“No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.”
If I had anything about me, I’d have written this before Gil died. But I am useless. I know this, you should too. I assume you now do. However, maybe what I may have written about them would have been totally different. There’s a reason for writing this.
For Christmas my auntie and uncle gave me a copy of Gil’s memoir, The Last Holiday. It took me 4 days to read it. I wasn’t reading much a day, but today I just sat on my bed and read 200 pages. I refused to put the book down because with every page, every word; I was learning something. Not just about Gil and his world; but the way the world is now.
For my 15th birthday, my auntie and uncle (they are the ones responsible for certain bands I love) gave me a CD of Gil and a copy of The Last Poets debut spoken word album. I was at an age where most of my hate was aimed at myself and unsure of how I could leave a place I hated so so much. Through listening to their words, I fast realised that the way out was education. It was the only way. Alright so I’m back here, but I know I need to leave here. I don’t think anyone truly will ever understand how this fuck of a place destroys me. Some days its little parts of me that are tossed aside and destroyed. Other days it is more than that. But I keep it hidden, because I have to. I know when I leave here, it will be for good and I will not come back. If I can leave Stoke, another place that held my spirits prisoner; I can do the same here. If you’re free in the mind, you are free. It’s hard to keep hold of that when you feel trapped. And your best efforts are continuously rejected. I’ll get there, more than likely with no help because there is nothing anyone can do is there.
Gil Scott-Heron was the creator of a movement that was vital. Thing is, we need someone like him now. But is there any hope for it? Maybe there is, there just has to be. We cannot stay hopeless forever.
As much as I’d love to touch on the importance of Gil. I think most of this is going to come from what The Last Holiday has done, for me.
I write. I write badly, I know I do. This isn’t for attention. It’s just the truth. I know I can do better, but I never seem to get there. So I carry on. Much against the wishes of some, I know. But they’re highly irrelevant aren’t they. I do think one day I will write something I am proud of. But self-doubt is a thing that keeps me going. When I apply for jobs I think, “I’m going to get ignored or rejected but fuck it…one day I’ll get a yes.” I cling onto “one day” because when that goes, I am more fucked than I already am. I try to channel every ugly thing I am into something worthwhile; writing. I know I write far too personally, but after reading The Last Holiday, I realised it isn’t a bad thing. If you cannot ope up about certain things in life, then you’re going to be alone. If you think the world owes you, you’re going to be alone. If you’re going to always expect bad things, then maybe you deserve it. I read The Last Holiday with no expectations. As I reached the final page I felt every question I had ever wanted to be answered, were answered. Maybe you could say I am now enlightened. I’m not sure.
There is one part of the book that stands out for me in ways I cannot begin to describe, but I’ll mention it anyway.
Gil mentions a young boy reading his essay as to why Martin Luther Jr deserved to have a day in his honour, and as a remembrance of his death. The young boy struggled to read his essay as some of the words were faded and hard to read. Diana Ross was stood next to the young boy, and she had her arm around him. When the young boy couldn’t read certain words, she helped him. For some reason this brought tears to my eyes. One- because the boy needed help but didn’t ask, but was given it. Two-because we no longer have compassion like this anymore. We don’t bat an eyelid to violence anymore, and it is wrong. Not to mention heartbreaking.
With everything he ever wrote and spoke, Gil had the power to make you feel as if you were there with him. Right next to him seeing it all happen the way he did. Every trauma and every piece of success, you felt it. I’ve said many times there are only a few that instilled a love of words in me. Gil is evidently one of the very few. I cannot understand how anyone couldn’t be moved by his words and just the way he was. A man who loved learning and loved words. He was so rare. So very rare.
Some have called him the “Black Bob Dylan.” It pisses me off because colour should never be an issue. It should never be about the colour of your skin; but people put that first because they lack the imagination to say something of worth. Gil Scott-Heron was is own, much like Bob Dylan is his own. There’s no one else like them, regardless of colour.
As I was reading The Last Holiday, I went back 11 years in my mind to when I was 15 years old hearing Gil’s words for the very first time. Then it dawned on me, we’ll never hear or read something new from him again. But what he gave us was more than words. He gave us comfort, strength and belief. I think The Last Holiday is going to mean to me what Just Kids by Patti Smith does. It’ll go beyond being a book, it’ll turn into a guide for life. A piece of literature offering everything I cannot find anywhere else.