Do You Believe in Magic?

ptc3_thumb1811965 was a big year for me. Some of the more memorable moments were accompanied by the hit song, “Do You Believe in Magic,” by The Lovin’ Spoonful. The strains of that song followed me out the doors of high school, into the Navy and around the world, eventually to Viet Nam. Fortunately, after two deployments, I made it home alive and in one piece.

This year, however, “Magic,” takes on a whole new role for me, as I research the subject for my newest novel in which magic plays a major role. “The Practician,” will be the first novel in a grail mythology series of four books. The title and the theme reference Rick Townsend’s past and the “gift” that will profoundly alter his future, a gift that will, in fact, change his entire world, and ours. So, as I research the subject of magic and its history, I thought I would post the things I’m learning from time to time, here, on my author blog.

Returning to the question, “Do you believe in magic?” I wonder what your answer might be. The question holds great interest for me, as a student of the Bible, because the Bible is a book who’s subject is almost entirely about the supernatural and yet, the church has, more or less, convinced Christianity that “magic” is nothing more than superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Is it? Maybe. Certainly through my childhood and up to more recent times, magic, for me, was illusion and slight of hand, more trickery and ingenious design than supernatural power. In the distant past, however, this was not the case, and lately I have seen things that I cannot explain, things I am forced to attribute to the supernatural. I confess that what I’ve seen was on video, it could have been manipulated, but I don’t think that it was because I know from my studies of scripture and from my research in extra-biblical sources, that real magic, that is, “transcendental magic,” truly did and likely still does exist.

When I say, “transcendental magic,” I’m talking about magic beyond illusion. I’m talking about the kind of magic Pharos’ magicians used to change a rod into a snake when they desperately needed to duplicate Moses’ amazing feat. Of course, the feat was supernatural in both cases. The transmutation of wooden rod to living serpent wasn’t accomplished by Moses, nor was it accomplished by Pharos’s magi, but it was accomplished by powers beyond their hands, powers beyond their world that they called upon, powers beyond time and space, as we know it. That’s the kind of magic I’m talking about. There was a time when it was more common than it is today. Perhaps it was because people were more willing to believe in it then, than they are today. Perhaps what is required is a mind that is open to the possibility, a mind that doesn’t need to stuff everything into the box provided to us by modern science, or by the church, whether either one of them accepts the reality of transmutation, or denies it. Perhaps believing is the key to transcendental power, the requirement for it to be present. I don’t know. I don’t practice magic, even though the New Testament Bible tells me I could, and that I should, but from that source, I understand the practice of calling upon powers beyond our world. I understand that the power of real magic, transcendental power, lies beyond my hands and beyond this world.

Advertisements

King Arthur Jones

green-turtle-cay

Arthur Jones is something of a celebrity in Green Turtle Cay and also in Marsh Harbor the largest town in the Abaco Islands. He is a native of the Bahamas, fiftyish, but young at heart; no one is sure of his real age and Arthur won’t say. His parents, both great fans of Arthurian tales, gave him the royal sounding name, King Arthur Jones.

Though he seldom uses his full name in public, it has come in handy for him in branding himself among the locals, first as a fishing guide, then as a chef; ultimately as a restaurateur in Marsh Harbor, but Arthur sold that business and retreated to the simpler life in Green Turtle Cay. Now he works for Rick Townsend, hunting and recovering treasure, and acting as captain, first mate, cook and chief bottle washer aboard Rick’s yacht, Mi Tesoro.

Mostly the job is boring, an aspect Arthur appreciates, but the boredom is broken by periods of interesting salvage, diving for treasure and, occasionally fighting off pirates and interlopers who come to challenge their legal claim. Over the years he and Rick have become close friends and partners in the business, an arrangement that works well for both men. Recently, however, following the recovery of a treasure worth more than a hundred million dollars, Arthur’s role has changed, making him more a companion, who’s job it is, to keep Rick on track and in balance. Having gained so much money turned out to be more a curse than a blessing, requiring Rick to become a manager and administrator of investments. He’s not adjusting well to his new role, becoming more reclusive and falling into long periods of heavy drinking from which Arthur had to pry him free.

