By LISA M. McLAUGHLIN
…with voices shouting out how much times
I hear echoes from the past
saying much is still the same.
From A.D. 19 of 41 by Trebor
In Robert Hardy’s Red Bank apartment, a framed poster of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the text of his “I Have a Dream” speech hang above a large fish tank that is eerily without fish. Neatly piled boxes containing copies of Hardy’s recent self-published book “Images” sit in one corner of his living room.
The book is Hardys third, following “A Voice in You” in 1987, and “A Soul Exposed” in 2000, all written under the the pseudonym “Trebor.”
Quite an output for someone who says that he doesn’t like to write. So why do it?
“It’s like someone is dictating to me,” Hardy says. “Whatever comes, I just put it down.”
Hardy’s compulsion is born of, and steeped in, the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and ’60s.
A 49-year-old native of Trenton, Hardy moved to Selma, Alabama, and then spent the first ten years of his life commuting between Selma and Red Bank.
In Selma, he would stay with an aunt or his beloved grandmother, Bama Cherry. There, one night he “heard talk about a march,” he says.
“I equated that to ‘parade.’ You know marching bands and everything,” he says.
It was the first in a series of three marches culminating in the historic one from Selma to Montgomery led by King. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, ending some discriminatory voting practices, was a product of the inequities that the marches called attention to.
Hardy also saw King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, at a church in Selma later that month.
In 1977, while stationed with the Army in Alaska as a fire control crewman for the Nike-Hercules air defense missile system, Hardy began writing in earnest as a way to distill the African-American history that he devoured through reading during that period of his life.
Hardy now works full-time as a security guard at Riverview Medical Center, where he’s been employed for 14 years. Talented colleagues at Riverview have provided illustrations for his books.
His inspiration comes primarily from people and events, he says, including the memories of relatives, some still alive, who participated in the freedom march Montgomery. These relatives, and the shared family history, serve as a constant reminder of that powerful event. (A cousin from Newark recently saw a photograph of the march in Jet magazine and easily recognized himself in the photo he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt on the day of the march, Hardy says.)
Hardy writes at least one poem a year commemorating King; some of these works have informed projects for committees on which he serves at Riverview: the Community Advisory Committee, the Employee Campaign, and the Cultural Diversity Committee.
In 1998, Coretta Scott King attended a Wellness Conference at the hospital; Hardy was invited to read some of his work and got to meet Mrs. King and tell her he had seen her in Selma when he was a child.
Hardy never knows when his is going to write; he has “written on the bus, written in the supermarket,” he says. He finds he writes the most when he has “the least to think about” in terms of distractions.
A divorced father of three daughters Yolonda, Natosha, and Nyrie and grandfather of five, Hardy writes in longhand and never edits his work. “Basically, five or ten minutes and Im done,” he says. He keeps a log of each piece he writes.
“What I enjoy most is the different connections that are made by actions that one takes,” he says. “I mean, who would have ever thought I would stand on stage with Coretta Scott King one day from writing a poem? Thats something I try to tell my girls you never know what can happen.”
Now if you listen closely
You still can hear their plea.
Along with Cinque from the Armistad,
in perfect harmony,
Give Us Free.
From Give Us Free by Trebor