Maggie Scratch in the Days When Black Lives Mattered

Roberta Flack


Roberta Flack

In the days of “Killing Me Softly”

black lives mattered

we knew it

and we felt it

and we sang it

in jukeboxes

the music came out with a coin

and we danced

at concerts

the songs rang out

we were dancing in the streets

we were marching

for justice

and we’re still here

aren’t we?

killing it




Dancin in the Street

4 thoughts on “Maggie Scratch in the Days When Black Lives Mattered

  1. Toni Wilson says:

    Your poignant poem moves the very core of my heart and soul to tears, as I recall my own experiences.
    I have been a singer of many kinds of popular songs in venues where
    “Killing Me Softly With His Song”, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and “Dancing in the Street” were well received. I humbly say, but with great pride, that I was fortunate enough to sing the music of these incredible people on a steady basis for many years. The songs you mention in your
    magnificent poem are a very large part of our culture, and shall remain so. There were many other popular songs written and sung, and still are being played and recorded by musicians of African descent, as well as by peoples of all other origins. Also, the blues and jazz that we love so dearly are a very large part of what we are today, and have been for countless years. Yes, those of us who have survived this long can say “we’re still here aren’t we?” to honor so much the fact that black lives matter.
    The black culture and the
    contribution these beautiful and talented people have made are such a major part of the Americas, both of them, as well as the rest of the world. The lives of people of color, all colors, matter.
    This world, with the lifestyle and artistic mixtures of all the cultures that have originated and evolved so well, is, as a result, a rainbow of music and art. A rainbow would
    not be a rainbow without the colors in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Susana Gross, Writer says:

    Toni, thank you so much for commenting and being a part of this blog entry. It’s true, black musicians and singers and their music have influenced our lives and made them richer.
    I selected “Killing Me Softly,” because it’s in the novel, Maggie Scratch. Martha and the Vandellas came to me because dancing in the street is in the poem and that song says it all!


  3. stephen bruce reitman says:


    “Going after Mr. Greenwood” was written after being informed by the instructor, Mr. Greenwood, that as an option to writing about Shakespeare’s “Tempest” the students could write about their experiences in his class. The title of the composition was derived from one of Mr. Greenwood’s favorite books we were assigned to read, “Going after Cacciato,” by Tim O’Brien, a renowned writer of books dealing mainly with the American soldier’s experiences in Vietnam. The main character in the book was PFC Paul Berlin, who fantasized many hours away to avoid the bitter reality of war.

    Going After Mr. Greenwood

    I was tired from a long, busy day at work, but was afraid to take a nap because the alarm clock wasn’t operating properly, and I didn’t want to be late for class. As usual, the teacher of English Composition II made his entrance into the classroom at precisely 7:00 PM. As usual, was greeted by Julie, delivering her clear, moderately loud, drawn out “Hell-ooooo, Mr. Greenwood.” Mr. Greenwood, sporting a smug smirk, always returns her greeting in a gentlemanly manner, but with words tinged by playful sarcasm.

    Before Mr. Greenwood could open his copy of the fifth edition of Literature and the Writing Process, Theresa blurted out, “I didn’t understand that poem we had to read. What did he mean with all that “yada yada yada.”

    Julie questioned, “Why is Shakespeare so hard to understand; can’t he write in modern English?”

    Tenley, a lass from England, exclaimed, “Duh, didn’t you know he’s been dead for over four centuries.”

    You could tell by the look on Leslie’s face that she wanted in the worst way to say something rambunctious, but in keeping with her mild personality decided against it.

    Without being prodded, I voiced my opinion of the poem by giving it a, thumbs down before Mr. Greenwood even had a chance to take center stage and address the group. Thus, another enjoyable and lively class began, with the knowledgeable, usually unruffled, and professional Mr. Greenwood at the helm, demonstrating a knack of being able to put things in proper perspective for his few somewhat presumptuous students, as well as for the rest of the laid-back group. I’d bet Mr. Greenwood must wonder if he is compensated enough for “having the honor” to teach the Wednesday night class of characters.

    Speaking about his love of poetry, Mr. Greenwood claims that, “The finest poets of today are song writers.” In particular, he cites the works of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, “Rhymin’” Paul Simon, and Billy Joel as being the major contributors of modern-day poetry.

    Raising my hand and being called upon, I protested his assessment by saying, “What about the Motown poets, like Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and the team of Holland, Holland and Dozier, or is that Dozier, Holland and Dozier. Anyway, I think their lyrics are just as well written if not better than the others, yet they never receive as much recognition or praise as your guys get.”

    Mr. Greenwood, raising his eyebrows and with an “excuse me, are you kidding me” look on his face replied, “Come on Steve, how can you really compare, ‘Ooo baby baby’ with the ‘Piano Man’.”

