Thursday, April 2, 2015

B = Bloods: A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015: History Stories and the Telling of Them

Quick Performance Update (next two weeks):
    Apr. 3, 4, 6, 7 & 13 - Performances for Worldstrides, Inc. Student Tour Groups in Williamsburg, VA. 
    Sat., Apr. 11 - Lancaster Court Days, @Mary Washington Library and Museum, Lancaster, VA; 10 am – 4 pm (Oney Judge Historic Character Presentation, Ol’ Bess Historic Character Presentation, General Storytelling)

     Other Apr. performances:  California (Hawthorne); South Carolina (Woodruff), Virginia (Herndon, Oregon, Portsmouth, Williamsburg)
     Upcoming May performances:  California (Fresno); New York (Westchester County); VA (Norfolk, Williamsburg), West Virginia (Shepherdstown)

This is my second day writing as a part of the A-Z Blogging Challenge 2015.  My theme is “History Stories and the telling of them.”  My desire is to share some history facts and the stories I think are intriguing around them, along with some ways I’ve told history stories and techniques of researching and telling historical stories.  Day 2….

B = Bloods


I am a voracious reader and always have been.  One of the gifts I gave myself was to keep a copy of my favorite books from my teen days; not that I have read each of them more than twice, but I like having them on hand. Some of my favorite books as a teen that I have collected are For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell, The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter, The Elephant Man by Christine Sparks, Just Above my Head by James Baldwin, The Second Son by Charles Sailor, and Bloods by Wallace Terry.

Bloods:  Black Veterans of the Vietnam War – An Oral History was one of my favorite books because of its discussion of the Vietnam War.  My father fought in that war, but in my teen years he never talked about it although he was a career military man.  As a matter of fact, on my strongest teenaged memories is of when I was watching a made-for-television movie about the anti-Vietnam riots at Kent State.  It just happened to be on t.v., and I was excited to watch, but when my Dad walked into our family t.v. room and saw what I was watching, he slammed the television off, told me that was “crap I was watching” and sent me to an early bedtime.  I had never seen this type of visceral reaction from my father and it made me want to learn more about Vietnam.  Bloods is a book of narratives of black men who fought in Vietnam, and I allowed myself to hear my father through the words, and was appalled about what he must have faced, and yet, comforted.

It wasn’t until the movie “Platoon”, starring the “good” Charlie Sheen - J, that my father was finally able to talk about Vietnam to our family.  We used to do family movies about once a year, and that year, while my family was visiting me in college at UNC-Charlotte, we went to see the newly released and highly publicized movie.  (Oh, “we” was my father, my mother, my youngest sister and myself.)  Well, the movie was filled with many curse words, and after a fairly lengthy string of colorful words were spoken, my mother gasped and said, “They certainly curse a lot.”  My father turned to her and said, loud enough (and passionate enough) for the entire family to hear, “Well, it’s war, Earlene!  Of course, there was cursing!”  We were three stunned women!  However, when we had dinner afterwards, Dad opened up and shared about his experiences in the war.  I was appalled about what my father faced as a part of Psychological Operations Warfare division, and yet, comforted knowing that my father had found a way to keep his humanity, and share his humanity, even with some Vietnamese.

In my newest program, “We Own the Night”:  Storytelling and Poetry for Teens about the Movements of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, I have a section about the anti-Vietnam War movement.  I sing the song, “War” made famous by Edwin Starr, "War" video song.  Although the teachers love to hear the song, the students usually haven’t heard it, consequently, I teach them the refrain and have them join me:  “War, unhhh, what is it good for?  Absolutely nothing.”  It’s fun to watch.  Then I sit down on the chair I tell one of the narratives from Bloods in a man’s voice.  In deepest silence the attendees listen to the words, and, at the end of the program, many express their understanding of what it meant to fight a war abroad and a civil rights fight in their own country.  Then some teachers quietly say, “I think they just realized that this opposition against war is not a new thing…..and I thank you for helping them see the humanity of soldiers.”

Thanks, Wallace Terry, for helping me see the humanity of soldiers…and now all these years later to share these stories with a new generation.  [Take a listen to PBS special below.]
Bloods in 'Nam, PBS special

Have you had a family member that fought in war and shared their memories?  How did those memories affect you?  Have you met people affected by the war and unable to share?  Do you think “stories” will help them?  Oh, and what are some of your favorite books from your teenage years?  Do you still have them?  Why did you keep them?

What am I reading?  Currently reading “Revolution in World Missions” by K. P. Yohannan.  Most recent line I just HAD to underline (and actually sharing it this time) - "One piece of advice did stick, however.  Every Christian leader should have this engraved in his subconscious:  No matter what you do, never take yourself too seriously.”


  1. Sheila, you brought back many memories, some pleasant; some not, about Vietnam. Although I was mostly insulated from 'in-country' as I was serving on a carrier in the Tonkin Gulf, I had friends who fought and died in-country. Indeed, 'What's it good for...?' I believe that stories would eventually help vets cope with the stress. You never cease to amaze me with your compassion and love for people. It is an honor to know you.

    1. Robert, again, I apologize for the delayed response to your comment on my second A-Z Blogging Challenge Blog "Bloods". Thank you for your service, Robert. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to lose friends while in war. I hope that we will find ways for veterans to tell their stories more often. Thank you for the encouragement and the kind words. The feeling is mutual about knowing you. Peace, my friend.

  2. Great post Sheila, my Uncle was in Vietnam, I remember listening to the nightly news for word of his unit as we had lost contact with him. It took quite a long while before the family was informed he was in a hospital with Hepatitis, a reoccurrence, he initially incurred when in service in Korea. This is the way history should be taught!! Both sides of the equation should be viewed and discussed, each had their reasons and beliefs, "with understand comes knowledge" Thank You!

  3. meant to have "understanding" sorry