Mandingo, Marvin Gaye & The Friends Who Fuel My Fire


June 9, 2020 by John Nicholas Prassas

Book_Cover_MANDINGOAs a white kid in the suburbs there was little reason for me to cry about slavery or injustice.

But there I was with tears welling.

I had just read the scandalous best-seller Mandingo and had witnessed the cruelty, injustice and all-too-casual murder that accompanied Antebellum slavery in America, through my mind’s eye.

And it made me want to cry.

I had loved Mede the Mandingo slave and ‘fighting buck’ at the center of that story and was inspired by his athletic prowess and strength of character. Thus I was heartbroken when his sudden death exposed the ultimate dysfunction and hypocrisy of his white masters.

I felt like I had lost a friend.

About that same time Marvin Gaye dropped his hit song, What’s Going On, inspired by an act of police brutality witnessed by one of Gaye’s co-writers.

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, eh eh

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, oh oh oh

That song spoke to my soul and made me feel like Marvin was a friend of mine from that day forward. That was almost 50 years ago.

Since then other black friends have helped shape my life and outlook:

* Marc Mills is a longtime friend and former teammate whose incredible mental discipline and drive led him to Harvard, the London School of Economics and to a brilliant life in business and youth coaching. He and his family helped me see beyond color to character.

* Kermit Washington was an LA Lakers power forward who invited me to train with him at his home near my high school. His humility, good humor and extraordinary work ethic made him a great workout buddy, friend and inspiration. He planted a seed of possibility in my heart that with enough effort even I could become a pro athlete some day.

* Franklin King was my first pro football camp roommate whose massive body, big heart, huge laugh and thick Bible made a strong impression. He lovingly told me, “Yo Roomdog, you’ve got to know the Lord, man!” His words and his spirit rocked my world and planted a seed for my salvation and life of ministry.

These people and many others I love and respect continue to fuel the fire Jesus Christ has lit in my heart for mercy, equality, compassion and real justice for all – especially for African Americans who have been abused and oppressed for so long.

So I will write, speak, serve, pray, demonstrate and vote until laws, procedures and hearts change – and I pray you will do the same.

With faith, hope and love,

Your Brother John

Got any related thoughts or experiences? Please comment at bottom of page.

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2 thoughts on “Mandingo, Marvin Gaye & The Friends Who Fuel My Fire

  1. brad says:

    Thanks for another post, John.

    The only people that are racist are the ones that don’t know people of other races. It’s just really sad

  2. Yes very sad. Thankfully a new day appears to be dawning, with beauty from ashes.

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