*A few diehard Cornel West supporters seem to have taken great exception to my article, “A Portrait of Cornel West – The Liberace of Faux Intellectualism.” They asked, who am I, who has the audacity to criticize the illustrious Dr. Cornel West, and what have I done for the Black community?
In response, I only say, I’m a simple urban farmer who tills the soil. So I must admit, I’ve done very little, at least, that meets the eye. But beneath the surface, everything I do is designed to move my people forward. But like most urban farmers, I have to tend my crop and look at the long game, so I don’t have the time to concern myself with fame, fortune, and adulation. My job is to focus on harvest time, and patiently await my crop to come in.
You see, we all have a role to play in this society, and I see mine as helping educate our people – not at Harvard, or Princeton, because that’s not the field where my crop resides. My crop was planted in urban America, so that’s the field that I tend.
I’m the product of a very unique family of farmers. We’re not famous, or world shakers, but we’re, literally, one of a kind in the United States. There’s only one Wattree family in America, so anyone one with the last name “Wattree” is related to me. And as a family, we have ALWAYS been involved in educating, and tilling the soil of our people.
My Great uncle, Richard Wattree, started the “Wattree School” in Louisiana to teach Black people to read and write back when their was very little education to be had for poor Black people, and we’ve carried on that tradition over the years in one way or another – some of us teach elementary and secondary school in various cities and states across this country, others like my daughter and niece, work in administrative positions in various colleges and universities, and still others are artists, who depict the journey of our people in this country over the centuries:
SUSAN T. HERRING, Editor, The Guardian-Journal
“African American artist, Alma Lennear of Minden, will be exhibiting her works as well as selling her paintings Saturday at the Claiborne Jubilee. She comes from a long line of educators who have lived in and around Claiborne Parish since the days her great-grandfather, Richard Wattree, founded the Wattree School using the Bible as the reading book. A self taught artist, Ms. Lennear’s work features both portraits of historic figures as well as Biblical scenes. Come to the Jubilee and visit with a most interesting woman!”.
Writing is my forte. I’m also a Jazz musician and a poet, so I help to pass along pride in our Black tradition through those mediums. My good friend, Rita Edmond, is undoubtedly one of the greatest jazz singers in the world today, and as we speak, I’m writing music for her and passing along my knowledge of music theory in order to ensure that she’ll be prepared to carry on the tradition of Ella, and Sarah, and Dinah Washington in a fashion that befits their memory, and her own.
And finally, when I got married – at 21 years old, and my late wife at 19 – I sacrificed my own ambition to try to become the kind of father that could ensure that my kids and grandchildren would grow up to be better than myself – and they are. So while are a handful of people who think I’m formidable, they haven’t seen nothing yet. My greatest contribution to our people still lies dormant, feeding, growing, and absorbing knowledge within their cocoon, and when my crop comes in, you’ll no longer have to ask, who am I. You’ll know who I am – one hell of a farmer; but a simple farmer, who tills the soil to ensure the viability of his people.
Neither scholar nor the head of state,
The most common of men seems to be my fate;
A life blistered with struggle and constant need,
As my legacy to man I bequeath my seed.
More fertile, more sturdy, these ones than I,
This withered old vine left fallow and dry;
The nectar of their roots lie dormant still,
But through their fruit I’ll be revealed.
Eric L. Wattree