Nothing Like Sunshine
Publication Year: 2010
Rabbi Ben Kamin has written a definitive personal expression about race, coming of age in the 1960s, a forbidden friendship, and his personal love for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is a story that spans a four-decade search for a lost high school chum, a deep misunderstanding, and a coming to terms with an America painfully evolving from the blood of MLK to the promise of Barack Obama.
The book is a remembrance of Kamin's life at Cincinnati's notorious Woodward High School, a microcosm of the 1960s and of America itself, as well as detailing Kamin's search-for Clifton, for America, for the key to understanding what race relations really are in the United States. Simultaneously, it is the story of the emerging rabbi's search for the legacy of his spiritual mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taking Kamin from Cincinnati to Cleveland to Memphis to New Orleans and other points, and constantly bringing him home to his friend Clifton and "the heaving hallways" of that high school.
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s body lay in the morgue of St. Joseph’s Hospital in Memphis when I awoke in my bedroom, damp with sweat and worry. How far, I wondered, was the distance from Cincinnati to Memphis? Not far, I knew. Four hundred miles? Not so far. I was in the tenth grade, and slept uneasily with the images of corpses, guns, battles, and now a fallen preacher—although I was in the cozy sanctuary of...
The Ville, New Orleans, and Prayer Feathers
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It was called “The Ville,” and it was hazardous for the white kids. A broad, L-shaped strip of the hallway, it cut a loop not that far down from the main offices of the school. An informal regime of militant, angry, or simply racist black gang leaders and hot-tempered, self-anointed oracles of black power and separation, some of them just petty thieves or ongoing truants,...
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Ever since leaving Woodward High School, I have maintained a furtive relationship with a once-unknown and crumbling motel on Mulberry Street in central Memphis. The Lorraine Motel, one of the only places where black people could even stay in the city, nondescript, unattractive, and a foreclosed property in 1982, is a place about which I have actually...
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Black men, not servile, but focused and hard-working, attended to me in the morning after my arrival in Memphis. Following a gruesome night in my hotel bed, fighting pillows and ghouls, the dawn came through, bright and restorative....
“What kind of country was that?”
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I thought about the Jewish holiday of Shavuot while returning to the Marriott that afternoon. The commemoration had begun at sundown the day before, just hours after my arrival in Memphis. The summer festival honors the fiery, spectacular giving of the Ten Commandments (“inscribed with the finger of God”) at Mount Sinai, which, according to the old Scripture,...
“I was protecting you, man”
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I awoke to a typical, blustery November day in downtown Cincinnati. Today I would see my longtime friend Steve, with whom I walked to Woodward High School regularly over forty years earlier, for the first time in nearly two decades. Looking out from my hotel window onto the city’s trademark Fountain Square, it seemed that there weren’t even any ghosts lingering...
“Thank God we ain’t what we was”
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It was near-surreal and surely astonishing. Even more so because of the natural and easy flow of words and memories that was immediately established between me and my long-contemplated high school chum. Over the next several days, as I returned to California, Clifton and I spoke a number of times over the telephone. His voice was vibrant and aff ectionate. I felt a...
Lightning, Forty Years Later
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In the spring of 2008, with a turbulent campaign in full swing for the Democratic presidential nomination, many people speculated about Barack Obama’s middle name. An archconservative and antagonistic radio talk-show host on WLW Radio in Cincinnati embarrassed the eventual Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, during the days leading up to the crucial Ohio primary on March 4. The announcer, while introducing the senator...
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More than forty years ago, a group of literate, creative, and high-spirited students at Woodward High School in Cincinnati collaborated on and produced a comprehensive, hardback school annual aptly called Woodward Treasures. I did not know them all, and they have gone on to lives and careers and far-flung places. Sadly, a few have already passed...
Page Count: 148
Publication Year: 2010