The news of death travels at Internet speed. I found out about my friend “Wash” while trolling along on Facebook. He’d died that morning.
“Book” was the type of guy you didn’t envision dying. Not suddenly. Not of pneumonia.
There is no single descriptor for “Booker.” Just like his many different friends called him by the many variations of his name he was a character, one with deeply held convictions of righteousness and caring for those with less than.
“Try and do as much right as you can in the world,” was one of his quotes on a You Tube interview you should see. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nguzYcltZOk).
He tried. He was a child protester in the Birmingham Civil Rights movement at age 14. At 18, he did his duty in Vietnam. He was a foot soldier all of his adult life for human rights. He was a political activist and an agitator. Man, he’d agitate the heck out of you. He liked getting up under your skin.
We traveled in different circles. Me, in the upscale world of shirts and ties, “Book” in his overalls, white T-shirt and a hat sitting astride his head, grinning. Always grinning.
Our common ground was a heart for humanity, a love of poetry and drama and bicycles. Poetry and drama unites the unlikeliest of humans. Joins us through the power of words. Joins us through our mutual humanity. We shared that. Our love for humanity expressed in the words of writers, actors, poets, on stage, in church, and on the street.
Bicycles. We would ride up and down the hills near Shades Crest Road when I lived in Hoover, Al. On those rides we debated our mutual humanity and how best to serve others. We always agreed on the expected outcome. Getting there would sometimes lead us down different paths.
The last time I heard from my friend was through a mutual friend, Judge Mike Graffeo. They both live in Birmingham. I was in Los Angeles. It was a call I couldn’t answer for whatever reason of importance at that time. Mike left the message he was with Booker and they were giving me a call. But they would be gone in a few minutes.
On his You Tube interview, Booker leaves us all a message.
“ If you truly believe that every human being is important. …that the greatest thing on earth is another human being and that the greatest thing on earth is our collective mind.
…And if we could ever tap into that, ever just realize that the only things holding us back is us.
…If we could pursue peace like we pursue war. We would already have cured cancer and be a thousand years ahead of where we are now.
Try and do as much right and as much good as you can. Try to spread as much love and joy and peace in the world as you can.”
The words of Washington Booker III, born January 20, 1949, died January 20, 2016.