Don’t Look Down On Your Brother, If You’re Not Going To Pick Him Up

My Short Musical

Don’t Look Down On Your Brother, If You’re Not Going To Pick Him Up.

In 1993, prior to the great basketball player, and sports star, turned business mogul, Irvin (Magic) Johnson, coming out to the American people and the global public, facing the naïve world, while talking about HIV and his being diagnosed with AIDS. No one talked about it; it was shunned, scorned, stigmatized, finger pointed, blamed, shamed, and considered by all to be a death sentence.

During these turbulent times, I worked in the mental health field’s criminal insane division. I saw many young men and young women coming into the hospital suffering from HIV, AIDS. Myself and the rest of the staff knew all too well that they may never leave that place alive. In part, such was the inspiration for this story.

Opening Scene: late autumn in New England. Middletown, Connecticut, 1990.

Although it appeared much darker, it was only about 4:30 PM. on a cold Friday afternoon. Outside, diagonally across the street, under the old partially rusted, plastic, metal, swinging, former old, Coca Cola sign, new letters had been transposed that read, (Community Shelter and Clinic).

A long line now being form, composed primarily of homeless people, unemployed mothers, and fathers with sick children, and of various other people, wearing distinctive facemasks and black cross, armbands, indicating their suffering with HIV, AIDS, others appeared disheveled, as if responding to their voices. Vividly struggling with mental illness.

Directly across the street from the clinic, a well-known restaurant and bar frequented by a rich, upper-middle-class clientele. Who ignored and gaze through the quaint windows. They appear irritated and disgusted by the lines of what they consider derelicts across the street.

They show no care, had no insight, nor interest in their reasoning for this situation, nor were they able to show any kind of empathy, understanding, or compassion for the raw deal that all of these people had been dealt in life. The human disconnect was rather palpable!

Standing in line for hours on that cold November day, they all had something in common.

Some of them were awaiting a warm meal. Others awaited shelter for the night, but the overall majority was in desperate need of medical treatment. Patiently they stood in line.

That cloudy day, the streak of sunlight had long begun to set in the West, as the temperature hastily dropped in the East. Parents tried comforting their children, husbands and wives held their loved ones closer, sharing with them what little kind words, strength had left to muster from within. Patiently, they stood in line.

A tired and exhausted looking nurse approaches the glass entrance, showing deep signs of frustration on her face, as she steps outside the clinic’s front door, carrying a large cardboard sign in her hands.

She tries to make her way through the steadily growing crowd, who are now growing verbally unruly as she proceeded while struggling to hang the sign on the door, under the other dangling to a near collapsed ‘Community Shelter Clinic,’ sign that reads: Sorry, We Are Closed.

She then turns to the line of disappointed clients, voice almost crackling, to says.

Nurse “I am sorry to inform you people that due to the shortage of medical supplies, the clinic has been force to close its doors earlier than usual today.”

The saddened voice of a woman, Angela, is heard at a distance, anguished and trying to explain her situation

Angela: “Excuse me, nurse, but my baby is….” The nurse, gesturing, and showing that her hands are tied, could only apologize.

Nurse: “I am so very sorry, ma’am. Please come back tomorrow.”

Marlone, a sick child attempts to speak. He is hungry and cold, his voice is weak, and he is barely heard over the crowd.

Like an angel’s voice amidst a storm, he complains to his mother, Gwendolyn.

Marlone: “Mammy I’m not feeling good. Am I sick?”

Gwendolyn tries comforting him by kissing his forehead and rubbing his shoulders. She tries reassuring him that she understands his discomfort and pain. Gwendolyn: “I know sweetheart, I know.”

A doctor wearing a lab coat with, briefcase in hand exits the clinic. He is approached by an older gentleman, Mr. Taylor, standing next to the door with his sick teenage grandson, Roland. Hopelessly trying to hold on to the doctor’s arm, as he began pleading. Mr. Taylor: “Doctor, please don’t leave yet?” The Doctor turns to him:

Doctor “I am sorry sir, but we have no supplies, nor funds to buy any right now. My hands are tied. The clinic will probably have to close its doors for a while.” As he removes the old man’s hand off his shoulder, he continues walking toward the brand new Jaguar, parked across the street, in the restaurant’s parking lot, still shaking his head, nodding his head, as he greets the valet.

Roland, the grandson unable to stand much longer on his feet, collapses to the ground, foaming from the mouth. The line was now dispersed around the boy. They began calling, trying to get the doctor’s attention; finally, they began to scream at him. He then realized there might be an emergency, as he heard the yelling, turns around, then runs back to assist the young man now laying on the ground.

Mr. Taylor “My boy, my boy! Please, save my grandson doctor?”

Doctor: “Please try and calm down sir. I’ll do the best I can.” The nurse runs out of the clinic. She somehow manages to make her way through the now even bigger crowd trying to offer the doctor her assistance.

Nurse: “Should I take his vitals Doc?”

The Doctor realizing that the young man’s condition could be serious, he redirects the nurse.

Doctor: “Please help me get him inside?”

The fearful and now angry crowd, after realizing what had just happened to the young boy, began chanting angrily.

A man shouted, “Call 911! Take him to a real hospital! This ain’t no damn clinic… Call the Mayor and ask him for medical supplies, if you have to!”

Witnessing from across the street, was a well-dressed couple who’d been busy searching through the bar and restaurant’s garbage can, then walks-over, attempting to calm the crowd down.

And just like magic, a bullhorn appears out of nowhere, as the well dressed, middle-aged man opens up a book that looks much like a Bible and began reading… soon they’d realized it was instead off of a news a newspaper he’d found among the garbage by which he’d been reading the poem.

Either You, Either Me.

