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Note: This piece is a segment from a novel I am currently writing. This is, in fact, the first time anyone has seen any segment from it.

The set up: the story’s protagonist has entered an alternate version of Earth and is still in the process of understanding and coming to terms with where he now is.

In order for him to comprehend the facts of this world, he has been brought to an archive and is in the process of viewing a series of newspaper articles, magazine clippings and television news and entertainment programming. At this point, he is viewing a special series of talk shows, collectively called “The Human Summit” which premiered Dick Cavett's late night talk show from ABC studios in New York.

Presented June 3 through 7, 1968, the weeklong series of programs featured interviews, songs, conversations and performances all related to “The Big Issues” as Cavett understated at the beginning of the week: The war, racism, poverty, crime. Guests included Dick Gregory, Harry Belafonte, The Smothers Brothers, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, George Carlin, Julian Bond, Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger, Richard Pryor, Robert F. Kennedy and on Friday, June Seventh, the concluding night of the series, we pick up.


On screen: a title card with a still frame picture of the Mall in Washington DC filled with people. In the upper left corner, taking up a bit of the sky, is the logo for “The Dick Cavett Show.” and in the lower right corner, a figure waving to the assembled multitude. It is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The screen fades back to Cavett, seated in a chair on a darkened set, and he turns to his right.

“I think it’s only appropriate that you introduce our next and final guest.”

The camera focuses on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he nods back at Cavett.

“It is a very special thrill to be able to introduce someone who I consider an important voice in the struggle for equality. She is going to perform a song that is both beautiful and meaningful. So, I would like to present my friend, Miss Joan Baez.”

Under the rumble of applause, the screen crossfaded to Joan, standing on a darkened stage, in a spotlight, a guitar threaded over her shoulder, as she saluted the audience behind a microphone stand with two mikes, one at her mouth and the other positioned in front of the instrument’s soundhole. The applause of the live studio audience faded and Joan leaned in, smiling delightedly.

“I'm honored to have been chosen to be the concluding part of a very important week of programs about issues we must discuss. And I have to say, it’s a special thrill to be introduced by Dr. King under any circumstances,” Joan noted, “but none more than when I am doing a world premiere performance of a song I have dedicated to him and to the Equal Rights movement. And that means it is dedicated to everyone.”

The audience applauded.

“I am joined tonight by the magnificent Edwin Hawkins Singers.”

The lights came up on the group, camera left of Joan, dressed in white smocks over blue tunics, much like a church choir. Choirmaster Edwin Hawkins, in a blue suit that matched the fabric of the tunics, took a bow to applause and acknowledged his group before the shot returned to Joan.

“The song is titled ‘The Lie.’”

Joan began to play her guitar and sang the lyric:

The founding of the nation
Began on the plantation
Everybody knew that this was true
The tobacco and the cotton
But also something rotten
Creates a harmful place for me and you.

The millions of those slaves
In chains for all their days
Forced against their will to work or die.
White owners knew full well
Human property was Hell
And so began the story of “The Lie.”

Protecting all the guilty
Simplicity so filthy
Some people would deny it ever was.
The reason, clear as day
Preserving the white way,
Of everything that hate and evil does.


The legacy we reap is what they’ve sown.
Human beings are not meant to own.
But those in charge would never answer why.
We covered up that sin,
So now we must begin
To finally come answer for “The Lie.”

“The Lie” was a decision,
A choice made from derision,
To claim that some were better than the rest.
The shame was a conceit,
A reason to mistreat,
All done to make the claim of being best.

At long last, slavery ended,
And everyone pretended
In a way that wasn’t much more than deceitful...
Jim Crow then ruled the day
Those freed slaves had no say
They were separate, but not at all like equal.

The hatred and the dread
In every guilty head
The worry for revenge they thought would come,
Whites let “The Lie” live on
And made sure they did give on
While handing out not much more than a crumb.


Now after all the fights
To win their equal rights,
The laws did change at last to rectify.
But society’s fulfilling
Only after we are willing
To destroy the ugly filth that is “The Lie.”

So strongly held in place
As populations face
Fear and anger aimed at all the others.
The divide that this created
Is what keeps us separated
We all are equal sisters, equal brothers.

It might have just been sad
If all the things done bad
Were simply from some passive rash insistence.
There was a clear agenda
Treat black folks like offenders
Though we know skin color does not make a difference.

Between the black and white,
We have to make this right.
Remove the hate and fear that lies within you.
Each ensuing generation
Will face a racist nation
If we permit “The Lie” to just continue.