Lately a new role has been added to Arthur’s task list. He finds himself an occasional body-guard, defending his friend’s life from those who seek to take it. These recent attacks have something to do with the new job Rick has taken on, the identification and recovery of an alleged treasure in Nova Scotia at a place they call ‘The Pit’, a job Arthur insisted Rick take on, just to get him back to work. The job sounded simple when first described, uncomplicated. How could he have known how deep this hole would go, or the labyrinth it would become? How could he have known the danger it would put his best friend in?

Monica Scott

Monica is an attractive, twenty eight year old, dark haired beauty born and raised in Boston, whom, falling into an academic life as a teenager, has remained single in her pursuit of a PhD in archaeology, specializing in paleography and medieval semiotics. It all sounds very high-minded, but in the job market it qualifies her to be a library assistant. However, just as Monica has resigned herself to that fate, she receives an offer from a small law firm in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to work for them in her field of expertise. Although it seems odd to have been contracted by a law firm, Monica packs up her life and moves to Halifax without any hesitation, going there to help identify and interpret the strange runes carved into a rock found by a confidential client at a nearby archaeological site.

After spending a brutal winter nearly confined to her small apartment in Halifax, Monica meets Rick Townsend, who has just been contracted to work with her on the same project. In her opinion, Rick is cocky, overbearing and unqualified for the work, but her employer, Marc Blair, makes it perfectly clear that Rick is in charge and she will be reporting to him.

Blair added, “Oh, by the way, Monica, you’ll be traveling with Rick, so you’ll need to get packed.”

Monica expressed both surprise and consternation. “Where? When?”

It was Rick who answered, not Blair. “The Bahamas, tomorrow.”

Blair spoke up then, adding, “All the arrangements have been made. You’ll leave in the morning.”

Imagine Monica’s surprise. She was at first uncomfortable with the idea of traveling at all, she hadn’t the clothes for it, nor was she prepared in any other way. The Bahamas sounded nice, after a long, brutal winter in Halifax, but she wondered why, if the archaeological site was here, in Nova Scotia. What were they looking for in Bahamas?

She was repulsed by the idea of traveling with a man she’d only just met and had nothing but disdain for. Still, maybe it was time for her to expand her horizons, to step outside her ivory tower and learn something of the world out there. Maybe it was time to put some adventure in her life, to go out and do some real field work. Besides, personalities aside, he wasn’t bad looking for someone in his mid thirties, she thought, guessing at his age.

Getting to their destination required a long and arduous journey involving two taxi rides, four flight changes, the final leg, from West Palm to the Bahamas, in a private plane followed by a thirty minute boat ride over crystal clear, aqua blue waters to their final destination. Try again to imagine Monica’s surprise when she learned, at the end of her travel, that “the arrangements” made were for her to stay aboard Rick’s private yacht, “Mi Tesoro”, alone with him, anchored in the small harbor of a remote Island of the Abacos chain, a place called Green Turtle Cay. So the adventure of a lifetime begins for Monica Scot, in the Bahamas, researching a dig in Canada they call, “The Pit.”

Rick Townsend

Rick Townsend is the main character of my current work-in-progress called, “The Practician,” let me tell you a little about him. Without describing his physical characteristics, because I’ve not settled on that yet, I will give you something of his bio.templartreasure

Rick is many things to many people, but on the surface he is an avid and very successful treasure hunter. He is considered to be the world’s leading expert in hunting down lost treasures, though he rejects the title, chalking his many successes up to luck. His main focus is on marine treasures, a field of expertise he stumbled onto as a child and has pursued ever since, though he has been hired on occasion, as in this case, to hunt down land based treasures, for which he has also succeeded spectacularly, living on the residual percentages from these and from his own finds.

