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Eric Motley: The Power of the Spoken Word

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
April 18, 2023 3:02 am

Eric Motley: The Power of the Spoken Word

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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April 18, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, even though the community around Eric often couldn’t read or write, they could tell a story like no one else. To Eric, there was no honor higher than having the stories he would learn retold by the men around him.

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Leguizamo Does America all new episode Sunday, April 23rd at 10 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC and streaming on Peacock. This is our American stories. And today we're talking to Eric Motley. We've heard from Eric before about his life and a place called Madison Park.

Madison Park was the first plantation to be bought by former slaves. And Eric told us that they came together and formed a community, a community that would eventually raise Eric. Eric, in your book you write, quote, I have often wondered if it's somehow in African Americans' bloodlines to be good storytellers and good talkers, because by law slaves weren't allowed to learn to read. I marvel all these years later how so many of the elderly people of Madison Park with no formal education used pitch, volume, pause, pace, crescendo, even a whisper to make a joke or tell a story such as they did in Little Joe's backyard. Eric, who's Little Joe? Little Joe was the son of Big Joe. And Big Joe was really the first barber I ever knew. And we would go to Big Joe. His name was Joseph Simon, the senior. We would go to his house.

Granddaddy would take me and we would sit in his little crib and I would have my hair cut. And of course, he ended up dying. And Little Joe ended up buying the house of Mrs. Cheney Jackson that was several doors down from us. And on Sundays, right before church, early on Sunday mornings before Sunday school, all the men of Madison Park would gather at Little Joe's house and they would sit on the front porch and they would pass time away until they went to church. And my grandfather would grab me by the hand and he would walk me through the field under the old pear trees through the grove and he would take me over and I would arrive and I would sit and I would watch my grandfather get his hair cut and I would hear all the town gossip, whose voice had broken and who could no longer sing in the church choir, all the family relation problems that people were having and who needed some extra money and how people had to organize themselves to support said person. I heard everything and then all of a sudden I would hear my name. And everyone, all the older men would call me the boy of George Motley. You're the boy of George Motley.

There were times that I actually thought well you know I have my own name. And now in retrospect I realized that one of the great joys that I derived in my childhood was being associated with this incredible man that everyone knew by his full name is George Motley. And young man get up in this chair and I would climb up in the chair and little Joe would put a cape around me, a barber's cloth. It was a sheet or a towel from the house, and he would proceed cutting my hair, and he would say how do you want your hair cut today.

And of course, it was a question that was already the answer was already known because he had been cutting my hair for years and there was only one hairstyle that he knew how to give everyone in Madison Park. And so my grandfather would say, Oh, the same cut Joe and Joe would proceed. And I would hear all of these people pass the time away. I don't write about this but my grandparents of course required me to give recitations at the dinner table my grandfather would say a prayer he would turn to me and he would ask me if I would recite something a poem by Robert Frost or something by Langston Hughes or. And so every meal was preluded with a prayer in some recitation, it could have been the Declaration of Independence but I mentioned that because always that little Joe's house when I got out of the chair. Someone would say, recite something for me George Motley's boy. And in that moment the spotlight would be on me and I would have to stand and I would have to recite something. And in our little church union chapel.

There was only one Bible up on the altar and it was a King James Bible. And the King James Bible was, as you know, so compacted with these and thou's and whether to's, and we just had to learn the whether to's and the these and the thou's, and I would always be asked to recite the first Corinthians 13, the people of Madison Park love, I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not love I become a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol. And then someone would ask me what is a tinkling symbol. And my grandfather would help me with all of my responses. I think that much of our lives are glued together by the stories we learn at an early age. And the stories we tell.

And if they're beautiful stories and stories of hope and stories of reconciliation and stories of forgiveness. We tend to carry those stories with us, and we tend to live into those stories and they become our stories. And those were the stories that I heard as a child in Madison Park. And there were stories that were told to me by ordinary people who ended up being some of the most extraordinary people in my life. My grandfather's friends for sure, many of them had never gone off to technical school or even graduated for ninth grade, they were domestic in their professional lives.

They were plumbers and they had farms that they managed or they worked on construction sites. My grandfather started to alternate his friends to take me to the Montgomery Public Library and on Saturdays. My grandfather took great pleasure driving me into the city of Montgomery.

We were in city limits, but barely. And he would drive me to the Montgomery Public Library. Mind you, this was a library that my grandfather never would have been able to go into. My mother was not allowed to go into the Montgomery Public Library because of racial laws at the time.

And so I was the first recipient of this gift of being able to go through those bronze doors at the Montgomery Public Library to ascend the stairs and to sit at the reading tables and to check out books. And one of the most beautiful memories is my grandfather asking other friends of his to drive me. And they would drive me on Saturday morning, most of them never having even been to a library. And all of them just sitting out in the parking lot waiting on me two, three hours of being in the library. And just having enormous satisfaction and pleasure in knowing that I was able to do something that they were not able to do or had not been able to do.

And they would always ask me when I would come out and get back into the car. Tell me what you learned today. Tell me a story. And one of the greatest compliments was for me to hear Nebo Johnson or Mr. Van or Mr. Ray later tell that story to someone else. And we're listening to Eric Motley, author of Madison Park, A Place of Hope. Go to Amazon and the usual suspects, buy this book, share it with friends. It's a remarkable story, not just about a town, but my goodness, a very special town.

And some park was the first plantation to be bought by former slaves. And Eric, well, he weaves intergenerational storytelling of an African-American community and how it raised him. A community raised him. And by the way, what he said about storytelling is so beautiful. And we concur here on our American stories with the power of story. I think he said that much of our lives are glued together by the stories we hear at an early age and the stories we tell. If they're beautiful stories, stories of hope, stories of reconciliation and stories of forgiveness, we tend to carry those stories with us. And we tend to live into those stories.

And I don't think there's been a greater truth uttered on this show than what Eric just said. And that's why we do what we do every day here on our American stories. Tell stories of hope, reconciliation and forgiveness.

Eric Motley, his story and Madison Park story here on our American story. All right. Can we get the house cleaning over with? It doesn't have to be like this. The Roborock S8 Pro Ultra can help. Its dock system can empty, wash, refill, dry itself and resume cleaning with its fast charge. We need to stay on top of it or the dirt will take over.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-18 04:42:52 / 2023-04-18 04:47:46 / 5

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