Either You, Either Me
It’s time to line up at the shelter
for a warm meal once again.
Or, I might just wonder down main street
and see who is the new member of our club my friend.
I once was a family man, who had a mortgage and bills to pay,
but now I rumble through your garbage; yes, I’m searching through your garbage.
I’m just trying to grab a meal today.
I was a working man, who had taxes,
car insurance and medical bills to pay.
My son contracted AIDS.,
I lose my family and our lovely home,
but the bills they just don’t go away.
Now, must I rumble through your garbage,
hoping to find a meal today?
I had a full-time job, I’ve worked a lot of overtime,
but since my heart attack,
I have not even earned a dime.
We, the homeless and AIDS victims,
are simple people of familiar stereotype,
caught up in the midst of your political fight.
Entwined with society runaways and rejects,
But then there might be some of us who’s lives has untraditionally
Spiraling out of control due to mental illness
or because of drug abuse.
So, it’s time to line up at the shelter
for a warm meal once again.
Or must I just wondered down Main Street
and welcome the new members to our club my friend.

Lyrics Sabas Whittaker © 1991
Music Sabas Whittaker, Marvin Bryant
Sabas H. Whittaker © 1991. Published poem, Vestiges of A Journey ©2000

Almost immediately, a young waitress at the restaurant pulls out a book and also began to sing  Different Faces Different Ways; as the crowd starts settling down, she explains to the uninformed restaurant patrons the situation taking place outside. They appear totally unaware of their homeless neighbor’s situation. Joins in the signing. Surprised by the HIV suffering people and AIDS victims who once again trying to cover their faces quietly hanging their heads in shame as they still stand in line.

Different Faces Different Ways

All of the good times, all of the joy,
but none of their love went up in smoke.
Raising his hands to the skies,
he cried out.
Dear God, is this a joke?
To him, it was the beginning of a long nightmare
from which he has yet to awaken.
To his family it meant the end of a show…
where the function was over
and the curtains long-drawn.
Like a castle built out of playing cards
his life crumbled down.
He now walks the streets from dust to dawn.
Along with his sick wife and kids,
whom for food and for sleep they yearn.
Sweet faces seen on the streets
that’ll never give you a cruel word
or show you a frown.

Music and Lyrics Sabas Whittaker, Marvin Bryant © 1991
Sabas H. Whittaker © 1991. Published poem, Vestiges of A Journey ©2000

As the now shivering crowd attempts to again grow unruly, a young passerby on his way home from church joins the crowd, moves, snab-dab in the middle as they form a circle around him; he starts to sing a song of altruism and unity, thus encouraging, equality and peace.

A Communication With Life

Early in August,
When the steeples are steep.
Silver deep dreams that you know you can’t reach.
But you tried…, but you tried.
The graveyards that mellowed,
on such a long time ago;
with wrought iron fences to block out the show.
As you tried…, as you tried.
Iron for rich ones,
they rust when they’re old.
Oh poor gents thought,
they were buried in gold.
We must try… you should try.
There are no ships leaving,
this breathless old shore.
You must wait till you’re older,
and bore to the core.
So, powder up people.
Don’t rub talk on your minds,
you must still keep on praying;
to the Good Lord Divine.
You must try…, you must try.
You have to try…, you must try
and don’t give up.

Words music Sabas Whittaker © 1992
Sabas H. Whittaker © 1991. Published poem, Vestiges of A Journey ©2000

At this time, the group of rich, Yuppie hipsters, the homeless people, and victims suffering from HIV – AIDS, all joined hands together as a single choir. The restaurant owner and merchant, who from his store across the street, watched and saw smiles and signs of hope for the first time on many of their faces; he swiftly abandoned his store and rushed over with his clerk carrying quarts of milk and bread. The Restaurant owner and manager rushed over carrying trays of food, jogs of coffees and teas, all of them singing, as they danced over to join them, as they all clapped and sang together.

Don’t Look Down On Your Brother, If You’re Not Going To Pick Him Up


There’s a girl drifting down Main Street
in her arms, she has a child.
She has no place to go or stay.
She has not even eaten today.
I saw an old man walking down my street,
no winter gear, ragged shoes on his feet.
The crowds just pass him by, and he.
Just walks, and he sighs.
There are many of us out there,
society just doesn’t care.
There are many of us out there,
but my neighbors frown and stare.
Don’t Look Down.
Don’t look down on your brother.
Don’t Look Down.
Don’t look down on your brother.
Don’t Look Down.
Don’t look down on your brother (if you’re not going to pick him up).
I paused and asked him where he slept,
and he pointed and showed a highway bridge.
He said he once looked and felt like me,
with a home and job, and some friends.
I know a family of four, which once lived next door.
A fire came, now they’re out in the rain.
That girl and child, they could not afford the high rent,
now she walks around crying every day.
There are many of us out there,
society just doesn’t care.
There are many of us out there,
but my neighbors frown and stare.
Don’t Look Down.
Don’t look down on your brother.
Don’t Look Down.
Don’t look down on your brother.
Don’t Look Down.
Don’t look down on your brother (if you’re not going to pick him up)

Music by Marvin Bryant and Sabas H. Whittaker. Lyrics by Sabas Whittaker © 1991. Published poem, Vestiges of A Journey ©2000

Story written, produced, and directed by playwright Sabas H. Whittaker for the Middlesex AIDS Buddy Network, volunteers fundraiser. All monies went to benefit the people diagnosed, suffering and dying from AIDS. Back then, AIDS was a definite death sentence.

This play was the opening act for Donny Harper and the New Jersey Mass Choir and performed by the elementary school-age students from the Forged Square Tutoring Program in Middletown, Connecticut, at Middletown High School ©.1994.

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