Before he was hired to work “The Pit,” he was focused on finding the 1584 wreck of the Spanish galleon, “El Dorado,” aboard which lies a 3800 pound table made of solid gold, along with many other treasures. But Rick had been sidetracked even before accepting the contract from Blair and Matthews, a small law firm in Halifax. Too much income, a laid back lifestyle and an overwhelming need to forget painful times in his past, led him to drinking, a binge he’d been on for nearly a year before his best friend, King Arthur Jones, was able to convince him to give it up and get back to work. The offer from Blair and Matthews came just in time to save him from himself.

Before that, before his successes, before the wealth and income, Rick had been in special forces in Afghanistan, working for the CIA, doing wet work, most of which he would very much like to forget. And before that, before college, as a young man, he’d grown up in a house where his mother held seances and told fortunes for a living. His father had been a moderately successful magician, an entertainer, who thought, like most fathers that his son would follow in his footsteps. He’d tried to teach Rick the art of magic, but Rick was shy of performance and very little interested in a life of illusion. Most of the disappointment his parent’s felt lay in the fact that Rick had the “gift.”

They had spotted it when he was very young, second sight, inherited from his maternal grandmother. Rick’s gift was exceptional, more powerful than his grandmother’s, or his mother’s. Worth a fortune in the family business, but for Rick it was deeply disturbing and he did everything he could to suppress it, in spite of his parent’s desperate encouragements to do otherwise.

When he left home and the strange, small town of spiritualists he’d grown up in, he swore he would never return. He hadn’t kept that promise. He loved his parents, irrespective of their occult way of life and, when they needed his help, he hurried to their aid. He could no more leave them behind than he could the gift that often drove him to drink. Better to work, however, and, since he was stymied at the moment in his pursuit of the el Mayor, working The Pit would suffice nicely.

Prologue

suffugielYou don’t know me, and I may not appear to you as a sympathetic character in this age of disbelief, but it has not always been so. People today have become too skeptical, a condition based on what passes for knowledge in the information age. Oh, please don’t misunderstand, there is no doubt that knowledge has increased, we, myself and the other members of The Five, have seen to that, but only in exchange for the precious commodity of wisdom, an exchange mankind has been more than willing to make in their foolish rush to become their own god. But neither wisdom or knowledge hold any value when compared to understanding. Now there is a thing to be desired, “understanding.” It is a gem that has been lost to men since before the Dark Ages. You see, before the collapse of Rome, most men understood that other worlds existed, worlds beyond their sight, beyond their science.

In ancient days and for millennia before, magic and sorcery were very real, not mere illusion or slight-of-hand. In the distant past, men accomplished amazing feats of dark sorcery in concert with Dominions and Powers, entities, like myself, from a world beyond your making, a world beyond your sight, your science, or your ability to imagine; a world I refer to as “reality,” while, for me, your world exists only as a shadow of my own. I speak of a time when Moses’ staff turned into a snake. That was no illusion, it was reality, a reality that goes beyond your comprehension, a reality reproduced by Pharaoh’s magicians. Their feat was not mere illusion either, but, like Moses, they actually changed their wooden staffs into living snakes by powers unimagined in your narrow-minded worldview today.

If you are willing to take a little of your time, I will tell you a story from the past, a story of magic and quest, but not at all like the stories of magic that are so popular in this day. This story is real and true, and within the history that it reveals, lies the seed of understanding, an understanding that might allow your eyes to see beyond these present, dark shadows into the world of my reality, for therein lies the entire purpose for your existence.

You see, I was there when it all began, and even before. I was there before the great flood, even before your kind came to be upon the earth, for I am not like you, I am not a temporal being. Over the millennia I have been called many names, but my true name, my given name is Suffugiel. I am a founding member of The Five, one of the leaders of the Great Rebellion. It is I who have been entrusted with the quest that I am about to relate to you. It is my assignment and sole responsibility to recover that lost power of old, the Quod Magicae that was stolen on the day of His crucifixion, in Jerusalem, where this story began more than two thousand of your years ago.

