It’s hard to imagine, for the rest of my career, a phone interview as moving as the one I did with the artist Lonnie Holley—speaking in an inimitable style much like his music, so that you can’t quite tell if he’s rambling or totally in control, he talked about the traumas of his life (being sold to a whiskey house, locked up and beaten in an industrial school, starting sculpting by making tombstones for relatives that died in a fire) and then improvised a five-minute song. At one point, he said, “I don’t want pity for what I had to go through. I only want humans to hear my testimony and understand that life is not always easy.” And then he went on:
There are so many rocks and so many broken stones and so many nails and sticks and weeds and debris and garbage and trash, and we have to plow and mine the worst things on this earth to make them better, and to make us better, so we can show the world: I can handle it. I can deal with it. I can live with it. I can go on. All of this stuff we call hell, how can I take from that hell and make it better?
All of which is to say: listening to Lonnie Holley, and following his art, can be very rewarding. George King, a documentary filmmaker, has been doing just that for two decades. Clips from his film-in-progress, The Lonnie Holley Story, are what caught my eye in the first place; he’s making an extraordinary record. Now, King is asking for help to fund the film. If you contribute to his campaign before April 14th, a donor will match you dollar-for-dollar. Optimistically, King says, the documentary will come out later this year. Would love to see it.