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Black Connect
by on July 20, 2019
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Today, the United States celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic (and widely disbelieved) moon landing on July 20, 1969.   But few people likely think of the Americans who questioned whether NASA’s space program was worth the trouble, and the cost. 

On this day, Black Americans are reminded of the poem by Gil Scott-Heron that rhythmically expressed Black America’s scorn of NASA using tax dollars to fund an egotistically driven trip to the moon while families and communities of color lived in poverty - notably those without health care, who "can't pay no doctor bill."    Whitey on the Moon is a political, economic analysis that highlights the existence of two Americas and the persistence of racial inequality.

Gil Scott-Heron was in his early 20s when he released this poem.  He included a recording of it on his debut album, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” which was released the year after the moon landing.   The poem implies that the government did little to help its black citizens during that time - a belief that is held by many Black Americans today.  Heron used poetry and music to express his views on politics and culture.

“Despite all these problems, we’re supposed to celebrate this achievement that has nothing to do with the lives of real Americans,” Marcus Baram, author of the biography “Gil Scott-Heron: Pieces of a Man,” said of the poet’s mindset. “It was a tumultuous time — the war, people dying overseas. And all of a sudden, you have this random event where tens of millions of dollars [are] used to send this guy to the moon.”

Roger Launius, the former chief historian at NASA, wrote in a 2003 paper that many Americans felt the same as Scott-Heron: “Consistently throughout the 1960s, a majority of Americans did not believe Apollo was worth the cost. Throughout the majority of the decade, 45-60 percent of Americans believed that the government was spending too much on space.”

Born in Chicago and partially raised in Jackson, Tenn., Scott-Heron moved to New York City at 12.  In the late 1960s attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (an HBCU) because Langston Hughes had gone there.

Today, we celebrate poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron who had the rebellious and courageous and sharp as hell spirit of Malcolm X.

 

"Whitey On The Moon” 

By Gil Scott-Heron

(Listen here)

 

Read Gil Scott-Heron's poem "Whitey On The Moon" to give credit where credit is due

 

A rat done bit my sister Nell

With Whitey on the moon

Her face and arms began to swell

(And Whitey's on the moon)

 

I can't pay no doctor bills

But Whitey's on the moon

Ten years from now I'll be paying still

(While Whitey's on the moon)

 

You know, the man just upped my rent last night

Cause Whitey's on the moon

No hot water, no toilets, no lights

(But Whitey's on the moon)

 

I wonder why he's uppin' me?

Cause Whitey's on the moon?

Well I was already given him fifty a week

(And now Whitey's on the moon)

 

Taxes takin' my whole damn check

The junkies make me a nervous wreck

The price of food is goin up

And if all that crap wasn't enough

A rat done bit my sister Nell

(With Whitey on the moon)

 

Her face and arms began to swell

(And Whitey's on the moon)

 

With all that money I made last year

For Whitey on the moon

How come I ain't got no money here?

(Hmm, Whitey's on the moon)

 

You know I just about had my fill

Of Whitey on the moon

I think I'll send these doctor bills

airmail special

(To Whitey on the moon)

 

RIP Brother Gil Scott-Heron. :fist::muscle::clap::heart:

Posted in: Society