When I was trying to find my place in this cruel world as a poor black boy on a white college campus, Eric Jerome Dickey offered me $20 dollars and a seat at his table. He saw me scrapping up my coins to get a sandwich. At the time, I thought he was just some rich man trying to hurry up through line when he said, “That's all you want kid? Put it on my card.” I had zero idea who he was. He sat. We talked about dreams and making do as black men, as writers and life. Then, he left. He gave me a business card and told me, “Anytime, that I needed him to call.”
A young fine Delta walked up and was excited saying, “You know Eric Jerome Dickey freshman?” I was like, “Who?” She was like stop playing, “Eric, You was just sitting with him.” Bro had told me his name was Thomas. Lol. I guess he realized that I had zero idea who I was talking to. I check the card it was Eric or as I liked to call him my mentor aka YODA. Why? Simple. He had all the answers.
For 18 years, he always answered my call. The last five, I think were the mentor years where he ripped and clawed what I thought writing was. The previous 13- pretty sure he was waiting on me to be serious. I called today. Today, he didn't answer. I'm not sure what to write about that. I'm not sure what poems are meant to come from this. I have lost so many words over time. It hurts. I guess God needed another griot. Maybe King David is tired of writing Psalms and needs a new perspective. Guess, I'll have to imagine the stars as the untold books. Mr. Dickey said once, “Aye, kid you gotta write like somebody is reading it.” He was a believer in revision and trial by fire. Quick, witty and a true Alpha Man. I asked him one time was he just taking pity because I was his chapter brother from The University of Memphis- Kappa Eta Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., or did he just take exception to me being a black writer. He promptly and with a fiery anger said, “No, but those two things helped.” I am not sure to this day why he answered so many of my questions.
Yet, I still know very little. His time was precious and the quarterly or so quick phone calls or messages were always geared to what content and message are you wanting to leave. When I saw him back on campus, I yelled out “Thomas, let me get you a sandwich.” He came for a lecture our chapter had brought him to speak. He was brilliant and one of the most gifted thinkers. Over the years, it became less about trying to be the next great writer and more about witnessing one of the best writers of our time. The way he moved words was magic; however, the way he inspired us to see “us” in those pages was the true fantasy. Creating and bolstering a movement to Black writers who focused on Contemporary and complex rich characters is what brought so much hope to boys like me. Boy who never saw themselves in the pages but could always see themselves behind bars. He freed us to imagine so many possibilities of moving words in lieu of dope.
Mr. Dickey said once, “Every day a million miracles begin at sunrise.” I have long took that quote for granted but as I age, I realize how poignant it actually is. Every day we wake a million miracles will be birthed and one day the miracle that we represent to this world will be gone. Each blink and breath bring us closer to our final pen stroke and chapter. Yet, we write blindly and feverishly in search of the perfect book between the covers. Even now- I know I probably should revise this but I won’t. I want it raw and unfiltered. Eric wrote on a chalkboards years back in a lecture- somethings have to be this way. I realize now what he was trying to tell me all these years. It doesn’t matter how the book turns out if you aren’t concerned with how the audience will see it when you leave the room.
It is not about the quality of the story but the effort in which it was written. The quality will come through the effort and diligence to your craft. So....Did you give everything you had? Did you revise and correct the mistakes? Did you show the characters love and care? Did you love? Eric did. I am proud to call him mentor. I know he mentored so many. Maybe I am just possessive of his teachings. I am sure I am because everyone that ever read, studied, or came in contact will swear that they are the closest. I know I am not. I like to pretend to be. Truthfully, I was just grateful of all the conversations and help. I became a better poet, writer and man. In many ways, we are all right because that is how Mr. Dickey wrote the book. He made all of us central characters with a singular theme of living your best life. Ain’t that just like him to leave us always wanting another chapter of another book of another story? Ain’t that how it ought to be with the best of the writers? Rest Well Good Brother. Your job was done so well.
Timothy “Urban Thoughts” Moore