Yesterday brought news that rocked the world of art and culture.  Two African American giants, one of art and one of music, are gone, fallen to COVID-19:  artist, art historian and curator Dr. David Driskell, and jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis.  In today’s Thoughtful Thursday we pay tribute to these great men.

Dr. David Driskell helped define the scope and scholarship of black art through his monumental 1976 exhibit, “Two Centuries of Black American Art 1750–1955,” which opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1976.  He inspired, encouraged and nurtured so many black artists, art historians and curators, and facilitated acquisitions of black art by museums and individual collectors, especially black collectors.

Ellis Marsalis put “New Orleans jazz” on the map through his playing and teaching. He guided his four sons, including Wynton and Branford, to very successful musical careers.  He was an extraordinary music teacher to many other students who went on to have great careers as well, including Terence Blanchard and Harry Connick, Jr.  “My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father,”Branford said in a statement to the New York Times. “He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be.”

The poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) and Maya Angelou (1928-2014)  comforts us in our grief, and reminds us that the legacies of these men will live on. They may be gone but will never be forgotten.  Share these poems and the stories of these great men with your children.  Enjoy.



I had not known before
Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
I had not heard.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
And bleeds and burns.

The night is not all dark,
Nor is the day all it seems,
But each may bring me this relief—
My dreams and dreams.

I had not known before
That Never was so sad a word,
So wrap me in forgetfulness—
I have not heard.

Paul Laurence Dunbar


When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

Maya Angelou