Final Chorus:

The legacy we sow is what they’ll reap
The promise that was broken, we must keep
The stakes we face have never been so high
We cannot shy away
For tomorrow, for today,
To bring a final end to this damned lie!

As the sound of the Edwin Hawkins Singers soared to the heavens and Baez struck the final chord on her guitar there was a pause. It was, perhaps no more than two seconds of airtime, but within the space of that complete silence, everything happened. The audience breathed a moment to have taken in what they just heard, the music and the meaning. Cavett and King got to feel the landscape of both the performance and the audience. And Baez had a moment to wonder if the audience liked or hated the song.

But then the explosion of applause followed and cameramen struggled to quickly turn their lenses around as the house lights came up on the audience's wild standing ovation!

Cavett simply stood with Dr. King, both of the men applauding as the audience continued to cheer, Cavett wiping his eye as the show’s final credits rolled.


This excerpt of Proxy, North Carolina was specifically prepared for LJ Idol using the prompt No comment


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 7th, 2017 08:23 pm (UTC)
So much needs to be done. (Sigh)

I loved the Dick Cavett show. I appreciate this excerpt and would like to read the novel. Thank you for sharing a piece of your personal work. I hope people will reflect on it. Hugs and peace~~~
Feb. 9th, 2017 10:14 am (UTC)
In many ways it feels like the 1960s have boomeranged back, only with a lot of extra power and anger.

I'm something of a Cavett fan myself. I sort of wish he had focused on his interviews and not bothered with comedy because that's what he is best at.

Thanks for reading, your compliment and your good wishes!
Feb. 8th, 2017 02:43 pm (UTC)
I like this portrayal of Martin Luther King Jr. It's a lot more lighthearted than we know him, but still plenty serious.
Feb. 9th, 2017 10:18 am (UTC)
Certainly through the lens of time, when we think about historic figures, we remember the great things they did or the most resonant speeches they gave. But they were all human and had all of the same feelings and reactions as the rest of us. In fact, usually we are encouraged to think that way, some sort of legacy life preserver.

Thanks for a great compliment!
Feb. 10th, 2017 05:01 pm (UTC)
That was a great line-up of guests for the preceding shows! This was a well-written excerpt. How much progress have you made? Any plans to do any more excerpts for Idol?
Feb. 10th, 2017 10:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot!

As far as the progress, the novel has been structured out and I'm in the process of writing the first draft text. It's been a slow go, but I'm almost ready to begin letting people see it.

As far as other excerpts, I guess it depends on if there is text that fits the prompt for that week! There could definitely be some sort of killing floor concepts floated along the way.
Feb. 12th, 2017 07:30 am (UTC)
So, is this a Joan Baez song, or does it only exist in the alternate universe?

Otherwise, this is the color of the universe we're painting with our ideas, and I don't think we'll like the picture much when it's done. :(
Feb. 12th, 2017 03:42 pm (UTC)
So, is this a Joan Baez song, or does it only exist in the alternate universe?

The fact that you're asking this question tells me I succeeded! Thank you very much for that!

But to give you an answer, the song does only exist in this alternate version of earth. She performed it at various rallies and protest marches throughout the country. It became Baez's biggest chart hit.

But, I'm still standing with President Obama. I'm still of the belief that we can still fix things. It's kind of why I wanted to write this novel in the first place.
Feb. 14th, 2017 09:57 pm (UTC)
I stand with you. We need to keep trying!

I'm a big Joan Baez fan, by the way, so I knew this song was yours. :)
Feb. 13th, 2017 09:16 am (UTC)
I'm so glad you decided to share some of your novel with us! Works in progress can be so hard to share sometimes, and this looks very interesting - definitely a tantalizing hint of what's to come :)
Feb. 14th, 2017 04:26 am (UTC)
Very nicely done, the setup was great and the way you described the pause at the end was very artful.
Feb. 16th, 2017 02:26 pm (UTC)

Wow! How much of your novel have you written? I want it NOW! I'm very very intrigued!
Feb. 16th, 2017 03:49 pm (UTC)
I loved the Dick Cavet Show! I miss it! He made some great Television.

I like the way you've chosen to highlight a sadly ongoing issue.

Well done!
Feb. 17th, 2017 02:16 am (UTC)
I think this was a great use of the prompt to unveil an excerpt from your novel. Great work. Its so heartening to see drafts and work in progress ... makes the whole business of writing seem real and within reach. Good luck with your book.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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