I dropped my partner off in Atlanta and continued on toward Huntsville, AL. I called my sister in Pennsylvania, so full of stories, our conversation covered the miles. There was still something else I needed to do. Some questions that needed answering. The Congolese kosmogram wouldn’t leave my head, nor would the memory of the voices, the church, the men in the park, or anything else I’d experienced in Savannah that weekend. In the back of my mind I recalled Jean-Michel Basquiat mentioning a book called Flash of The Spirit by Michael Farris Thompson and the kosmogram. I needed to get my hands on that book.
Arriving back in the city that night, I called several bookstores in search of the book. It appears it was out of print. How to get that book? I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of that book. Not later but now. A few miles from my house, a thought entered my head. A former professor and fellow artist, I knew might have access or know of one. He was an older gentlemen, well read and connected to ancestral knowledge. I grabbed up my phone and called him. A sleepy bass timbered voice answered. My enthusiasm made me oblivious of the time. You know it’s late right? he said.
“Yessir.” I replied. Now aware but still caught up in the throes of hope.
I apologized and went on about the book. Asking him for the specific title. There was silence for a minute. I practically held my breath.
“I’m walking over to my shelf, right now,” he said. More silence followed. I was almost afraid to speak for fear that I might knock something off of that baited moment. Finally he spoke again.
I’m pulling said book off my shelf.”
I practically exploded. “Is there any possibility that I can borrow it? My breathing stopped again. More silence. That was the longest hanging silent moment of my life, it seemed. My heart was beating a tune of angst and anticipation.
“You know it’s late, right.” he said again. I could hear a woman’s voice in the background. I recognized it as his wife. Probably wondering who was calling at that hour of the night. He answered her as I hung on.
“Yessir, I know and I sincerely apologize that I had to interrupt your evening with this but…”
“I tell you what.” he cut in . I clamped my mouth shut. “I’ll let you borrow the book if you promise to break bread with me and the misses at some point.”
“Yes, Yes, of course. Just let me know when. I’d bee honored. Just say when.”
“You know how to get to my house, don’t you.” He inquired.
“I’ll need the address again. I know the general area.” I said excited to have potentially closed the deal. He gave the the address and said.
“How far away are you?
“I’m on the parkway. I could be there in less than five minutes.”
“Come on.” he said.
“I’m on my way. Thank you so much.” I couldn’t believe what was unfolding. The one person I’d called actually had the book in his possession. I was giddy with excitement and almost overwhelmed with questions and wonder. I drove fast but careful, not wanting anything to fall between myself and what was in that book that had become the ark of the covenant of the moment. He was waiting at open door before I had even gone up the steps. His look stooped me in my tracks. I stood at the bottom of the steps like a little boy. His look held me there for a minute. Neither one of us spoke. I could feel the fatherness emanating from him.
“You know it’s late, right?”
“Yessir, it is”
“You know you must be special, for me to even answer the phone, not to mention invite you over at this hour. My wife thinks I’ve lost my mind. She knows you’re special too. He finally broke into a smile.
“Come on in.”
I took all of the steps in two leaps. We went upstairs to his library/studio and sticking out on the shelf like a leaning tooth was the book. He pulled it down and leafed slowly through it, peering over the rim of his glasses. He walked over and say down, patting the back of the chair for me to come over. I sat, eyes still on him as he looked through the book. His eyes shifted to me at the moment he placed the book in my hand. I peeled it open. It was an autographed copy, filled with notations and highlighted marks. At that moment the floodgates broke and I spilled the entire story of the Savannah sojourn. He listened quietly. When I was done, he started gingerly. “You’re a special young man, that’s why I answered the phone, invited you over, and am lending you this book. I don’t do that for everybody and my wife will tell you, I don’t lend out my books. Even she is surprised on that one.” He took a deep breath and paused. ” I grew up in Savannah.” All the time I knew him, I thought he was from New York or Jersey. He had the strongest New Yorker vibe ever. Plus he had been in the Black Power movement, the Nation of Islam and all that. my mind darted to a scene from Luke Cage when he told the older guy he was from Chicago. The older guy wasn’t buying it. He finally said, “Savannah”.
“My grandmother lived there and she would take me into the bush and she shared with me some things. There’s something special about Savannah. You connected to it. It connected to you. That’s why this is happening.” I could pick up on the esoteric undertones of his words. They were electrifying. The communion continued and we eventually found ourselves back at the front door. Just before I rounded the corner out of sight he said, standing there like a smaller version of an Egyptian god-king, bald head and all, his tone serious and somewhat somber.
“I’m not your Daddy, but I’m going to say this. Take that book and go straight home.”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. I wasn’t planning on anything else. On my way, I did wonder why and what he meant. Nevertheless, a short while later I was curled up in bed, not believing that the book that had come to mind a few hours ago was now in my hands. I began to read, eating up the words like a man starved. About an hour or so later, I put the book to my chest breathing hard. Something was described in the book, almost identical to what I had sketched out in my journal while sitting on that bench in Savannah across from the First African Baptist Church. I knew then that I had to have that sculpture piece brought to fruition. It would be even more famous than Savannah’s ‘bird girl’. The next day I did a Facebook post with the photos of the footprints on the beach and hinted toward the voices. I did share the “Them comin'” part.
A few days later, the news buzzed about a hurricane brewing in the Atlantic. Eventually hurricane Matthew hit as the most powerful storm of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, as a Category 4 hurricane leaving in its wake 2.8 billion in damage and 546 deaths. Matthew then approached the Georgia and South Carolina coast early in the morning of October 8th. Rain bands evaporated over the southern half of the circulation as the storm turned northeastward just off the coast of Charleston, SC. Even in its weakened state, Matthew still produced wind gusts as high as 96 mph on Tybee Island, GA, which had been evacuated. Matthew was the first October hurricane to make landfall north of Florida since Hurricane Hazel did it in 1954.
I heard voices out there that day on Tybee Island. Not sure how or where to make all the connections. That sketch I made in a little golden sketch journal. Next to it, I wrote these words…
“The most radical art is not protest art but works that take us to another place, envision a different way of seeing, perhaps a different way of feeling.”
– Robin D.G. Kelley
That sketch and all that surrounded it undergirded my faith to commission a sculpture piece based on it. The figure that is to be installed at a building I will own, is now completed in bronze and waiting…for the building. A building/campus that will embody the philosophy of art as an acronym for A Resurrecting Truth, a basis for a more just society, a way of life beyond mere survival. I moved with intent, trusting the process, in the power of that mysterious Savannah sojourn. I’ve been back in Savannah since then, and yes more was shared. More that I will share later in this unfolding too intertwined to make up. One thing I do know, based on all the things involved that I have shared and not yet shared. It may be present tense or future still but just the same…them comin’…