I was there on that day. I watched from within the storm as Joseph carried out his secret mission. I was in the lightning, watching, as he violated the temple, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. I watched him sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat and I have been manipulating people and events surrounding the blood of Christ ever since. I play a great game of pursuit and intrigue, biding my time as I maneuver many hosts, through many ages in order to arrive at this place and time, but now the time has come for revelation. It is time for The Man of Lawlessness to take his place on the world stage and bring events to an end; to draw the whole world order into darkness, blending it into the invisible singularity of the master’s purpose. That is to paradoxically use the power of Christ’s blood as the very instrument of our final victory over The Light. For that reason, I continue to manipulate world events in the current age, on this very day in fact, but enough about me, let me rather introduce you to the latest cast of players who will take their place on my puppet’s stage.

The Powers That Be

There was only a month left before my long, four years of service to the U.S. Navy would come to an end. Quite frankly the last two years had been a strange form of hell with eighteen hour days and the stress of the Viet Nam war. I had a few days of rare down time in front of me at our squadron headquarters in Iwakuni, Japan, but my peace was ruined by a summons to appear in the captain’s office. I’d been there before, so, being ordered to drop everything and “report to the captain,” made me pretty nervous. I couldn’t help but wonder what I had done this time to piss him off.
When I arrived, Lurch, that’s what we called him, “Lurch,” because he looked like the character from the Adam’s Family. Lurch, sat behind his desk and after we had gone through the formalities of Navy hierarchy, he invited me to sit down. That was a red flag. Protocol dictated that I should either stand at attention, or at ease in the captain’s office, but, to be asked to sit meant something was up. I couldn’t help but worry about the possibility of bad news from home, however, to my surprise, the subject of our meeting was my upcoming separation from the Navy. He said, “I need to talk to you about your plans for the immediate future.”
He gave me his famous death’s head grin, the one that served him as a smile. I nodded and said, “Yes sir.”
“Well, I have a problem with you deserting your crew right now, I’m sure you’ll understand.”
“Sir?” I inquired.
“You’re an integral part of my flight crew, Wilson, and this deployment has three more months to run. I require your commitment and I want you to extend for the rest of the cruise.”
To say that I was stunned by his request would be a gross understatement. For a long minute, I was speechless, worrying about the possibilities, about whether, in time of war, he was planning to order my extension if I didn’t comply.
Lurch was, how can I put this delicately, a lunatic, not a man you wanted to cross swords with, but extending my service for another three months was not something I was very pleased to do, not for him, not for my crew, and certainly not for the Navy. You see, the Navy had not been especially kind to me over the years, and much of the abuse I had suffered left a lasting impression. For example, there were the nine months I spent in the janitorial service, cleaning bathrooms, after graduating from Electronics ‘A’ school. And, how could I forget the threats of a Captain’s Mast and possible imprisonment over the nuclear arms school debacle for which I was the only innocent participant. There are many more examples, but you get the idea. Most of all, however, was my failure to attain pay grade because of the Navy’s poor planning with regard to filling the technical rate I was in. Any simple seaman can understand that, when you open five slots for promotion and have twelve thousand sailors applying for them, the odds of a promotion are stacked against you. That was the situation I found myself in year after year in my brief, Naval career.
With that in mind, I suggested to the captain, “Well, sir, I can’t see myself extending as an E2, it just wouldn’t be fair.”
“What do you mean?” Lurch wanted to know.
“I mean, sir, that I would consider extending as an E3, but not in my current pay grade.”
Lurch gave me a dark and threatening look. He said, “That would mean a promotion.”
“Yes sir,” I said.
He paused, his brow creasing even further. “I can’t do that, Wilson.”
“But you can, sir,” I corrected, informing him, “You’re an acting captain, in command of a Naval unit at war. It would be a battlefield promotion, sir.”
Now the look became dangerously threatening and he repeated himself, enunciating each word, “I can’t do that.”
Perhaps I was being flip, I didn’t intend it that way, but time in close association and the circumstances we shared had proved the axiom, “familiarity breeds contempt.” I responded to him by saying, “Well, sir, I won’t extend my service as an E2.”
To my surprise, the conversation ended right there and I was summarily dismissed without threats or further intimidation. As I stood to leave, we hurried through the formalities of Navy protocol and then I quickly found myself standing outside his office, relieved that our encounter was over. Perhaps, at this point, some background on our “shared circumstances” would be in order.
