Soul Cries John W. Fountain

A Chicago native son, author John W. Fountain, is a former New York Times national correspondent and currently a professor of journalism at Roosevelt University. He writes a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times and is formerly a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. He is author of five books.
WestSide Press Publishing, Chicago
Available January 2019
WestSide Press Publishing, Chicago
"This book, in one sense, is an urban opera set in the key of life." WestSide Press Publishing

SOUL MIGRATION. Celebration. Apocalyptic reverberations. Transatlantic Middle Passage. Sandwiched huddled human masses. I taste the salty breath of death as a slave ship passes. Anchoring in American ports of hate. Transported to southern plantations cruel and sunbaked. Stripped of language, culture and freedom’s imaginations. By fear and the gun, we suffer slave indoctrination. Soul deprivation. Soul arises. Soul survives…

Massa’s lash upon our backs. Keloid scars where the skin once cracked. And the blood ran warm. Our babies born into incarceration generation after generation. Human property to a hypocritical nation. Our blood, sweat and skin at its foundation. Pure evil manifestation. 250 years to The Great Emancipation.

We stood. Filled with bittersweet sensations in fiery winds of subjugation. White rationalization, painting in broad strokes of Black Code justification as Jim Crow spread like fresh morning dew. And the horror of American slavery was born anew: Bone-breaking, lynch-making, life-taking, Godforsaken hate. Our souls at stake. Soul arises. Soul survives…

A man holds a T-shirt on Michigan Avenue on the night Barack Obama was elected U.S. president on Nov. 4, 2008.

By our culture, soul and hands, we transformed this land. Laborers in industry. Interwoven in the city’s tapestry. Black Mecca: Chicago. Transplant Home of the Delta blues. Birthplace of Gospel Music. And Chicago Defender news. Inspiration for Richard Wright’s “Black Boy” and “Native Son.” City from where we shouted, “Run Jesse Run.”

Setting for Lorraine Hansberry’s, “A Raisin In The Sun.” Where a renaissance in Bronzeville was birthed by migrant daughters and sons, like Louis Armstrong, Gwendolyn Brooks and Ida B. Wells. Where the election of Harold Washington made our hearts swell. Like the election of a migrant son to the highest office in the land: Barack Obama as President, the first African American. And yet, Soul cries…

Metropolis, rising like skyscrapers tickling cotton clouds. We stood proud. Fists clenched around that check once marked “insufficient funds,” believing our time had finally come. Though later realizing it was only for some as integration proved a one-way street. And upward social mobility predestined some of us to flee. Soul cries…

For hope became the hood. And the hood forsook the good of the soul as crack-cocaine laid hold. And the powers-that-be neglected and stole. And guns and gangs grew like wild weeds. So bold. And systemic racial oppression and schemes untold isolated the hood, caused the hood to implode. The evaporation of a dream, like wisps of steam. Or was it all just a scheme? How can life in the city be so cold and mean?

Two children stand at a memorial on Chicago's South Side in 2012 where 8-year-old Tanaja Stokes was fatally shot in front of her house while jumping rope. (Photo: John W. Fountain)

And “strange fruit” appears again in a once Promised Land, where black folks perish mostly by black folks’ hands. And the children die, their blood cries under a school-day sun, where they dream of escaping bloody pools that run, sometimes like rivers here on the darkest side of fear. Cascading waterfalls of endless tears. Beneath the veneer in the Promised Land, where genocide and mass incarceration gnaw at the soul of a nation. Soul cries. For Soul yearns to survive.

A woman wipes away tears during the march on Michigan Avenue in December 2016 last New Year's Eve in memory of people slain in Chicago.

Soul: breath, life, metaphysical translucent indomitable essence whose presence drifts from the bowels of history. Along the continuum of eternity. Soul. That still speaks from the graves of our ancestors of slavery. That endows courage and bravery.

Soul. Spirit that sails on the winds of hope. That sings only one note. That captures fear and conquers feeble imaginations. That preserved us through Jim Crow and segregation. That whispered harmonies and melodies. Of rhapsodies sublime. That soothed our wounds and healed our minds. Soul.

Even amid apocalyptic reverberations, amid genocide, poverty, racism and mass incarceration, even amid premature autopsies on the death of a nation, the depths of our soul will be our salvation. For Soul arises. Soul survives. Soul cries...

Wooden crosses made by Greg Zanis, of Aurora. Ill., in memory of nearly 700 people slain in Chicago in 2016, most of them young black men. (Photo: John W. Fountain)

About Soul Cries

THERE IS AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY. A tale of two cities. One ugly. One pretty. It is the story of life and also loss on the other side of the tracks. An American story. One being written daily by news media but often only cursorily as stories of murder, poverty and social decay. But it is more complex story for those who dwell behind the invisible walls of the American Mainstream in neighborhoods where life is fragile and violence an intractable squatter. A place where life can be hard and plain. Where bullets too often rain but where life, love and hope form a wellspring.

Theirs is a story of joy and pain. It is a soul’s song—told in this book through the lens of John W. Fountain, a Chicago native son and veteran journalist who grew up on the West Side, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family once lived during his campaign to help the poor. This book, in one sense, is an urban opera set in the key of life. One that sings of the ancestral past, of the present and of future struggles, of the triumphs and glories of a people but also of their fears, of the strain, drain and consequence upon their souls.

The Chicago Tribune has written of Fountain’s work: It is “stirring, searing poetry of John Fountain, whose pungent words” give “focus and force” and speak of “the cultural glories that African Americans gave to Chicago and the world.” An award-winning writer and former New York Times national correspondent, John W. Fountain is a contemporary psalmist, born and bred in poverty and redeemed by faith, hope and clarity. “Soul Cries: In Black & White & Shades of Gray” is his inspirational song.

It is a song—a story—that emanates from a place where the voices of those who dwell there often are not heard. We all need to hear them. John W. Fountain presents them in a compelling literary song we won’t soon forget.

Soul Cries - Trailer

From Soul Cries: Ode to De'Kayla

John Fountain performs Ode To DeKayla

From Soul Cries:See Me

See me... Stare into the translucent brown windows to my soul, beyond the mahogany lines of my smile. See that I am not vile.

See me. My face is the sun. My heart is the full moon, piercing galaxies, diametrically opposing fallacies that I am somehow “less than”. And both declare boldly that I am not the Creator’s rejection but the divine creation, shaped and baked in Mother Earth. Perfect at birth.

See me. The “He” nobody knows. The “She” that glows exceedingly beyond the dull sameness and prevailing mundaneness that lump us all together.See me.

See the life that lives in me. The light that shines through me as resilience in the face of death. As hope when nothing’s left. Rising. Sparkling. Twinkling like diamond-studded midnight skies. Effervescent even in the face of lies.

See Me...

From Soul Cries:There Are Children Here

From Soul Cries: Chiraq

"This book, in one sense, is an urban opera set in the key of life." WestSide Press Publishing Available January 31, 2019
A Chicago native son, author John W. Fountain, is a former New York Times national correspondent and currently a professor of journalism at Roosevelt University. He writes a weekly column for the Chicago Sun-Times and is formerly a staff writer at the Chicago Tribune and Washington Post. He is author of five books.


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