, AND MOTHER 
IT’S EVEN BETTER YET 
BUT THERE’S THE JOKER IN THE STREET LOVING ONE BROTHER ANO KILLING THE OTHER 
WHEN THE TIME COMES AND WE ARE REALLY FREE 
THERE’LL BE NO BROTHERS LEFT YOU SEE 
WE PEOPLE WHO ARE DARKER THAN BLUE 
DON’T LET US HANG AROUND THIS TOWN 
AND LET WHAT OTHERS SAY COME TRUE 
WERE JUST GOOD FOR NOTHING THEY ALL FIGURE 
A BOYISH GROWN UP SHIFTLESS JIGGER 
NOW WE CAN’T HARDLY STAND FOR THAT 
OR IS THAT REALLY WHERE IT’S AT 
PARDON ME BROTHER, I KNOW WE’VE COME A LONG LONG WAY 
LET US STOP BEING SO SATISFIED

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10 Responses to “We People Who Are Darker Than Blue”

  1. Kushite Prince March 1, 2013 at 1:23 PM #

    Curtis was a bad musician! I think he is very under rated. I loved how he mixed those funky hypnotic beats with conscious lyrics. We need more of that in today’s music. Since theres a lot of talk about the upcoming Nina Simone biopic, I wonder what a film about Curtis would be like. That’s something I would love to see!

    • hunglikejesus March 1, 2013 at 3:48 PM #

      Curtis was indeed underrated as a whole, but I think Black people loved him a lot. He spoke to us, for us and about us.

      I try not to think about the Sista Nina “biopic”, it saddens me to think someone who doesn’t even consider themselves Black will be playing Nina. I guess that’s the world we live in now. A Curtis biopic would be interesting, but I can’t think of anyone right now who I would like to see play him. You know they got Lenny Kravitz playing Marvin Gaye. I shake my head so much these days people think I’m crazy.

      Thank you for stopping by.

      • Kushite Prince March 1, 2013 at 4:45 PM #

        Yes the Nina film should interesting to say the least.lol
        Lenny as Marvin Gaye?? WTF?! That’s completely insane! I hadn’t heard that but that’s scary. That’s almost as bad as Mario Van Peeples playing Malcolm in the film Ali.lol I think Jesse L. Martin would play a great Marvin. The resemblance is uncanny! But a Curtis film if done right— would be amazing!

  2. diaryofanegress March 2, 2013 at 12:47 PM #

    Another good one. Curtis is a baaaaad singer. He and Otis Redding always spoke to me. You know why his music stands the test of time?

    Because his music speaks to us on all levels. That kind of soul never dies.

  3. mary burrell March 2, 2013 at 7:01 PM #

    Great post Jesus. I never heard this cut before. Thanks for sharing. I always like when you wax nostalogic about your growing up in D.C. My favorite Curtis Mayfield cut is Move On Up.

    • hunglikejesus March 3, 2013 at 8:15 AM #

      HEY!!! Ms. Mary, where you been hidin’?

      Please, you don’t want me to get started on my D.C. days. I could go on and on. It was bitter sweet however.

      I had never heard this song either, it’s what they call a deep cut. Meaning; it’s on an album but buried under the hits or more popular tunes of the day. Ms. Mary are you blacker than?

      Thank you, sister for stopping by.

  4. Gat Turner August 9, 2013 at 9:22 AM #

    Man you just took me back…way back. I was born and raised in D.C. too and in the 70’s, the now and laters and rock creek sodas (my favorite was cherry smash!). You have a put together an impressive blog. Now that I now you are a homie i’ll be by to check you out on the regular. Oh yeah I love how people from D.C. use the term “Bama” so effectively. When you said you grew up in D.C. in the 70’s I already felt like I knew you. That means you know about all the classic Go-Go (Jungle Boogie=greatest congo player ever) The colliseum, celebrity Hall, you probably had a SYEP job from Marion Barry in the summer and I have to thank D.C. for honing my Joning skills. LOL

    • hunglikejesus August 9, 2013 at 4:50 PM #

      What’s up shorty?

      You remember when shorty meant you were a young buck, a green horn and all that?

      Man, I remember all the things you mentioned, but I was too young to have a job back then. But the Go-Go is still in my blood like all native Washingtonians.

      D.C. back then was my world. My parents would take me out the Haynes Point in the summer with bucket of KFC and we would stay until the sun went down. I remember one time my uncle picked me up and held me by ankles so I could touch the water. Fireworks on the 4th out there was magic as well. We saw so many people perform in Lincoln Park.

      What part of the city did you grow up in? I was in N.W. right off North Capital Street. Directly across from the Prospect Hill Cemetery.

      It’s doubly sad for me thinking about those old times since losing my father a couple of weeks ago. But the memories are always good when thinking about old D.C.

      Stop by anytime you want to and we can chat it up about the city or whatever.

      Peace and don’t be no bama.

      • Gat Turner August 16, 2013 at 11:24 AM #

        Yep, I do remember shorty. DC had it’s own slang and style back then. Sorry to hear about your dad, the city is really feeling the loss of men like him right now. There used to be at least one older person in every neighborhood that would serve as the defacto male role model for the kids that didn’t have fathers around. Old school dudes that looked after everybody as if they were his own. As they leave us we are struggling to replace them, the current generation is out for self and the next generation has no support network to help them.

        I think it will be up to our generation to steer this ship back in the right direction. I’m thinking about the time the Fruit of Islam shut down the drug trade in Paradise, just running dealers off the block without even using guns. I remember how shook the thugs were of them, just grown men not having it!

        We need to get back to that. Sometimes it’s sad to go around my old neighborhood (N.E. off of South Dakota Ave., by 1st St./Edgewood) and because of gentrification I barely recognize it. We need to stop selling our houses to white people! LOL

        Oh yeah one more thing….D.C. still has the best looking sistas in the world….hands down!

        • hunglikejesus August 17, 2013 at 12:05 AM #

          Man, talk about not knowing the neighborhood. I went back their about a year or so ago, and they have gentrified W st. beyond recognition. Howard bought up most of the area as well. My old elementary school and middle school have all been torn down and now it’s student housing. Which is cool because that is still a benefit to Black people. But the streets I grew up on have changed. I could go months and not see one that wasn’t Black. Now, there are white people down there riding bikes and pushing baby strollers. The houses are so high now I know I couldn’t live on my old street anymore. I just don’t like it anymore anyway. I use to ride my bike up Riggs Road all the way up to Notre Dame, not no more, you’d get killed trying that now their’s so much traffic. One thing about the old block that’s in place is the corner store on Flagger St.. I use to pass that store on the way to school and stop by and get all my candy.

          I loved D.C. back then and thank God we got out just before they started that madness with them drugs. To be honest though D.C. always had drugs, I can remember seeing hypodermic needles growing up. But when crack hit, it was hell on Earth for the people who couldn’t leave or got caught up in it.

          Good talking with you brotha and please don’t be a stranger.
          My email address is tyski1@hotmail.com if you wanna continue.

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