Sunday, 10 May 2015

Sharing My Love for a Poet-Friend


Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederick
Office of the President
Howard University
Washington, D.C. 20059

Dear Dr. Frederick,

You may wonder how and why should an academic, writer and Chief Editor of an English Journal titled Re-Markings ( based in India be concerned about the fate of one of Howard University’s veritable treasure called Ethelbert Miller.

I have known Ethelbert since 2002 when we featured his poems in Re-Markings. This literary connection grew into friendship when I visited the United States as a Senior Fulbright Scholar at the University of Washington, Seattle during 2003-04. He came down to meet us (me and my wife) at our apartment in Seattle where I had the opportunity to interview him for Multicultural America: Conversations with Contemporary Authors (Unistar Books, India). In response to one of my questions regarding his role as a black intellectual and poet in contemporary America, he stated: “I like to take credit with encouraging the importance of creative writing program for African American writers. I think there is still the need to establish programs at historically black colleges. I would like to see better partnerships between African American writers and public libraries.” In his “Preface” to Beyond the Frontier, he writes: "At the dawn of the 21st century, we must discover our true beauty. Poetry is a vehicle to transport us beyond forever. Beyond the frontier, beyond this world (which once enslaved us), lies a new consciousness."

I would also like to quote here a few lines from the poem he wrote for the book Charles Johnson: Embracing the World Authorspress (India, 2012) which he co-edited with me:

We dreamers.
Men of night emails and exchanges.
Composers of narratives and American songs.
We believers and followers of the Buddhist path.
We understand the blackness that surrounds us.
We surround the blackness, we follow it
Embracing ourselves.

We are brothers because everything in life
Is related to love. We take refuge in the future
Knowing the past is always found in the present.

The point I am trying to make is that in a conflict ridden world, we desperately need to show our honor and esteem for men like Ethelbert who do not separate practice from precept in building bridges that connect people, nations, cultures and languages. Cutting across stagnant mindsets and steeped in generosity and friendship he affirms, “My prayers are songs. I can make music. I can give color to the world. This is my life. This is my gift.”

Selfless to the core of his being, he is a true cultural ambassador who offers incisive insights into the new frontiers of the African American experience that calls for an amalgamation of multidisciplinary and multicultural perspectives.

Sir, you are widely known as a successful surgeon in the field of Oncology and have always worked to heal the pain of those you may have not even known personally. What prevents you, then, from intervening in the case of someone whose invaluable contribution to the African American Resource Center is so very well known to you and to the rest of the world? I am not unaware of the financial crunch that may have forced the University to arrive at such an unwarranted decision. However, it seems strange to me that a nation which happily glories in squandering precious human and material wealth in far of places like Iraq should dispense with the services of one so very valuable for the perpetuation of human ideals.

As you may be aware, the global literary community has rightly rallied around in support of Ethelbert to reverse a decision that seems so unpalatable in human terms.

I, therefore, beseech you to intervene and set things right as a mark of respect to the invaluable services rendered by Ethelbert in a career spanning forty long years.

You have nothing to lose but your chains!

In anticipation of an affirmative action at your end,

Yours sincerely

Dr. Nibir K. Ghosh, D.Litt.,
HOD English, Agra College, Agra, India
Senior Fulbright Fellow 2003-04, University of Washington, Seattle &
Chief Editor, Re-Markings