Clovice was featured on the Word Weavers show on the local public station KPFZ (88.1) on December 31, 2017. Carolyn Hawley conducted the interview, which covered a broad range of topics about Harlem Voices and the historical events that it addresses. Clovice described the inspiration that caused him to create the musical. Musical selections from the piece were also played during the interview.
I don’t believe that most people know Trump personally trademarked the phrase “Make America Great Again” in 2012. His campaign then filed for the rights to the slogan in 2015 when he launched his presidential bid. My knowledge of that fact must have prompted the dream I had last night:
In my dream I woke up one morning with an intense desire to own t-shirts and hats that read “Make America Kind Again” and “Make America Respected Again”. I got up and made coffee, but there must have been a little too much caffeine in my espresso. I started writing a huge list of other words to place in between “America” and “Again”. Words like smart, compassionate, loving, Trumpless, work, loved, brilliant, artistic, educated, factual, honest... and so on.
I got on line and ordered both t-shirts and baseball caps that read many “different” slogans based on Trump’s slogan, in every color except red. Then I posted on Facebook the name of the company I used and suggested that everyone start ordering their own versions of the slogan to be displayed against every color except red. On the day I received the package of t-shirts and hats, an email arrived from the Snickle & Burke Law firm in New York warning me to cease and desist my illegal trademark violation of Donald Trump’s slogan. I wrote back that I was exercising my first amendment rights, that what I did is protected speech because it is satire, and since I did not sell any merchandise or profit from its sale - they could stuff themselves. I spent that evening going around to my friends houses and giving away my t-shirts and hats. They loved the gifts that they all called “differents”. That name stuck.
Later, I was watching the news and saw a story that stopped me in my tracks. “In his latest tweet storm unleashed early this morning president Trump lashed out at a man named Clovice Lewis who is selling t-shirts and baseball caps that are in violation of president Trump’s trademarked ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan.”, the newscaster said. Displayed on the screen was Trump’s tweet that read, “Clovice Lewis thinks he can stop America from being GREAT again. The constitittion has an answer for him and his fellow conspiracators and so do my lawyers. SAD!!!” Since I don’t have a twitter account I did not see this tweet from the president. When I went on Facebook I found hundreds of postings, both for and against me. I also got death threats in my email. One that I remember was, “Trump RULES. Your dead this time. I’ll find out were you live and plant a burning tshirt in your front yard while I explane to you with my fists how America is GREAT AGAIN.”
In the way dreams do, I found myself in front of a judge who said I could post bail for one million dollars or go to jail on a newly-minted charge of “Illegally Trying To Impede America’s Greatness”. I told the judge that I can’t pay the bail, but I’d happily go to jail as a still free man and that I look forward to my day in court. In the dead of night I was blindfolded and transported to another facility.
Months later my wife, Carol, visited me in Guantanamo. She told me companies that printed the “differents” were forced out of business. Millions of people began using press on lettering on colored t-shirts and hats to make their own “different” attire. Those businesses were also forced out of business or closed by the US government under the new “Make America Great Anti-Sedition” law. To purchase a permanent marker citizens had to sign a legally binding statement that they would not use it for making different slogans of any kind. People began calling themselves “differents”.
Guantanamo was rough, but I survived the ten years I was there. Carol met me at the airplane that would take us from the Naval airbase. Some of the ground personnel there wore colored armbands with different “Make America” slogans on them over their uniforms. When the plane landed at the San Francisco airport there were thousands of people proudly wearing t-shirts and caps of all the colors of the rainbow with many different “Make America” slogans. I asked Carol, “Honey, is this just in the Bay Area that people do this?”. “No”, she said, “Everyone in the entire world sports these now.” “I see a few red hats slinking around in the corners. Who are they?”, I asked. “Oh them... only assholes wear ‘Make America Great Again’ hats.”, she said, laughing.
Harlem Voices is a musical I have been composing that is set in the 1920s. Harlem Voices explores present-day issues of racism, LGBTQ issues, inept leadership, African-American military service in WWI, and racial profiling (among many other issues). It is about a brilliant young black vocalist who was traumatized by the Rosewood, FL massacre of her family members by the KKK. She is conflicted by falling in love with a white patron of the racially segregated club where she works in Harlem called the Black Jay Club.
Make A Contribution to This Project Now
I am seeking funding to complete the musical, which is, at this point, approximately one quarter of the way done. I am writing the “book” (play), libretto, and music... the entire creative product... and would like to be financially supported during the approximately 12-month period of its creation. You can make tax-deductible contributions to through my Hatchfund.org site.
Out of many, one. That is the unspoken motto that allowed men on the beaches of Normandy to stand against murderous German machine gun fire. It compelled African-Americans and their supporters to march against injustice in the face of water cannons, attack dogs, and rifle fire. It is the reason why first responders did not hesitate to run towards collapsing high rises to share a certain death.
This motto informs us that we are strong because of our diversity. It is a recognition that we are unified by our common values.
Why have people from around the globe sacrificed so much, for so long, just for the privilege of being an American citizen?
I believe it is because we could lay claim to goodness because that essential characteristic was encoded into the documents that initially defined the formation of our nation.
While we have struggled to fulfill our lofty ideals, we have also magnificently triumphed. And we've done all this with full transparency, guided by a self-challenging free press, from within the confines of our magnificent Constitution, and blessed by our roiling democracy. Our goodness was our currency, and the world could depend upon it when a fair broker was needed. America's halo was bright.
In recent years the ideal expressed by e pluribus unum has been brutally crushed by the politics of greed and division. We elected representatives - and one in particular - who have no goodness, no honor, no dignity, no compassion, no truthfulness, no loyalty, and no integrity. We could not have selected leaders who are more antithetical to our best and most cherished values.
The pall of darkness spreading from Washington is like something out of a Tolkien novel. The narcissistic megalomaniac at the heart of it is infected with malevolence and hatred. He is enabled by others who infect us with a steady diet of rage, abuse, contempt, and hatred.
How can we hope to escape from this darkness? How do we recover our goodness? I have asked myself these questions because I recognize that every one of us is called to act. I have felt that I must fight... that I must go to war. But in truth, it is not war I must go to. It is love that I must go to. I am convinced that we cannot escape from this national darkness until we confront the issues of race, injustice, sexism, and economic disparity that have plagued us from the beginning of our democracy. At the same time, we must work on the global level to alleviate the effects of climate change, poverty, overcrowding, and a host of other issues. I see that this all stems from a lack of compassion. Recently, I have decided to commit the remainder of my life, and put my entire body at risk, in the cause of bringing the light of peace and the salve of hope to our world. We all have a calling to heal this broken world. No deity is going to do it for us, save the deity that must awaken within each person.
Wake up! Find the light. Run towards it.
About this blog.
This blog is a place where many of the confluences of my life can be shared. I am, at the core, a creative person. I approach everything from that basis... whether composing symphonies, playing the cello, being a serial entrepreneur, writing sermons and essays, flying airplanes, or creating software apps. I am deeply passionate about creativity, issues of social justice, and spiritual enrichment. These are fundamental to everything I do. Welcome to my journey!