Thursday, September 03, 2020

Black Bodies Are Human Bodies

 He traveled to my native state of Wisconsin, just miles down the country roads from where my parents are surely rolling over in their graves, to survey destruction, holding court among men who praised his preening. A world-class disgrace, he said nary a word about the destruction to the lives and loved ones of the victims of the violence he has incited since before he rose to power. 

But we won’t let him tell us what to see, or what to speak. Oh, no.

We must keep the focus on why people are marching and demonstrating and protesting and holding vigils in the first place:

We must condemn police violence against Black bodies.

Black bodies which, by the way, used to be legal property. Legal property that could be violated with torture and brutality and maim and murder by anyone with impunity. Today, though our bodies are no longer legal property, police and vigilantes can still violate Black bodies with torture and brutality and maim and murder with impunity. 

As though our bodies are still property. For you to do with whatever you want. With impunity. 


Does all property matter? Or just inanimate property?

Is this what you want for your children? Your loved ones? Yourself?

He won't even say his name. 

Jacob Blake. His kidneys, liver and intestines blown apart by seven/eight bullets unloaded into his back at close range. Remnants in his spine remain. He may never walk. Never be without pain or a colostomy bag. He may not survive, still. If so, what will be his quality of life? 

We vehemently condemn a system of policing and any sentiment whatsoever that would seek to justify that kind of brutal crime against humanity. 

That’s right. Black bodies are human bodies.

And so, yes. We vehemently condemn violence against human bodies by anyone, but most certainly by those we pay with our property taxes to serve and protect us. 

But even more than that:

We condemn an impeached autocrat who would incite that brutal violence, who would call for violence against anyone in order to divide and conquer America. A race baiter who would promote, with aggression, white supremacist nationalism and the confederacy, a failed cause of traitors and domestic terrorists. A neo-fascist who would unleash our military and weapons of warfare against the American people. 

We condemn a deluded demagogue who would downplay or deny the severity of a deadly pandemic, forcing people onto the slaughtering lines of meat factories all across America in servitude to China. Forcing students and teachers into petri-dish classrooms from kindergarten through college. 

And we condemn a hyper-corrupt tyrant who would assault, without relent, the American people with the violence of his hate and lies and baseless conspiracies, the violence of his mendacity and cruelty and inane insanities, of his voter-suppressing and election-cheating and un-Constitutional agenda, of his wagging-the-dog and fearmongering and un-American propaganda. 

We must keep the focus where it belongs. The lawless fraud in the White House is the most existential threat to the Republic in all her brief history. A mortal danger to the bodily health and economic well-being of the American people. To the environmental health of our habitat in its entirety.

He must. Be. Removed. From. Office.


Friday, July 03, 2015

Representative Hickman's Bill To Prohibit Rehoming Becomes Law in Maine

AUGUSTA – The Maine Legislature on Tuesday unanimously overrode the governor’ veto of a bill sponsored by Rep. Craig Hickman to prohibit the unauthorized “rehoming” of adopted children.

Hickman’s bill, LD 1342, addresses this practice. It prohibits the transfer of the long-term care and custody of a child without a court order. Hickman, adopted when he was a baby, has been involved in adoptee rights issues for the past 20 years.

“Imagine being shipped across oceans to a new culture with a new language to become part of a new family, only to have that family decide that they don’t want you. And since it is not against the law, that family advertises you on Facebook or Craigslist or some other social media platform and within days you are dropped off to another stranger in a parking lot behind some Walmart somewhere,” said Hickman, D-Winthrop. “Yes, this actually happens.”

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill unanimously with an amendment to make rehoming a crime subject to the current penalties for abandonment. It includes an affirmative defense clause to ensure people acting in good faith are not penalized.

The first time Hickman ever testified before a legislative body was before the same committee. In 2005, he spoke in favor of a bill that would allow adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates, which had been sealed when their adoptions were finalized. That bill became law in 2007 and took effect in 2009.

“This legislation will protect children and families from the outrageous indignity called re-homing and send a clear message to adoptees here and all over the nation that Maine people care about the safety and welfare of all our children,” Hickman said.

According to the Washington Times, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Ohio and Wisconsin also have adopted laws against rehoming.

