here 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 unforgettable literary song we won’t soon forget.
John was interviewed live on Intellectual Radio this week on his new book.
John W. Fountain
Award-Winning Columnist, Author, Journalist & Professor
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This is an excerpt from John Fountain’s forthcoming book:
“No Place For Me: Letters to the Church in America"
|John Fountain (Back row, third from left) is pictured here with his siblings and cousins and their grandparents, the Reverend George A. and Missionary Florence G. Hagler at their True Vine Church circa 1970s,|
By John W. Fountain
It wasn’t that I disagreed with the whole idea of “separation of church and state.” For it is difficult for the “political voice” and the “prophetic voice” to coexist. Indeed I have long believed that speaking truth to power requires a certain distance from the established social and political powers that be. That if a preacher ever climbed into bed with politicians he was well soiled before he climbed out. And that once you had been politically tainted you were likely to develop social laryngitis because more than likely you had been bought with a price.
In my eyes, the affairs of faith--even if sometimes connected to the affairs of “the state”--needed a degree of immunity from political corruption and the trappings of politics: money, power, influence.
The “uncompromising man of God,” that I perceived “Reverend Pastor” to be was what helped draw me temporarily from the waters of religious brokenness to the shores of “Resurrection Church.”
"His words blew me away. It wasn’t his words alone but the sum of my experience with organized institutional Christianity."
Award-Winning Columnist, Author, Journalist and Professor, Fountain writes weekly for the Chicago Sun-Times. Fountain has been a reporter at some of the nation's top newspapers. Formerly a national correspondent with the New York Times, he has been a staff reporter at the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. He is a professor at Roosevelt University and formerly a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
By John W. Fountain
What if? What if, instead of going to church this Sunday, the church decided to “be” the church? What if, instead of pouring through the doors of sanctuaries across this city and nation to worship at cathedrals grand and small, congregants collectively flooded the streets of neighborhoods where there is no sanctuary for the poor, the widow and the orphan?
What if, rather than dropping tithes and offerings into the collection plate this Sunday, each family sought instead to find another family less fortunate, perhaps down on their luck, living in a shelter, a car, or out on the street?
Or maybe there is a senior citizen who must choose between buying medication or food. Or someone else for whom a more mobile and less self-serving church might become the vehicle for little miracles. Comfort for a grieving mother. A salve for a sick and dying child.
"...What if one Sunday we veered from the routine,
religion and ritual of church? "