Audrey called a week ago today. I went for family visit. We have been friends for forty years—a friendship that has corresponded to my literary pursuits. She has always appreciated my quest, if not so inclined. Like involuntary saints, we are survivors, having spent our lives in America’s unforgiving economic underclass—former long-time residents of some of the toughest neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. Whenever we get together, “the headcount is a mutha”—among our dearly departed my son Anthony, her son Darryl, her brothers Emmet, Joe and Carl. Over coffee, scrambled eggs, bacon and rice, we surveyed our hearts, totaled up damages and dramas, and gave thanks that we’re still throwing blows and chasing the raggedy remains of our dreams. Sated on the personal, our talk turned worldward—we whooped about communal stupidities, “how they still harrassin’ us”, the O.J. fiasco (ssshiiittt, he never spoke out for Folk back in the day), and how—thanks to the housing and stockmarket crashes—we’ve got plenty of new company on the lower rungs. Then I say how me-and-mine cracked a bottle of spumanti and celebrated New Years on November 8th. Everybody in the house did the Obama holler. Comprising the first generation, Audrey and I yelled “I never thought I’d live to see the day!” Amens came from the second generation, Sean and DeShaun signifying, “We never thought we’d see the day!” Then Audrey’s twenty-something grandsons crowned our moment, “Hell, we didn’t think we’d see it in our lifetimes!”

Originally Published: December 19th, 2008

Poet and writer Wanda Coleman was a blatantly humanist artist who won much critical acclaim for her unusually prescient and often innovative work, but who struggled to make a living from her craft. In discussing “my life in poetry,” More magazine, April 2005, Camille Paglia said of Coleman: “She’s not...