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Reflections from 12 East 97th Street

Apartment 5E

Manhattan, One Block from Harlem



2021-04-03 Rev 2 work continues. Rough draft, free association memory dumps. Uniform formatting and styling is ongoing.

First a note concerning my use of the term, negro. In the Spanish tongue it means "black." And I distinctly remember back in Memphis, before Martin Luther King was killed - he was asked on televison the question a number of times concerning the use of the word negro. Whether it was "uncle Tom" and stereo typing, and so on. He stated each time that it was proper and that he would use the term when referring to his race, the negro race.

I was born in Germany a year after the war ended. My father was Austrian. My mother was Serbian. I lived in DP camps (displaced person's) until I imigrated to Australia when I was five, traveling by ship on the SS Oxfordshire. In Australia I lived in similar but better conditions in camps, or as we refer to them in the U.S. boy's homes.

When I was 8-1/2 years old I moved to the United States with my natural mother and half-brother and lived for a very short time at the Eastern Military Academy on Long Island (where I did not do so well academically) before moving to Manhattan to an old 6 story apartment building on the corner of Madison Ave and 96th street.

There I lived for a while with a medical doctor and psychiatrist, Mary Jane Sherfey (later an author) and Ruth Downing, a psychiatric social worker with Pane Whitney Clinic at the time.

Until I turned 18, I was never sure of my identity. But at 18 years of age, in St. Louis, I swore an oath of allegiance to the United States at the large downtown post office and received my Certificate of Citizenship, United States of America. At that moment I became American. Not German-American, not Austrian-American. Not Serbian-American. Not Australian-American. But fully American, without the need for qualifiers.

I imigrated to the U.S. at age 8-1/2. I have lived in the U.S. 67 years as of the writing of this memoir (2021)

I personally feel it is OK to be proud of your heritage. But if you ask me "what are you" I have no other answer but that I am a Citizen of the United States and therefore I am an American. And I should add, proud to be.

If it suites Dr. King to be satisfied to be an American of negro race - it suites me just fine to be an American with different national backgrounds.

The Austrian composer, Beethoven, created his greatest symphony, Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125, and named it Ode to Joy,from the poet Friedrich Schiller.

What's it all about?

"For his Ninth and final symphony, Beethoven wove the themes of the Enlightenment into his work. He finally saw a chance to use Friedrich Schiller's "Ode to Joy" -- Beethoven had long wanted to set the poem to music for its themes of freedom and brotherhood."

"Throughout his career, Beethoven was a fervent believer in Enlightenment values and found ways to express those beliefs in many of his compositions, as well as in his letters and other writings. One of the reasons for the nearly universal appeal of his Ninth Symphony is that people enjoying or seeking freedom see this work as exquisitely expressing a message they wish loudly to proclaim. And that message is simple, almost embarrassingly naïve, one we learn as children: People should get along, we are all brothers and sisters."



I am sure Dr. King must have listened often to this symphony and would have felt, as I do, that in this United States of America - we are all Americans first, without qualifiers, and that makes us all brothers and sisters of One Nation Under God. That is what I think. And in America I can express what I think. All that is asked by government is that in doing so - I be polite to others with differing opinions and beliefs.

Is it any wonder that so many people, and they are people, want to come to this land of liberty, this land of opportunity and second chances. Even sometimes a third chances. I want to add, when saying "third chanes" that this is a land that forgives.

I look back on a long life, over three quarters of a century now. Sometimes I wonder if I could have gone from being illiterate to being somewhat a success - in any other country. I don't know. But I do know this one thing that this country asked me to do in my efforts to become educated. That was simply NEVER GIVE UP - and then the paths of opportunity will open up to you. Never Give Up is the theme of my website.


2021-04-03 Rev 2 work continues

I want to share with you a quote from a beautiful lady I met in 1959 in a graduation party in Harlem, Manhattan, NYC. I was 12 then. I didn't know who she was other than she was very kind.

I once had an 8x10 b&w photograph of Eleanor Roosevelt and Ruth Downing at the podium for the graduation of about 30 to 40 teenage boys from ages 13 to 17 who had excelled in academic performance and behavior following an approximate two year study in Harlem which involved providing INTERVENTION and OPPORTUNITY to these boys and their families.

