Henry Redwell is running. He is the urban black man running, that is to say it looks to anyone watching as if he is running away from something because he is running and because he is black.
He is running to escape the gathering, the thousands of black men and women, the hundreds of whites who have joined this afternoon in Morningside Park in Harlem, to show solidarity, and simply to gather as black men and women of a new era. It is, after all, the dawning of the age of Aquarius, with a song and a Broadway musical proclaiming it so.
More than anyone else, Henry Redwell staged this soul rally in Morningside Park in East Harlem on October 5th, 1969, to celebrate soul brothers and soul sisters, soul food, soul art, soul poetry and politics and theater and a soul band The Family Shade, and to fete people younger than the civil rights guys, more peaceful than the Black Panthers, blacker than the hippies, the yippies, or La Raza.
Today it comes to pass. But just back there, in an attack of panic Henry ran from the park and the festival. He shot out Morningside Drive, north up Amsterdam Avenue and around City College, then east on West 141st Street. Now running south on Lenox Avenue, the blocks come short and quick, one after another, black man running, steady, strong.
“One man’s peace is another man’s poison,” he tells himself. “And I have been poisoned.” A stream of homilies, original and profound, flow through his mind, too fast to keep up with. “I have been poisoned with peace.” The irony strikes him, but he doesn’t laugh. It’s not funny irony. It just is. Bad things happen, and they
Black Man Running, 1969