I am embarassed to talk about Bernard Kinsey now that it's April. That's because I didn't return his phone call from February. 14 months ago, I enjoyed an old school evening back in my old neighborhood attending a review of the Kinsey Collection for Black History Month. What I should have done was go again this year and do my small part in writing up once again that which the Kinseys have done to preserve critical parts of American history in a collection of artifacts of historical significance.
Last year, the Kinseys were proud to announce that their collection was set to be featured at the Smithsonian in the upcoming Fall. This year I don't know the exact fate of the collection, but I do know a certain something about it. It's the kind of thing I would expect, automatically, for black old money to take care of. Boom. But it is not taken care of and for that I have regret.
It is presumptuous of me, but then again, I'm me, not to have the significant kind of role in this matter that my ambition has demanded of me. Starting with my own father's collection and with my association with Dr. & Mrs. Alfred Ligon, there is a part of me that weeps for not having become the wealthy philanthropist I always wanted to be. When I looked at Ebony magazine back in the day, my hero was the black man who ran the Ford Foundation, Franklin A. Thomas. But somehow, for all the blackified recognition I got here and there, I never got the hookup, nor did anyone I know really get it. A lot of us have done very well, don't get me wrong, but all the young, gifted and black never got the Aggregation program together. The meeting on Wednesday night, as much as everybody talked about it, never got off the ground.
It didn't hit me until I was about 26 that black unity was never going to work out. I understood it intellectually, but emotionally I viewed it as a problem until I was 32. And even though I gave up on the impractical dreams of Chocolate City (or at the very least a nationwide network of Brewster Places, hooked up with the Boule) I've always felt that there should be some black old money taking care of certain significant business. Right now that sentiment centers on a private initiative that could build a museum for the Kinsey Collection which, among other things contains personal letters written by Zora.
That intellectual understanding recognizes that Michael Jordan, sitting on hundreds of millions, is not likely to reach out to Bernard Kinsey and build that museum. Unless he reads Cobb and is moved to tears thinking of something more purposeful to do than selling underwear. I am embarassed by my poverty in this regard. And at the same time I recognize that Kinsey himself hasn't made the Jordan connection either. It's that kind of thing that is painful leaven and why I have put aside dreams of Aggregation.
Michael Jordan and Colin Powell probably could hang out. But do they? Do they have an obligation to? What about Spike Lee and Wynton Marsalis? At some point the speculation gets ridiculous, and yet if Kinsey's original print of Equiano's book falls into anonymous bureaucratic hands, whose fault is that?
I would be remiss to not mention the fact that it was Paul Simon who introduced us to Ladysmith Black Mombazo, and even though we knew Hugh and Miriam before, somehow a generation who didn't play Sun City didn't get the word out to KJLH and V103. I can't tell you how many black folks paid the price of the ticket at Newport all those Jazz Festivals ago, but does it really matter? The facts survive, the people survive, the artifacts will survive and with any luck the curators will have the right love.
The world is still worth living in, even when it's not black owned and operated.