“When I saw the votes in favor of this bill light up the board all green, I was moved to tears,” said Hickman. “This is the most important piece of legislation I’ve introduced thus far. As an adopted person, it goes to the core of who I am. It feels like the culmination of two decades of work. I am forever grateful to my colleagues for their overwhelming support.”

Hickman is serving his second term in the Maine House and represents Readfield, Winthrop and part of North Monmouth at the foot of Mt. Pisgah.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

AUDIO: Remarks of Representative Craig V. Hickman on the Joint Resolution Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led marchers across the Alabama River on the first of a five-day, 50-mile march up Route 80 from Selma to the state Capitol at Montgomery, Alabama, on March 21, 1965. (AP file photo)

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses the crowd March 29, 1965, at the concluding event of the Capitol march. A huge crowd massed in front of the state building for the demonstration. (The Birmingham News file photo)

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. looking over his shoulder in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington, DC, July 2, 1964. (White House Press Office photo)

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with other Civil Rights Leaders, in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington, DC, August 6, 1965. (US National Archives photo.)

Floor Speech: Remarks of Representative Craig Von Hickman of Winthrop, Maine, on the Joint Resolution Recognizing the 50th Anniversary of the March from Selma to Montgomery – Maine House of Representatives, March 25, 2015 (AUDIO COURTESY OF MAINE PUBLIC BROADCASTING NETWORK. PLEASE DO NOT BROADCAST, PUBLISH, OR SHARE WITHOUT CREDIT.)

Monday, March 30, 2015

38 Years Ago: Roosevelt’s Crossing

Roosevelt looked like no other boy Craig had ever seen. On the first day of kindergarten, they looked each other square in the face, two curious little boys in the middle of a big classroom looking for a way to bridge the barrier between them.

“Hey, you,” asked Craig, “why are your teeth so big?”

Roosevelt looked back through bubble eyes bulging from a head way too big for his skinny body and replied, “I don’t know. Why are your arms so long? You look like a monkey.”

They became immediate friends, sharing, among many things, a zeal for football. In the realm of their fantasies, they were sports broadcasters who followed every season of the NFL. They documented their predictions for each season in a comic strip complete with dialogue, outrageous detail, and catchy cartoon figures. Whenever they couldn’t agree on the dialogue or on who would draw what team’s figures, they’d have a wrestling match. Whoever won the match won the right to write or draw whatever he wanted.

Sometimes their fights were inspired by television comedies. They both loved the slapfests they saw on The Three Stooges. Once, during a slapfest over which one would draw the Miami Dolphins, Roosevelt slapped Craig so hard, his face stung for hours. In response, Craig slapped Roosevelt with the back of his hand, but his knuckle connected in just the right way with Roosevelt’s large front teeth that they cut through the skin, drawing blood.

“That’s what you get for trying that backhand,” Roosevelt taunted, laughing. “God don’t like ugly. You know the backhand isn’t allowed.”

With a stinging cheek and a drawing hand in need of first aid, Craig surrendered. Roosevelt drew the best Miami Dolphins strip ever.

Roosevelt was the brother Craig never had. As brothers, Roosevelt never made Craig feel he needed to be anything other than who he was. As brothers, Roosevelt accepted all of Craig’s faults, including his blunt and sarcastic mouth. And though some of their classmates found it necessary to call Craig “sissy,” “faggot,” “punk,” “mama’s boy,” or “little girl,” Roosevelt only called him by his name.

They knew each other’s favorite things. Salami was Craig’s preferred lunchmeat; bologna was Roosevelt’s. Craig ate his salami with a dollop of Miracle Whip; Roosevelt would spread so much mustard on his Oscar Mayer, he’d often finish with a yellow mustache. Craig loved the crunch of chunky peanut butter, Roosevelt preferred creamy. Craig couldn’t choose a favorite flower, while Roosevelt adored red roses. Appropriate since his name was from the Dutch for “field of roses.”

Craig’s world was blessed. Brilliantly blessed. Hansel had his gingerbread rooftop; Gretel, her candy-caned windowpanes. But Craig had his brother and best friend Roosevelt. What more could he want?

