[HPN] A loss in StreetWrites

Anitra Freeman anitra@speakeasy.org
Fri, 7 Apr 2000 10:29:51 -0700 (PDT)

We received word last week that a member of StreetWrites, Elluage
Anthony, has died.  We will be publishing a two-page tribute to Elluage
in the April 15 issue of the Real Change, and I will put it online with
a photo and some of his poetry.  In the meantime, here is what I have
written for the issue:

There are other people who know when Elluage was born, where he went to
school, what he did during most of his life.  We know him from his work
with Real Change and StreetWrites.  He spoke passionately; he raged
against the drug dealers that turned swaths of his city into a
wasteland, and against police who persecuted the innocent; an educated,
intellectual and widely read black man, he raged against blacks who
stereotyped themselves as well as others who stereotyped them; and he
loved as passionately as he raged.  He wrote in flights of ecstatic
imagery and read them like jazz.  He enthused about other writers; he
would bring books to us, saying, "You must read Adrienne Rich!"  He gave
me a volume of the Pushcart Prize stories, to raise my sites in writing
markets.  He enthused about artists; he introduced his friend Selma to
StreetLife Gallery; he said, "You must see Colleen McEllroy's work!"  

He was generous in many other ways; he bought lunch for other members of
the editorial committee when we couldn't afford it; he was generous with
his time and his energy and his heart when he was ill and in pain.  He
struggled with lung cancer for the years that we knew him; we usually
saw him with his portable oxygen tank, and he spoke his passionate words
around long gasps through breathing tubes.  

We knew for several years that we had him on borrowed time, that every
time we got a new poem from him, or he came to a performance or to an
editorial meeting, that it was a gift.  It was still a shock and a grief
to hear from Professor McEllroy that we had finally lost him.  I
procrastinated writing this tribute.  I'm crying now for the first time,
as I write, and now I know why I delayed.  I'm making it real, now.  I'm
admitting that Elluage is gone.

Elluage was Christian.  He would want me to be assured that he is alive
forever now, in the joyful Presence of God, free from pain and the
trials of our imperfect world.  I am Christian, too, and I also believe
that Elluage's great soul is eternal -- but in my human heart, I grieve,
not for Elluage but for myself, as we all do, all of us who will
selfishly miss him.  Yes, I am glad for what we had, and I am glad for
the poems and the memories he left behind.  But I'm going to be crying
for a while yet.  I wanted more.

Write On! / Anitra L. Freeman / http://www.speakeasy.org/~anitra/
"Never doubt that a small group of imperfect people can improve the
world--indeed they are the only ones who ever have." Not Margaret Mead