by rick grant
When Doug Saint Carter wrote a biography of the late-great Jackie Wilson titled Jackie Wilson: The Black Elvis, he never dreamed that he had stirred up a hornet’s nest among people who completely misunderstood the title and the book’s biography of one of the greats of pop music. For Doug, it was an unexpected reaction to his exhaustive non-fiction work.
During his book signings and promotional speeches, he had to explain that Jackie Wilson billed himself as “The Black Elvis” and was good friends with Elvis, who jokingly billed himself as the white Jackie Wilson. The two artists freely stole stage moves from one another. Race never interfered with their relationship.
Doug’s experience with African-American audiences and their negative criticism of his book prompted Doug to get involved with civic groups in Jacksonville. The groups were formed to promote better race relations between whites and blacks, but seemed still caught in the same old bureaucratic quagmire.
His experiences led to this book, Drinking from the Cup, the title of which alludes to a Martin Luther King Jr. speech in which he states, “Learn to love your white brothers and sisters; don’t drink from the cup of bitterness and hate.”
This well-written and meticulously researched book takes the reader on Doug’s real life journey through the treacherous minefields of forging better race relations. His candid documentary style uncovers the conundrum of African-American alienation from whites. “Do blacks even want to have better relations with whites?” Doug asks rhetorically in the book.
To get a more personal perspective, I called Doug. I first asked him about what his motivation was for writing the book, and also to clarify some of my nagging questions.
“I wrote the book Drinking from the Cup to explore the race relations between blacks and whites in America. My previous book Jackie Wilson: The Black Elvis took quite a hit from blacks simply because of the title. So, I got involved in a local study focused on improving race relations.
“Jackie Wilson was an icon in the black community. However, he was one of the first crossover artists to appeal to whites. Because of Jackie’s close affiliation with Anglo record markets, blacks turned their backs on him. When I attended the study group, I was the only person in the room that broached the subject of better race relations. I was met with silence on the subject.
“So it comes down to this question: What will it take to improve the relationship between blacks and whites? My answer is that people need an attitude adjustment. Unfortunately, every time I ask the question to an African-American spokesperson they all stress ‘economics.’
“Attitudes will change when economics improve. So what’s the price tag? There are plenty of examples of people who came from poor neighborhoods, who go to college and make successes out of their lives such as Michelle Obama. She came from a working class neighborhood. She went to Harvard Law School and joined a prestigious law firm.”
Drinking from the Cup was written and printed before Barack Obama was elected to the White House. Indeed, Obama’s election as President of the United States sets a new paradigm for race relations. His historic rise to leader of the free world raised the consciousness of everyone.
Doug Saint Carter’s must-read book leads us into this new dawn of racial harmony. It sets the stage for this new era as blacks and whites stood side by side to get Obama elected. His election bridges the great-divide. Doug sees this historic event as a time for true change.
“It’s time to come together and put the past behind us and move on into the new world of positive race relations, while celebrating our differences.”
drinking from the cup
by rick grant