And it came to pass on the thirtieth day of March, in the nineteen hundred and seventy-seventh year, that Roosevelt didn’t come to school.

That evening, Craig was eating dinner with his sister and his father when the phone rang. Gina Louise went to the hallway just off the kitchen and picked up the phone. The call was brief.

“Who was it?” Hazelle asked his daughter.

“Lena Triplett. Roosevelt died today.”

“Oh, my God. What happened?”

“All she said was that he was in the hospital and his lungs collapsed. Craig, did you know he was in the hospital?”

Craig couldn’t answer. He ran down the back stairs and out the door into the backyard where he threw up under the Mountain Ashe tree and slumped onto the grass. A few minutes later, he heard his mother thank the woman who gave her a ride home from her church meeting. He ran to the front of the house crying out, “Roosevelt died, Mama, Roosevelt died, Mama, and it’s all my fault.”

Minnie Juanita picked her son up from the ground and carried him into the house, laying him on the mustard-colored couch in the living room.

“Why?” was the only question Craig could ask in the days that followed.

“I don’t know why, son, but Roosevelt has gone on to a better place. It was meant to be this way. We don’t always know what the Good Lord has in store for us.”

“But, Daddy, why did He have to take my friend? We said we would be best friends forever. I’ll never have a friend like him again, Daddy. He just disappeared. He didn’t even say goodbye. Where did he go? Why did he have to go?”

No one could give him an answer that made any sense because, in his mind, it was his fault.

The AmerIndians called it Milwaukee, the place “where the rivers meet.” Settled in the eighteen thirties by French fur traders who benefited from the three rivers that flow into Lake Michigan, Milwaukee became home to many German, Irish, Scandinavian, and Polish settlers. By the eighteen forties, German immigrants became the largest group. They lived together in enclaves and wanted their language and culture to take a strong foothold in Milwaukee.

By the eighteen sixties, Brew City boasted nineteen German breweries; the smallest of these housed taverns. The largest had beer gardens outside where extended families came together for embellished chatter, for society, for the soul soothing delight of freshly cased bratwurst boiled in vats of beer over flaming cauldrons. Thousands of men, women, and children would gather every Sunday at Schlitz Garden, the biggest one in the Middle West.

These convivial, working-class immigrants also brought to Milwaukee the tradition of forming and joining associations. The church became the main meeting place of many of these Vereine. German Catholics, Jews, and Lutherans built churches and temples on almost every street corner in every neighborhood. Here they worshiped and thanked their gods for deliverance through danger on their journeys across the ocean to an unknown land. This ethic influenced the culture of every immigrant group that came to Milwaukee, including the thousands of Southern blacks who moved north in the Great Migration after World War II. Milwaukee became a city of segregated neighborhoods where deep ethnic pride and the guarding of staked-out territory created enemy lines that caused decades of conflict and unrest. During the sixties, Milwaukee was called the Selma of the North when a throng of Negroes marched against Jim Crow and violence.

The children of Siloah Lutheran Evangelical Church and School were the children of these marchers—wrought, cast, and molded in the same smelting furnaces from the same sturdy iron. The strongest ones turned to steel, able to withstand anything. All of them worked hard.

All of them played hard. On their playground, you could play their games only if you followed their strict and competitive rules. If you wouldn’t, couldn’t, or did not want to, you automatically forfeited the game and lost. It was that simple. Cheaters had no allies. Those wanting to change the rules—no jurors. Whether it was doubledutch, basketball, hopscotch, or kickball, the majority favorite, you had to play by the rules if you wanted to win and didn’t everybody love to win?

Roosevelt and Craig were always on the same kickball team. A few days after the Miami Dolphins Backhand, as they both immediately came to call it, their team played a nail biter. Their opponents had a better record of wins and losses, and if they were to make the kickball playoffs, they needed to win. Roosevelt seemed more tired than usual, but he decided to play anyway because the stakes were so high. At the bottom of the last inning—last because recess was about to end and no game was ever extended into the next recess—Roosevelt was up to kick. He looked at his best friend and said, “I can’t do it.”

Craig had never heard these words from him. “Yes you can. You have to. You know we can’t skip your turn or let somebody kick in your place.”

