A Lil’ Bit ‘Bout Leo’s Legacy…

Submitted by Raymond Nat Turner on Tue, 03/26/2013 - 11:59
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by Raymond Nat Turner

The “Leo” of this poem is the legendary Black longshore union activist Leo Robinson, who died this past January. “The deep, dark chocolate brown, booming / Baritone brother sportin’ black, Lenin-like / Greek Fisherman’s cap / comin’ Coltranish…


A Lil’ Bit ‘Bout Leo’s Legacy…

by Raymond Nat Turner






Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”

Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”

Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”

Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”


Crescendo chants arising from

Python-like picket lines, slowly

Circling shadows of South African

Pirate ship, Nedlloyd-Kimberly—

Leper loaded with loot off pearls of

Sweat, vampire apartheid violently

Sucked from Black African hides…


Eleven days sitting, quarantined, its

Booty untouched by Longshoremen’s

Mighty hands, or huge white horses—

I, like Reagan, “do not recall,” who

Called the picket, who organized the

Action, I remember one speaker only:

The deep, dark chocolate brown, booming

Baritone brother sportin’ black, Lenin-like,

Greek Fisherman’s cap, comin’ Coltranish,

Connecting dots, incendiary sharps and flats,

Mesmerizing, clarifying, Frederick Douglass,

Agitator tongues; no halting hemming and hawing,

Bureaucratic, clap-trap; just good old-fashioned

Gut-bucket Blues; no toned-down, detente trade

Unionism; just cut to the chase, cornbread and

Collard greens, proletarian prose; no milquetoast

Mumbo-jumbo; just straight-ahead, swinging

Soapbox, standing on shoulders of 1934 strikers—

Bloody Thursday Martyrs—whose crimson silhouettes

Still streak sidewalks of gentrified San Francisco…


The deep, dark chocolate brown, booming

Baritone brother sportin’ black, Lenin-like,

Greek Fisherman’s cap, comin’ Coltranish—

Natural notes eloquently crossing Black

Baptist preacher, Harry Bridges, Ella Baker,

Geraldine Johnson mojo with Mars-sized,

Working-class coat of arms he wore proudly

Like a big fire engine red badge of honor…




I do recall how right speech, right on speech of

The deep, dark chocolate brown, booming

Baritone brother sportin’ black, Lenin-like,

Greek Fisherman’s cap, comin’ Coltranish,

Stoked my gut and left me standing thirteen

Inches taller as a Black man, working-class

Man, daydreaming of meeting and be mentored

By this Black militant workingman and learning

About labor at his feet, as he surely learned as a

Young, second generation, Longshoreman…

Acting out my dream, I bought a Greek Fisherman’s cap—

It had to be the cap— the history, the analysis in the cap?

I imagined I looked like him, sounded like him and walked

Through my work a day world like he walked through the

Reagan ‘80s, apartheid years of “constructive engagement,”

Capitalist offensive crushing communist and workers movements






Never would I dare dream mentorship dreams

Would come flying standby, two decades later…

Retired Longshoreman, Leo Robinson—as retired

As Big Ben, or Old Faithful— eased his big white

Diesel pickup below the legendary marquee of

Oakland’s old Grand Lake Theater, right on

Time from his refuge in Raymond at the side

Of Ms Johnnie, his soul mate of many moons…


A fresh, young, historic thing calling itself the

Million Workers March, hurtled in to Leo’s orbit

Like Halley’s Comet, coming every seventy-six

Years, and firing up the ol’ working-class warrior

Like a potbelly stove in a Wisconsin winter …

This fresh, young, historic thing calling itself

The Million Workers March came spreading

Demands as contagious and timely as the flu:

Slash the military budget”

National living wage”

Hands off Social Security”

Stop Dismantling Public Education”


Demands the Dems, the tops, TUBs, AKA

Trade Union Bureaucrats, were dodging like

Dracula dodges crosses, and iron stakes, dodging

Using their same old songs, “Please, Please, No

October Surprise!” and “It’s The Right Thing,

But The Wrong Time, Brothers & Sisters…

Sweetened with strings for dumping rank-and-file

dollars down dark Democratic Party holes of imperialist

Politician Kerry’s In exchange for February 30th promises, promises...

