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John Fountain: Thank you for words that soothe my soul

A reader writes: “In this Sunday’s paper, I was moved and felt the need to stand up along with John Fountain. Really great writers will have that effect, and he writes in such a way that is almost musical at times. I’ve read his column where there was an underlying drumming going on as almost the sound of his heart was the cadence one heard.

“This Sunday, his voice was simmering anger with great sorrow, which I felt deeply. It was in regard to a reader’s response that uneducated druggies produce children who are animals. John writes about what it is to wear a skin that is black. The skin I wear is very light and freckled, yet I feel that his words and feelings transcend color and speak to what it is to be human. The problem is that we aren’t evolved enough to understand that we’re all the same under the skin.

OPINION

 

“I learned this important idea during my first semester in medical school when taking gross anatomy. When we die, except for gender, we all leave exactly the same shell. John Fountain’s anger and sorrow were because the color of skin determines how human beings are treated, and I agree with him: ‘Black Americans live in jeopardy of false truths.’

“He asks the question concerning the incident of the young black girl, thrown across the floor by a white cop, ‘what if she were your daughter?’ ‘The truth?’ he asks, does black skin mean that one is an animal?

“He answers that if the little girl is an animal, then so is he.

“My skin isn’t black, however, we are all human beings, members of the human race. I link my arm in John Fountain’s, as I stand up and declare, I too am an animal.”

Amen, my dear sister, Amen. Thank you for words that help soothe my soul.

Another reader writes: “Mr. Fountain, I just re-read your column… admiring it again. What I need to know — need, because I am a recently retired English teacher — is how you emerged from the West Side world you described into the articulate adulthood that is your world now.

“Was your mother a great reader?  Were you just oddly precocious? I hear the rhythms of black churches in your structures, but you can’t develop such a gift just by listening on Sundays. I’ve just concluded a semester of tutoring 3rd graders in reading at a school in North Lawndale, and they very much need what you have acquired. Where can these beautiful kids find it, before hope dies?”

My mother was indeed a great reader, voracious, in fact.  She devoured the newspaper and books, and required that I read them as well. As a child, I remember us having great discussions about history and current events. My mother never would have guessed she was raising a newspaper reporter and writer. Such is the irony of life.

My mom instilled in me, by her own passion, a love for reading. She required that I be diligent in my studies. That’s what I recommend to young people: To read, write and learn as much as they can. That’s the truer key to success, not sports or entertainment.

When I speak to young people about the road to success, I tell them about writing and mastering the King’s English. I tell them that talking “right” does not mean talking “white.” I tell them that they hold their destiny in their own hand and can be anything they want to be-if they hope, plan, build and dream.
Thanks kindly for your note.

Email: Author@johnwfountain.com

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