    Frustrated and “… just about at the end of my rope,” I said, “‘Ain’t that peculiar, peculiar as can be,’ that out of all the beautiful words written in that song you make a reference to just the title, ‘Ooo baby baby.’ Well, ‘I was born in the USA,’ and I admit that the sound of Motown is not characteristic of a little ‘blowin in the wind,’ if you get my drift.”

    Mr. Greenwood, showing a hint of irritation and trying to temper his reply said, “Well ‘mercy mercy me,’ you have no idea about good poetry. Don’t think it’s … ‘just my imagination running away with me,’ but I recommend you find ‘a place in the sun’ and learn ‘what’s going on,’ if you get my drift.”

    The members of the class were thoroughly enjoying the confrontation, and had “tears of a clown” in their eyes as Mr. Greenwood, in a “ball of confusion,” started to lose his cool. He bellowed, “‘I heard it through the grapevine’ that you were you a ‘Love Child’ in the 60’s, and spent too much time on ‘Cloud Nine’ with … ‘Julio down by the school yard.’”

    Insulted but not intimidated, I replied “I know ‘you can’t help yourself,’ but you don’t have to be a … ‘big shot and prove it to the crowd.’ Anyway, this is ‘my life’; I am an ‘innocent man’ and ‘I’ll be doggone’ if you think I’m just going to … ‘lay down on a big brass bed’ and be kicked around ‘like a rolling stone.’ ‘I am a rock.’ ‘I am an island,’ and I was definitely not ‘born to run.'”

    Becoming mindful of my classmates uneasiness, Mr. Greenwood regained his composure and said in an unpretentious, calm voice, “Okay Steve, … ‘you may be right, and I may be crazy,’ so let us get over this ‘bridge of troubled water’ and I’ll accept you ‘just the way you are.’ Give the class an example of the poetry of Mr. Holland Dozier, or is it Mr. Dozier Robinson from Holland?”

    I decided “for once in my life” to “leave a tender moment alone.” I was feeling “pride and joy,” yet I was still a little “uptight.” To the “sounds of silence” I stood up in front of my classmates, and began speaking a verse from the 1966 masterpiece “I’m Ready for Love.”

    “As I stand alone, on this moon full night,
    For the first time, I feel alone in life,
    As I watch the moon, kiss the violet sky,”

    Not being able to stop swaying in her chair, Theresa jumped up and started accompanying me,

    “I feel a need for your lips to press close to mine,
    For so long, I’ve been afraid to love,”

    Tenley got the groove, easing up out of her seat and joining in as the spoken words gained momentum,

    “But right now, I feel a need for love
    And only you, you have that love,
    The love I need to comfort me.”

    Leslie and Julie followed Theresa and Tenley’s lead, as a tuxedoed and gowned orchestra magically materialized in this tiny classroom and began playing beautiful, symphonic, music to Holland, Dozier, and Holland’s lyrics. The words were now being transformed into song.

    “Ooh, I’m ready for love,
    Your wonderful sweet, sweet love,
    You know I’m ready for love,
    Your wonderful sweet, sweet love.”

    Tenley, Theresa, Julie, and Leslie joined in formation directly behind me as we started singing and dancing around the room, performing some synchronized steps and gyrations. Within seconds, the whole class joined in, singing, dancing, and just outright partying.

    Not wanting to feel left out, Mr. Greenwood jumped off his stool and yelled, “ … ‘Get ready, cause here I come,’” and nimbly laid down some fancy steps that Fred Astaire would have graded an A+.

    I’m ready right now I’m ready right now I’m ready right now I’m ready right now I’m ready right now. The sound of the alarm clock blasted me awake from my dream. A short time later, I was on my way to Mr. Greenwood’s class.

    Reflecting on the dream, I felt a grin cross my face as I started to sing, “I have my books…” now I just have to learn, “my poetry to protect me.”

    Songs and Artists Quoted

    Smokey Robinson and the Miracles — Ooo Baby Baby, Tears Of A Clown
    Billy Joel — The Piano Man, Big Shot, My Life, Innocent Man, You May Be Right, Just The Way You Are, Leave A Tender Moment Alone
    Marvin Gaye — Ain’t That Peculiar, Mercy Mercy Me, I Heard It Through The Grapevine, What’s Goin’ On? I’ll Be Doggone, Pride And Joy
    Bruce Springsteen — Born In The USA, Born To Run
    Bob Dylan — Blowin’ In The Wind, Lay Lady Lay, Like A Rolling Stone
    Temptations — Just My Imagination, Ball Of Confusion, Cloud Nine, Get Ready
    Stevie Wonder — A Place In The Sun, For Once In My Life, Uptight
    Diana Ross and the Supremes — Love Child
    “Rhymin” Paul Simon — Me And Julio, Down By The School Yard,
    Four Tops — Can’t Help Myself
    Simon and Garfunkel — I Am A Rock, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds Of Silence
    Martha and the Vandella’s (What’s a Vandella?) – I’m Ready For Love


    Liked by 1 person

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