Saturday, March 24, 2012


Trayvon Martin was a teenage African American shot by a vigilante neighborhood watchman who alleges "self defense." If Trayvon Martin was white, and the neighborhood watch shooter was black, there would have been an arrest by now.

"Richard aren't you playing the race card without knowing the facts?" some might ask. That's a valid question and I can only tell you my personal experience.

I've played gospel rock with close friends and collaborators in black churches and know firsthand many black gospel singers and preachers who have been pulled over repeatedly and harassed with no probable cause, simply because they were black and driving a decent car. I'm talking about friends who are the most godly people I know.

At nineteen, I left my hometown of Pittsburgh and went to a Christian college in the South led by a leading televangelist. To my shock, I heard leaders of the ministry, good old white boys, using the "N" word and laughing about it. Don't you find it curious that there is a strange silence from the white church community about Trayvon Martin? All these white evangelicals who claim to love Jesus are silent. They worship the white Republican good old boy Jesus, not the Jesus who healed the sick, fed the five thousand hungry people, healed the brokenhearted, and had good news for the poor. I wrote a song that afternoon in which the lyrics state "I've heard in the South talk of love and kin/but seen some folks hate for a color of skin."

"But Richard, you don't know the facts of what happened," some might say. And they are right. I don't know. I am limited by the information I receive through the media, and the media is prone to mistakes. But I do know that a young black man is often viewed with suspicion in our society because of his race. When Susan Smith, a white Southern woman had a mental breakdown and murdered her children, the first thing out of her mouth was a young black man did it. The media and the vigilantes were out for a lynching. My gut instinct tells me if Trayvon Martin wasn't black he would not have been shot.

The film I'm making currently "Baseball's Last Hero: The Roberto Clemente Story" is going to rip the lid off the racist reporters in my hometown of Pittsburgh and show how they conspired to abuse Roberto and at times rob him of his rightful rewards. The leading paper in my hometown, the Post Gazette, published an editorial in December 2007 saying Obama shouldn't be president because he's black. Regardless of your political affiliation or who you might vote for, what does it say about us if in the 21st century a newspaper has an editorial so blatantly racist? This is a paper that poses as the progressive intelligent voice of Pittsburgh. It's not good enough to use for toilet paper or to line a bird cage to catch the droppings.

The blood of Trayvon Martin calls out from the streets. The good old boy cops in Florida have got to go. And the people praising God in their lily white churches tomorrow morning might remember the Old Testament prophets description of a people who "honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him." And take pause to ask themselves how they would feel if their own teenage child was unarmed and gunned down in the streets?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I remember when my son was born. He gave us a false alarm on March 20, 1991. My wife Sherrie and I rushed to North Hills Passavant Hospital in Pittsburgh. The practice run turned out to be one of the first of my son's pranks. He entered earth the next day. We were up all night at the hospital and he was born around 7 a.m. March 21st. When I left the hospital, I ws tired and hungry so I got an Egg McMuffin at the McDonald's in Wexford, Pa. where my wife and I worked seven years earlier.

I chose two biblical names I liked for our son, Joshua or Jesse, and offered these suggestions to Sherrie. My wife didn't like Jesse, so Joshua it was. I started calling him "Ja" or "Jaja" when he was little, not sure why. A year later, I played some gigs with some reggae Bob Marley musicians and they told me "Ja" is a name for God in their culture, from "Yahweh." Josh is truly a godly person in his worldview and treatment of others. Recently, he urged me to be more patient with a waiter who forgot our order at DuPar's. I was frustrated because dinner was late and I had a gig to rush off to. Josh said "Maybe the waiter's going through something in his personal life. Give him a break Dad and don't say anything." I didn't listen to Josh and complained. Josh was right. The waiter came to the table on the verge of tears and said "So sorry, my Mom just died." I ended up eating crow and felt like crap. I apologized to the waiter for complaining and told the manager everything was fine. Josh's questions and our discussions about life are rooted in intelligence and his grasp of what is eternally important.

21 is a big birthday, in our culture, a rite of passage. I even wrote a coming-of-age novel "Stick Man" about a guy turning 21. 21 is the number for my favorite baseball player, Roberto Clemente, the subject of my next film "Baseball's Last Hero" which is currently in post. I see 21 everywhere right now because my wife taped the number up around our apartment for Josh's birthday. To some, 21 is a big deal because they can go to a bar for the first time. This always seemed strange to me, because I grew up playing guitar in bars with my father since I was a boy and bars our no big deal to me. But I guess to kids who never got to go to one, it makes them feel grown up, like they're finally an adult. Josh is more mature than kids his age, in fact, sometimes I think he's more mature than me. His songwriting is light years ahead of what I wrote at his age. He has grown up to be a tremendous talent as a writer and performer with his band The Aeons. His songs are literate and thoughtful.

Looking across the living room at him last night while we were watching KISS perform on Jimmy Kimmel, I felt incredulous. I still see him vividly as the little boy with long blonde hair that woke me up every morning by jumping on me and challenging me to a wrestling match. He pretended he was Superfly Jimmy Snuka as he leaped and landed on my chest.

Happy Birthday Josh, you don't have to grow up if you don't want to. Here's some lyrics I wrote about the little blonde haired, blue-eyed Jaja:

I love you when I see you run

You're my buddy, my only son

I love you for your big blue eyes

I love you when I realize

God gave you to me

So my heart can be free

You're just like I used to be...

My son has laughing eyes

My son he makes me cry

My son is just like I used to be

Don't grow up too fast and find

What the world can be like before your time

Stay young, my son, your heart is free...

Friday, March 16, 2012


Do you have a dream you want to accomplish? This is a prayer my friend Erich shared with me last week I really like called The Vision Prayer: "God grant me the wisdom to know & understand my visions, the serenity to accept them, and the courage to carry them out, one day at a time. Thy will, not mine be done. Thy will and mine be one..."

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Ed Wood inspires me. If you don't know who Ed Wood is, watch Johnny Depp's portrayal in the movie "Ed Wood." He was voted the worst director of all time and his film "Plan 9 From Outer Space" was voted worst movie of all time by the Golden Turkey Awards.

Ed made his films, even though people said he had no talent. He was homeless, carless, and phoneless some of the time and had to bum rides to set. He also has some pathologies, alcoholism and transvestism.

But he made seven films in Hollywood. He finished his films. That's more than you can say for his critics. He loved movies ever since he was a kid and he did what he loved. He even convinced the First Baptist Church of Beverly Hills to fund "Plan Nine From Outer Space." The church building is still there on Cynthia Street and I've attended services there. Some congregants still remember Ed and the day he and his cast of characters were baptized.

I'm making a movie about my childhood hero Roberto Clemente. I've been working on the story since I was nine years old. We're done shooting and now we are editing. We have wonderful volunteer editors and are moving forward. But I needed some inspiration yesterday so I watched some Ed Wood.

I am inspired as a filmmaker by Ed's tenacity. When I feel like giving up, I watch Ed and get inspired not to quit. I tell myself 'If Ed could make 7 films in Hollywood despite all his obstacles, I can finish my film.'

May the tenacity and joy Ed displayed in his films be with you always...