IQ scores were raised significantly in all of the boys. Some moved to the Superior range. Several reached the bench mark for "near genius" as measured at the time by standard IQ intelligence test, given periodically along the path of this study. Why did this happen. What did the IQ tests they were given actually measure? Had the anatomy of their brains changed? Had they been "juiced up" with stimulents to achieve better results?

My purpose in including this project summary by Ruth is that this cast a bright light on the problems that the Negro community faced in 1965 in Detroit - much of which the Harlem community also faced in 1959 with boys and girls and young adults in 1959.

In 62 years not much has changed - has it? And I believe my #2 thesis explains in some ways the problem, but is far from being the root cause of - the why - the black gettos remain in a sort of perpetual limbo and state of poverty and neglect. But again, for emphasis, the Myth of IQ is not unique to the black community.


I want to say, however, that the Harlem Project brought to light what I believe is much of the probem. I have seen this manifest itself (show itself) over and over again in my 67 years since coming the United States. Yet it is not a unique phenomena belonging only to the United States.

What I see today and what I have repeatedly observed throughout my 57 years of adulthood is that there is an implicit bias in this country (and I do not cite other countries because I have no direct experience with the culture of other countries. But I will explain why in a moment - it is that in most, probably all, of African countries, that if such a bias exists - it does not affect the African person's identity as a black person; but for those Africans living in squalid condiions - that very fact may itself instill within these victims - a sense of inferiority of their intelligence. And thus in so doing, gives them often an internal sense of inferiority.

First, let me define my terms using the wonderful world of the search engines available for free on the internet:

An implicit bias is an unconscious association, belief, or attitude toward any social group. Due to implicit biases, people may often attribute certain qualities or characteristics to all members of a particular group, a phenomenon known as stereotyping.1

It is important to remember that implicit biases operate almost entirely on an unconscious level. While explicit biases and prejudices are intentional and controllable, implicit biases are less so.


In the branch of linguistics known as pragmatics, a presupposition is an implicit assumption about the world or background belief relating to an utterance whose truth is taken for granted in discourse.Wikipedia

I can't find a better definition than the one that Ruth taught me when I was 13/14 and having to give a speech to all the other 7/8 grade students in the Brentwood, MO, Jr. High School back about 1959 or 1960. And the title of the speech (with much help from Ruth) was "What is the cause of Prejudice" And it was summed up with one sentence as to what prejudice is based on: Prejudice is based on 1) Ignorance and 2) Fear.

Delevop later.

Getting back to.... "What I see today and what I have repeatedly observed throughout my 57 years of adulthood

It is this, and I do not say this is a universal truth but rather it is my observation of many Negros youth and adults whom I have known and observed throughout the adult portion of my life.


Both the ones I knew in engineering school (that were American born and raised, not those from, for instance, Nigeria or Tanzania or black engineers from Bahamas) and in particular - young and middle age black teenagers from the getto places in Memphis.

In the 1965-1967 time period I taught karate in various church recreation rooms where space was sufficient and those churches that allowed integrated classes. Many did not. It was a different time then than it is today.

I also taught a gentleman who latter became a great personal friend and good karate tournament contender, by the name of Benny Green, who worked for the railroad and at whose house I had my first taste of chitlins, and I am not going to say "chitlins are yummy in the tummy. But we were friends and his wife had gone to a lot of trouble and I didn't want to offend my friend or his wife. So I had a small plate of it and it was OK.

I helped Benny open up a small dojo (karate school) in a downtown section of Memphis that had been all but abandoned. He, I and Dino worked several weeks to clean the place up, make Makiwara boards, patch up the broken windows, and in general try to make it suitable for the students. Benny wanted to teach teenagers and young adults in the black community the marital arts - as he felt - as I did - karate, and judo, were great confidence builders and we both observed that in so many black kids - confidence in themselves was very lacking.

When you lack confidence in yourself, you fear your self, you live your daily life in fear. And this is true when you go to school. You fear. Thus Benny knew that the first step in helping his brothers was to replace the fear that life's realities had instilled in so many brothers and to replace it with confidnence in themselves. The martial arts will do that, whether it be karate or judo. Judo, in my opinion, works best for children and teenagers.


<!-- Flash back to the Mississippi karate tournament and the deputy sheriff response to Benny winning a match) -->

What I am getting at, and this is from direct experiences in my life, and particularly when teaching teenagers from getto like situations, and very much with boys and young men, (why this distinction I am not sure and don't wish to speculate.)