“I know, Craig, but I just can’t. I’m too tired.”

“Just one last kick. C’mon, Roosevelt. Please. We gotta get the runners on second and third home just to tie this game.”

Roosevelt corralled himself, shored up his energy, and kicked a home run over the playground’s back fence. Jumping about like they’d just won the pennant, his teammates cheered as the runners crossed home plate. Roosevelt’s crossing gave them the one-point victory just as the bell rang for the end of recess.

The next day, Roosevelt didn’t come to school.

It was April, the season of storms. Sinister clouds the color of coal dust billowed swiftly above. The atmosphere, still as meditation, held a hue of yellowish-green and the glorified scent of freshly cut grass.

The funeral was held at New Hope Baptist, the church Roosevelt’s mother belonged to, which stood on the corner of Atkinson Avenue and Roosevelt Drive, five blocks away from the Hickmans’ house. The whole event played like a dream from which Craig couldn’t wake up. About halfway through the service, the Reverend Roy Wilkins asked for a moment of stillness. What little afternoon light leaked into the church through the stained glass windows darkened to the color of night. Soon, the stillness was shaken by torrents of rain beating so hard against the roof it seemed as if the whole church might tumble in on itself. Minutes later, a tornado passed over, howling as it moved from the balcony choir loft to the altar and then whistled away into the distance. In unison, the congregation exhaled.

When the service resumed, it was time to view the body. Mamie Hoskins said one last goodbye, kissing her son’s eight-year-old body on the forehead.

Craig would become her surrogate son. Soon, she would bring him all of Roosevelt’s clothes. He would wear them with equal parts pride and despair to school everyday for the rest of third grade. She would be moved by the engraved crucifix memorial Craig would choose with their teacher to hang on the cement-block wall just above their favorite reading area. She would attend his high school graduation nine years later and hear his unconventional valedictory address. She would pray for him as he departed east for oceans and leagues of ivy. But Craig could never replace her Roosevelt, and she would have to find strength in her Lord, in herself, to get through the heart-shattering stupidity of burying a child.

For the funeral, she designated Craig an honorary pallbearer because he wasn’t strong enough to carry the weight of Roosevelt’s casket. After the procession, Roosevelt’s mother also allowed Craig to ride in the family limousine in the mile-long procession to the graveyard. Evergreen Cemetery, which abutted Lincoln Park, the inner city’s largest public park, was where she chose to lay her son’s body down. There, on every thirtieth of March, every one of his birthdays, and every Memorial Day, she would turn the area around Roosevelt’s flat-on-the-ground headstone into a field of red roses.

Craig sat in the back seat listening to the wipers whoosh across the windshield, to Rufus and Chaka’s “Everlasting Love” on the radio, not realizing how strange it was for the radio to be on at all. On the way to Roosevelt’s earth, the tombstones blurred by as Craig absentmindedly picked on the scab that had crusted over the knuckle on his right hand. But it was too soon.

Much. Too. Soon.

He raised his hand to his mouth and licked away the blood that dripped from his wound.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Meet: Craig Hickman, Farmer and Legislator

"IS AUGUSTA FRUSTRATING? “Of course,” he said. “But with persistence comes success, so I will try again and see what happens.” He hopes to bolster Maine food and sustainability, fight for greater food sovereignty and better infrastructure, including more opportunities for farmers to process their livestock. “I see small farms as the solution to some very big problems.”

I was honored to be featured in the Source earlier this summer. Read the whole profile here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A House Full

Earlier in spring,
Loss came knocking
at my door.

Within weeks,
Loss came knocking

A few days later,
Grief checked in.
Brought a lot of baggage,
took the biggest room,
the Edwardian,
the one with the private bath,
looking like he was going to stay awhile.

Little did we know.

A month or so ago,
Loss came knocking
two more times.

Didn’t see her coming either time
(a suicide, one; an untimely tragedy, two)
but she came anyway,
knocking me right down.

Soon, Sadness came to visit.
Took the Blue Room
right at the top
of the stairs.

The next day, right
next door, Weary
checked into the Purple Room.

What next?

Within a week,
Loss came knocking
at my door once more.