In the year before our deployment to Iwakuni, we had been transitioning aircraft, from the Martin, P5-M Marlin, to the new Lockheed, P3 Orion. As such, naval regulations required that each flight crew be requalified in the new aircraft. Qualification was a long, expensive and arduous process of training, practice, and testing. At that time, three squadrons of twelve aircraft, each with a twelve man crew, were making the transition to the P3. Two of those squadrons had begun the process in the year before us, but, unfortunately for the Navy, for the trainers and for those in command, none of those twenty-four flight crews had yet qualified in the new aircraft. In fact, they had all failed their “quals” repeatedly by the time we arrived on the scene to begin our training.
To be fair, there were many difficult challenges throughout the qualification process, some that affected me personally, but those are for another story. What’s important for this story is the qualification portion of our transition. In fact, I can truncate the story even further by focusing on the single mission that resulted in every crew’s failure to qualify. That point of failure for the twenty-four crews ahead of us became obvious to me at the end of the long process. It was a mission called harbor mining and, whoever it was in the training squadron that designed the mining mission, they almost certainly must have some diabolic connection. The mission parameters and the chosen location were so challenging that it must have been designed with the intent to produce failure.
As radar man for my crew, the harbor mining qualification test was a challenge that lay directly in my hands. Not that the other crew members weren’t needed, we work as a team, but the primary burden for success was on my shoulders; in much the same way as the kicker in a football game that is tied in the final quarter and running out of time. The carefully chosen location for this qual-test was a small, fjord-like harbor on the Pacific coast of British Columbia, far north of Vancouver. Our navigator had been given a small, incomplete illustration that depicted the layout of the harbor entrance and a portion of the interior, as it might appear on our radar screen.
The entrance to the harbor was a narrow cut through a three hundred foot wall of coastal cliffs. Inside, the harbor spread open and, as depicted on the illustration, there was a small island, to the south of which lay the target box where we were to drop our practice mines in. On the far side of the small, lozenge shaped harbor, the eastern shore rose quickly from sea level to a mountainous terrain, peaking at the three thousand foot level. All of these features created a significant challenge for the cockpit, but to make matters worse, the entire coast was socked in by a thick fog that made VFR flight impossible the day we were to make our run. The only eyes available to us for this mission was my radar screen, and the whole crew was forced to depend on me to guide our aircraft safely through the maneuvers required to succeed in this mission.
Though Lurch, who was flying left seat that day, could see absolutely nothing from the cockpit, we managed to navigate the harbor entrance, at a flight level of three hundred feet, without difficulty. That said, Lurch was white knuckled all the way in and near apoplexy by the time I gave him his new heading. That much-anticipated command was delayed, however, until we cleared the coastal cliffs because, before that, I had no radar image of the harbor’s interior. Once we leveled out on the new heading, however, the small island I thought was depicted in our illustration came clearly into view on the radar screen, just north of our heading. Upon seeing it, I began to lay out the coordinates for our mining run. I had no sooner done that, than the sweep of the radar began to reveal another island in the southern portion of the harbor, an island that, in appearance, was much more similar to the illustration I had been given than the island I chose initially.
Things happen fast when you’re moving at three hundred and sixty knots and changes in plans can consume a good deal of distance over the ground at that speed, but I made a quick decision to change heading and go for the newly revealed southern island. Unfortunately, that change required that I first confess my mistake to the entire crew, over the plane’s intercom system. It went something like this:
“Flight, Radar.”
“Go, Radar.”
“Sir, I’ve made a mistake and I’ll have to give you some rapid course corrections. I need you to make them as quickly as possible, sir.”
There was no response from the flight deck, but it didn’t matter, I had no time to wait, so I launched into a stream of course changes that began with, “Turn hard to starboard, sir, and take up heading 196.”
With the command given, the plane remained steady on its current heading, forcing me to recalculate and reissue the command.
“I need you to turn RIGHT NOW, sir, hard starboard, and take up a new heading of, 210.”