Instead of taking the T-shirts sage advice and begin:

Mobilizing in our own name

The Million Worker March


The Lincoln Memorial October 17 2004


This fresh, young, historic thing calling itself the

Million Workers March came with demands on the

The Retiree formerly known as Leo Robinson: time,

Like meeting more than four corners, 400 North Point,

Money: the Retiree put up $50,000 of his own

To take the rank and file’s demands to D.C.

Demands on the Retiree’s third eye envisioning

Brown, beige, tan and ivory hands gripping one

Another’s wrists in unity, morphing into a militant,

Moving circle understood by even Kindergartners—

Leo’s logo on navy blue and ash grey T-shirts


Leo laughed at my crazy calls, punctuated by

Embellishments on my joke that Colin Powell,

Or Condi Rice, had contacted me asking that I

Ask Leo to call off the Million Workers March,

And Under-Secretary of Labor in Liberia would

Be Leo’s—post-election!


Crunch, crunch, crunch of my driveway’s gravel

Beneath the pickup’s tires signaled the end of our

Weekly jam session conversation during our ride

From Million Workers March meetings— return tray

Tables to their locked position, seat backs to upright

Positions —prepare to jam for another hour, or more…


Leo’s interests, like U.S. imperialism, spanned the globe,

Breadth of knowledge, youthful curiosity and that wise

Warrior twinkle in his eye when workers were getting it

On good somewhere, separated him from lords of capital,

Separated him from many rank and file revolutionaries

His grit and guts made him different

With his same wise warrior twinkle, seven years later,

He welcomed Occupy as the “new kid on the block”

Recognizing its short-lived two months puts us all

Two months closer to “…the final conflict…”




We’ve known Leo for a long, long time, those who know, know

Longer than any of us recall, Leo’s lives earlier were spent

Working on railroads spiriting enslaved Africans to freedom


He was one who kept Nat’s secret those 1831 Virginia nights,

He helped at Harper’s Ferry under Captain Brown’s command


Grieving, mourning, maybe we can bring ourselves to beg

Our evil enemy, Monsanto, to clone a hundred thousand

Leo Robinson leaders and ship them to every port, dock

Waterfront in the U.S.;

Splice his genes with Egyptian canal workers, Nigerian, Iraqi and

Venezuelan oil workers, Joe Hill and Mother Jones; and dust Leo’s

DNA in every working-class baby bottle in the U.S?


Monsanto’s Mengele-Frankenstein shit won’t be necessary—

For Leo lives whenever, wherever some worker risks his

Or her life to pull one of their brothers or sisters to safety,

Leo lives in every navy blue or ash T-shirt with brown, beige,

Tan, ivory, hands circled in solidarity,

In every fiery speech during San Francisco strikes and

Port Of Oakland shutdown, in fights for health care, cradle

To grave, in housing, library, post office and school struggles

He lives good fights against fracking and the Occupy Movement…


Leo lives wherever rank and file working-class folks

Dig deep in shallow pockets to weaponize their wallets

Leo lives wherever the “voiceless” are booming in

Concrete stratagems in the currency of courage and clarity

Leo lives in London marches against war on Iran

In Greek anti-austerity marches

Wherever the ranks are rising up against top-down

Corporate unionism, rising ‘gainst lil’ buddies, Jr.

Partners who golf and vacation with the bosses,

Leo’s Shreveport sound is embedded in the bathrooms,

Woodwork and hallways of the hiring hall he’s haunted

Since ‘63— you’ve been warned…


Leo lives with Palestinian children resisting

Apartheid captors, when their jobs should be day-

Dreaming with dolls and chasing down soccer balls,

Leo lives in the Boycott Divestment and Sanction movement

He lives, for there are other leper ships to be left unloaded…

Other fiery, militant speeches to be made,

Other younger men and women to mentor…


Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”

Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”

Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”

Hey-hey, ho-ho—apartheid has got to go!”


Raymond Nat Turner can be contacted at upsurgejazz.com.

Raymond Nat Turner © 2013 All Rights Reserved


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It's beautiful.

Submitted by sanda_artistNYC on Fri, 03/29/2013 - 10:31.

Am feeling timid about using words after reading such powerful art.  Raymond Nat Turner, I do believe I heard you a couple of days ago on the radio.  Your  professor son's dad, carrying coffee gifts, was modest on mic; you didn't say you are the poet.  It's my favorite radio station since early 1990s.

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