By John W. Fountain
    It has been a cold, cold winter. But I’ve known colder. In January 1979, snow blanketed the prairie, piled up like icy, white mountains. I was a freshman at the University of Illinois in Champaign. The blizzard forced the cancellation of classes, ushered our world to a momentary standstill, eerily silent and frozen.
I remember trudging across campus through the frosted tundra. Then it grew colder: news that my father had been killed in a car accident. It hit like an unsuspecting storm.
Then came my trek from the snow-laden Midwest to Evergreen, Ala., to stand, finally, face to face above the casket of the man who had deserted us by the time I was 4. My collection of red-clay dirt by which to remember him. My tearless farewell to the father whose absence left me with a certain internal—perhaps eternal—coldness.


By John W. Fountain
"John W. Fountain"
      The “Roundtable” is dead. Dead like leaves fallen from brown, barren trees that now stand naked in the cold. Dead is the place for me that once represented a community of brothers who found camaraderie, solace and laughter over a cup of Joe at a south suburban coffee shop. Oh, it still rumbles with laughter, I suspect. But it is dead—to me. As dead as Lincoln Mall.
Some of the guys—mostly black, middle age to seniors, with a smattering of young'uns—still gather for chats about sports, politics and current events. I used to go there for the morning fare. But something’s been lost.
Perhaps it has to do with the removal of chairs and tables last summer from the café’s patio—something “management” said had to do with the new smoking policy in Illinois. Except there was no absence of patio furniture at most of the coffee house’s other area cafés.


By John W. Fountain
"John W. Fountain"
These are a few lessons on life written to my daughter. Some of them are rooted in the wisdom of my dearly departed grandmother. Some rinsed with humor. Some stem from my own experience—and even my mistakes—as a man. All are shared in hope and concern. And perhaps in them lie lessons for all daughters:
Dear daughter, don’t embrace the privilege of being my daughter but reject the responsibility of being my daughter. I love you no less when I am giving you words of wisdom and lessons that you find difficult than when I am giving you good gifts. You need both for your journey into—and throughout—womanhood.


By John W. Fountain
"John W. Fountain"  There are children here, though scarred and battered. Big dreams shattered. Big-city tattered. Ghetto fractured. And sometimes, all that matters here is getting home safe each day, under each new school-day sun. Escaping bloody pools that run, sometimes like rivers here, on the darkest side of fear—cascading waterfalls of salty tears beneath their veneer of adult masks that cause some to wonder, to ask, "Where are the children, here?"
Hollow eyes stare into space. Mournful cries yearn for grace. And yet, little brown boys with baby faces, and little brown girls with curls and lace frolic on some golden, sun-drenched days. Jump rope with joy and laughter ablaze. Rough-house in vacant lots—play all day—while some stand afar gazing and still see: No children here.
"John W. Fountain"But I see them. Brown, or black like me. Some scarred like me. Scared like me—once a ghetto child. Hardening—hearts half calcified—by life lived under the constant shadow of death, where chaos is the score that too often resounds between each breath. Here, where poverty hangs like a hornet's nest. Where hope unseen is still a treasure chest.


By John W. Fountain
     It was a strange number calling from some corner of “Occupy” New York: “Hey Unc!” a familiar voice rang.
     “Hey, man,” I said to my nephew.
     “Did you get the ticket?” he asked, his enunciation ever prim and proper.
     “Not yet,” I said regarding the train ticket he’d asked if I could purchase so he could get home to Chicago for Thanksgiving.
     Honestly, as a hard-working man, who believes everyman should earn his keep, I had some reluctance shelling out dough for a young man—even a beloved nephew—who was chillin’ in the Big Apple,


By John W. Fountain
  So here we go again: Marching to court to witness a cadre of mostly white, well-paid lawyers argue about the future of mostly black children because of a lawsuit brought by a stubborn, predominantly black school board that contends the district doesn’t have enough green to go around.
     Truth is, this case seems more about bruised egos, less about the good of the children—all at the taxpayers’ expense.
     It’s enough to make me throw up. Maybe I ought to carry a paper bag in my suit pocket to the Illinois Appellate Court hearing this morning, just in case I can’t make it to the restroom.
     It has been nearly two years since I first attended