The world wide web is full of news about the arrest and release of DJ Drama, the Atlanta based mixed tape artist. A recent NYT Sunday Magazine article refers to Drama's father fleetingly as "civil rights activist". Nick (that is the name I have chosen for him) is a civil rights activist who has totally internalised the values of the civil rights movement and is one person whom I have the honour of calling my friend.
For me a friend is someone who will challenge your assumptions, how so ever closely held these are. I remember one conversation Nick, Carrie (my name for his partner) and I had in November of 2005 which lasted late into the night and at the end of which, I was shocked, angry and absolutely flabbergasted. The conversation was about race, white privilege and class. Until that moment, I thought I had the "right" opinions but opinions are not enough, I had not interrogated my privilege and how that was capable of actually undermining the development of the communities I claimed to be working for. Nick had the honesty to lay bare the facts for me. I didn't accept what he said then and there and it hurt to think that idealist, do-gooder me could in fact be perpetuating hegemony. But I thought over his words for days and days and then the reality dawned.
There is a magnetic quality to Nick's personality, Nick and Carrie would throw open their doors for events every once in a while when friends and their friends are invited to join them for an evening of film, lecture and discussion. But it is not all talk either. Very very few people in today's world are willing to place their principles above everything, including career prospects, wealth and fame. Nick is one among the few who has done that and I am sure if given another opportunity will do it again.
No, Nick is not perfect, nor am I or you my reader. However, what makes him special is the combination of personality traits that is very difficult to come by in today's world. Recently, one of my clients told me that his sister lives in Philadelphia and I felt a tug in my heart, since Philly is after all Nick's town.