At that, the plane snapped hard to the right, pressing the entire crew into their seats with about six “Gs” of gravity and driving the navigator, who was standing behind the flight engineer’s seat, to his knees. No sooner had that happened than the plane snapped back to level flight on a compass heading of two hundred ten degrees. I didn’t know at the time, that Lurch was so terrified by the required maneuver that he’d frozen, white knuckled, on the yoke, (the planes steering wheel,) forcing our second pilot, J.J., to take the controls from him. While J.J. flew blind, down the two-ten heading, to our next course correction, I was frantically laying out the rest of our mining run on the radar screen. I didn’t have time to finish, however, before I was forced to give a new heading to the flight deck.
“Sir, on my mark, I need you to turn hard to port and take up heading, 068. Standby, …and, mark!”
Again the plane snapped into a sharp turn, this time left, pulling about the same G-force. At this speed there would be little time for me to carry out the rest of the necessary steps to complete the mission, but I finished marking the critical points on the radar screen and, as soon as the plane leveled out on heading, I called over the intercom, “Standby to mark on top IP. On my third mark… standby, mark, mark, mark. On top IP, sir, and take up heading 092.”
Again the plane leaned right, softer this time, we were in the right place now, but again, there was little time to think or maneuver at our current speed.
“Open bomb bay doors,” I commanded, then, without a breath, “target in ten, etc… three, two, one, drop, drop, drop.”
Whatever the outcome might be, the mission was done, and there would be no changing it. I heard my own voice coming over the intercom then, calmer, even subdued, knowing I had put pilot, aircraft, and crew through a mini hell. I could only hope that I was right in doing so.
“Close bomb bay doors,” I commanded, hastily adding, “remain on heading and climb, climb, climb, sir.”
The plane pitched sharply upward and the intercom fell ominously quiet. A moment later the navigator approached my station, lifted my earphone and said, “Well, you f….d up this time, Wilson. The Captain wants to kill you, you’d better hide.”
“Hide?” I asked, indicating the fact that we were crammed together in a flying tube. “Where am I going to hide?”
The Nav suggested, “Head to the galley and take a seat back there in the booth.”
Now that we were well above the harbor fog, above the mountains, above the clouds and safe, on a heading to our base in California, the ticking time that was in such a rush during our mining run, dragged slowly by, as I awaited my execution. After what seemed a very long while, but still came sooner than I would like, I heard Lurch’s booming voice coming from somewhere forward in the plane. “Where’s that radarman of mine?”
It seemed strange to me that he actually sounded joyful. He repeated his inquiry, in the same jovial manner, so, feeling compelled, I stepped out of the galley and started forward to take my punishment. “There he is,” he said, seeing me and smiling, his arms open wide.
I wondered what could account for this drastic change in demeanor. I learned then, that the call had come from training command that we had dropped three practice mines right into the center of the invisible box where they were intended to go. In fact, we were the only crew out of thirty-six, who had done so, meaning, that soon we would become the only alpha qualified P3 flight crew the Navy had in WestPac. That was a real feather in Lurch’s cap and the fact is, he owed me for it.
So, what was my reward? Two weeks after our meeting in Iwakuni, concerning the subject of my separation from the Navy, I got my orders and flew out of Tokyo to San Francisco, leaving my crew, our plane and the Vietnam war behind. I was assigned to exit the Navy from a little base near the Golden Gate Bridge called, Treasure Island. It sounded good to me, but what did I know?
When I got off the bus that picked me up at the airport, along with forty other sailors and marines, I was directed to the admin. building, where a yoeman looked over my encoded orders, wrinkled his brow, then looked at me and shrugged, saying, “You need to go over to building 139 and check in there.”
He kindly gave me directions, so I picked up my baggage and went on my way. At building 139 another yoeman followed the pattern of the first almost precisely, wrinkling his brow, looking me over, shrugging and saying, “Keep your dungarees, your douche kit, and your skivvies and give me your bags for storage.”
Now it was my turn to wrinkle my brow, but, considering it was the Navy, after all, I didn’t try to make sense of it, I just complied as I had been so well trained to do. He, in turn, handed me a blanket and a pillow saying, “Take your orders with you and go across the street to building 140. At the gate, ring the bell and the Master at Arms will come out to let you in.”
The instructions were simple enough, but as I approached building 140 I noted that it looked an awful lot like a prison. Turned out that it was, and that’s where I spent my last two weeks in the Navy, cleaning pots and pans and scrubbing floors with a scrub brush.
Thanks a lot, Lurch. I’ll remember you in my prayers. Fortunately, good behavior got me out on the day of my scheduled separation and, though my stay was brief, it was enough to give me the feel of prison and the knowledge that I would never want to return, neither to prison or the Navy.

