John H. Watson, 1975
(Excerpted from Holmes & Watson, LLC: Goodnight, My Love
copyright 2023, Joseph Warren)

This is the start of my second year at Howard. I thought it was time that I began a journal of my thoughts as I made my way through higher education toward my ultimate goal of becoming a medical doctor, as I had promised my mother I would. As she reminded me every day before I left for college, I am here in spite of my academic performance, which really wasn’t that bad and improved considerably in my last year of high school once I landed on something I wanted to do for a career other than chase after girls I didn’t stand a chance with, being nearly all of them. This journal, I feel, will prove useful in my later life and give me a resource to fall back on when researching things I’ve done in my life at that point when preparing for the inevitable award acceptance speech.

When I was accepted to Howard I made every effort to adopt the right attitude. I think I have: I read a lot more than I did, ever, and participate in discussion groups where we rap about what’s going on with our people in politics, literature, and in the civil rights movement. I am nowadays completely down with it. Also, I smoke a lot less dope, having cut back to no more than four or five times a week. But I need to do better. I grew a beard which I think gives me more of an intelligent look, but which my mother says makes me look like a young Uncle Remus. Maybe shave it off? We’ll see.

Howard’s a great school. There are many other people here who really care about our people and what’s happening with them. I’m down with that too. They’re constantly organizing events important to advancing our cause in exercising our voting rights and in gaining access to those same rights for other colored people in the south who are still disenfranchised through manipulation and control of voter offices in the south, especially where the Klan is still active. (I forgot that I’m supposed to call us
Black now instead of colored, but I’m writing in ink. I’ll remember in the future.) The Student Union wanted to get a Klan member to speak to us, but we held a sit-in and that was that. The people I hang with aren’t down with that confrontation thing.

Brothers from the Nation of Islam are on campus quite a bit. They teach respect: I like that and what they have to say. I think more of us should be down with them, but it’s a strict code they adhere to, and the pigs are always on their backs. I can’t risk expulsion from school.

Like nearly every other student here, I live off campus owing to a lack of on-campus housing, which is fine with me. I live only two blocks away in a house nearly twenty of us occupy. I’m not sure who pays the rent, ultimately, but I know I give Jerome forty-five dollars cash every month and we haven’t been thrown out yet and the lights are still on, but the phone right now, isn’t.

It’s a good place to live. There is much spirited conversation about things going on around us here in DC and in the world today. It’s a very active university with a lot of student involvement. We frequently host concerts of very popular up-coming singers who play college crowds like Kool & the Gang, George McCrae, the Spinners, and a few musicians who used to work for Motown who have a group called the Funk Brothers. There was a female singer here last week named Gladys Knight with a group she called the Pips: They dressed really cool and danced amazing. I’ve been practicing some of their moves in my room and I’m getting pretty good. I thought I’ll talk to a couple of the girls here who sing and see what they think about putting together a vocal group like Gladys’s. One of them is a girl named Geri Allen. She said she’d think about it but really wants to just play music – jazz, she says. She’s a pianist. I don’t think she’ll amount to much playing piano. I told her so. Now she just gives me the finger when I see her.

Big news so far this year is about Arthur Ashe winning at Wimbledon. Nobody I know plays tennis, but it’s very cool anyway that
one of our people took the crown, or whatever it’s called. Same thing with Coleman Young being elected as the first Black mayor of Detroit. And Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s record. We’re movin’ on up!

People are talking more about Marian Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund she set up a couple of years ago, and there’s some talk about her speaking at Howard in a month or two. Definitely something I want to get down with.

I went to a party at another house last week. It was just music and dope and people acting like they’re important when they’re not. It’s just something people do: I understand that, but still. There was this guy there, Sherlock, I think was his name. He’s a real good example of someone who suffers from what Freud would call
Egomania. I’ve been reading a lot of Freud lately and I can’t help but think how right-on he was about so many things in my own life and in everyone else’s too.

I was talking with a bunch of people and this guy Sherlock walks up and just starts correcting people right in the middle of what they were saying. He corrected their grammar. He corrected their opinions. He corrected them about their theories, and then when the
joint came around to him he took it and walked off and finished it himself. We just lit it! That’s rude.

Later that night I talked to him again. He was pretty mellow by that time. We smoked another couple of J’s and talked until maybe three in the morning. He’s really a pretty good guy with a lot of insight into our people and what we’ve been through, once he calms down.

He looked pretty white to me so I asked. He said he was from a mixed-race slave background. Because I am too, we smoked another
joint and talked some more. He knows a lot more about history than I do. He knows a lot more about science than I do and I want to be a medical doctor. Go figure!

I asked him what his major was and he told me that I was being
plebian. I made a mental note to look the word up. I did and it wasn’t very kind of him. He did look at me weirdly when I said, Thanks, but I guess he won’t remember owing to how much dope we smoked. I barely did.

My mother would think he was very smart and be a good influence on me, so maybe I’ll hang with him more, as long as he doesn’t cramp my style. I really want to work on the vocal thing and get my groove on too.

That’s it for the journal today. I’ll keep this going. Who knows? Maybe some day I’ll write something worth reading.

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