Hidden Figures in Black History

katherine_johnson_john_glenn

When I was doing the research for my novel, “Triangle: A Memoir of Black Caesar,” I became aware and concerned about the apparent lack of authentic role models available to black youth in America. I use the term “authentic,” to mean role models beyond the entertainment industry’s view, including sports, and beyond the typical characters created for entertainment by the likes of Spike Lee. I’m talking about real role models, and my concern for such was the premise for my story about the life of Henri Caesar, of whom my POV character says, “there is much more to this man’s story than history has yet told.”

So it is for most of the true heroes of Black history in America. For me, that trail begins with  Olaudah Equiano. Although his place of birth, c. 1746, is disputed, the fact that he was sold in Virginia to a Royal Navy ship’s captain was well documented in 1754. He was given the slave name, Gustavas Vassa and taken to England where he eventually came into the hands of a Quaker merchant named Robert King. King gave Equiano the means to purchase his own freedom, which he did in 1766, becoming a merchant himself, traveling much of the world and learning all that he could about the Triangle Trade and English politics.

Back in London, Equiano, aka, Gustavas Vassa, joined an abolitionist group called The Sons of Africa and began pressing parliament for anti-slavery legislation. In 1789, as an activist in the abolition movement, Gustavas wrote and self-published his memoir entitled, “The Interesting Narrative of The Life of Olaudah Equiano.”

The book was widely read through nine editions and was instrumental in parliament’s passage of The Slave Trade Act of 1807, which put an end to British involvement in the slave trade. Unfortunately it did not include the ownership, or practice of slavery, the end of that horror would require a brutal and bloody war in America.

That said, there is a long and growing list of heroic, black figures that follow Equiano. I won’t attempt to list them here, but I will write about a select few from time to time. I think the awareness of them is vital to our future as “one” nation.

Getting back on track, if you haven’t seen the movie, “Hidden Figures,” then you have missed a truly great story, the kind of story from which flows the compassion and understanding required to change the world. The viewing of it should be mandatory for all Americans. It should be part of the curriculum in our schools. There needs to be more of this type of encouragement and less of a Black America with the kind of hopeless future Spike Lee and his ilk portray. What is required to change things for the better is more of the personal initiative demonstrated by heroes like Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and a chain of others that goes all the way back to Olaudah Equiano.

The trouble is that the voice of truth, the voice of hope and reason, is often drowned out by the shouts of those who promote selfish agendas, but there is nothing new in this. The manipulation of public opinion is as old as human nature itself and the latest suppression of truth in Black America, of hope and reason, began almost immediately following Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. King’s positive message of character, accountability and personal initiative was drowned out by loud, plaintive demands for equality through entitlement. I don’t need to mention their names, these false prophets continue to drown out truth and hope to this day, and we all know who they are as well as the various organizations that front their ideas.

To conclude, a new paradigm is needed among young Blacks in America and along with it, a lot more men with the vision and courage of John Glenn and, in the historical record, Robert King. Men who will step up and intervene where the scales are being intentionally skewed against anyone of good character for reasons of race, creed, color, gender, religion, or national origin. What’s needed is sacrifice, the willingness to set aside self-interest for the greater good. That is the deeper message of “Hidden Figures.” People of all kinds and colors, working together to accomplish what’s better for all of us.