This time we scattered
our dearest friend’s
ashes right out back,
behind the pond, beneath
the giant weeping willow,
atop the grave of our
beloved dog and cat—

exactly as she wanted.

By then, Grief unpacked
all his bags, put away
all his belongings, shoved
all his baggage
under the bed.
Safe to say,
he’s moved in—


Sometimes, when Despair stops by
to spend the night with Sadness,
when Fatigue settles in with Weary—
if only for one night—
you better believe
it gets hard to believe
morning will ever come.

Several days ago,
Loss came knocking
at my door again.


And yet again.

At the end of the hall,
in the Ivory Room,
down from Sadness and Weary,
Exhaustion showed up in the
middle of the night,
stumbled onto the bed,
pulled the covers over
her head and locked
the door.

There’s no more
in the inn.




Friday, September 12, 2014

Aching Bone

Grief can freeze you
to the bone.
But there's no shivering,
no shaking --

still debilitating.

More like numbness,
or at its most
paralysis --

still aching.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Three Years Ago Today....

We said goodbye to our beloved dog, J.B.

Two years ago, we lit a torch on his grave to observe the first anniversary of his death. I thought then that the following spring I would finally be able to plant a garden where his body rests.

I wasn't.

Sure, I was busier this past spring than I've ever been. Serving in the Maine Legislature remains the highest honor of my life. I will always work tirelessly to do the best I can. But, truth be told, I still wasn't ready to plant that garden.

Today, I'll simply let myself miss my dog.

And that will be enough.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

15 Years Ago Today

Friends came...

...bearing gifts.

They gathered in our backyard to see us marry.

Before our altar...

...we exchanged vows.

Daddy sang "Ebb Tide," my favorite love song.

We joined our lights...

...and became one heart.



Two families became one.

How sweet it is.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The First Time I Saw Her Face

TWELVE YEARS ago today, I saw my birthmother's face in person for the first time in my life. It's hard to believe it's been so long. Hard to believe there have been so many twists and turns. Great celebrations. More separation. Confrontation. Reconciliation.

But this was how it was, as I documented in my book, on that Sabbath evening twelve years ago:

Their Eyes Were Watching God

It is dark. It takes them a little while to locate the right unit. Craig anticipates what’s about to happen, his anxiety stiff and peaked like whipped egg whites. What will she look like?

The time is near.

Will she recognize him?

The time is near.

How will she react?

The time is near.

They find the right unit. Uncle James, still talking on the phone with Sonja, knocks on the door. Job aims the video camera at the door.

Craig stands away from the door, away from his husband and uncle. James knocks again.

“Who is it?” a voice replies. Is it hers? Or his sister’s?

“It’s Uncle James.”

The door opens. She appears in blue-green shorts and a white T-shirt. Her face shrouded with hair.

“It’s the CIA.” James laughs his shrill and infectious laugh.

“I thought you weren’t coming until tomorrow.”

“Well, I’m here now. Mind if I bring my friends in with me?”

“Not at all. Who are your friends?”

They exchange pleasantries.

Craig shakes her hand, quickly, and steps inside, trembling.

“So who are your friends?”

“This is Job.” Job shakes her hand.

“Job’s full name is Jacobus, which means James.” Cell phone still live with Aunt Sonja, Uncle James steps inside and away from Craig.

“Who is this?”

“You know who he is.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Yes, you do.”

With the back of her right hand, she pushes her long hair out of her face. She studies Craig’s face. He has her protruding bottom lip. She studies closer. He has her exact caramel-colored skin with the reddish tint.


He has that slightly squinted left eye that reflects her tightly squinted right eye.

And closer still.

She cocks her head subtly to the right, but not so subtly that he doesn’t notice, and furrows her brow.

“It’s been thirty-three years.”

But she doesn’t hear Job, because she already knows.

“My son?”

He nods.

Wow.” She raises her right hand. “Joseph.”

He nods again.

She steps forward to hug him. He clenches her.

“Oh, my God.”

His water breaks.

“Oh, my God.”

His earth quakes.

“Oh, my God.”

His bow breaks.

“Oh, my God.”

His heart aches.

“Oh, my God.”

He can’t let go.

“Oh, my God.”

He won’t let go.

“Oh, my God.”

She rocks him slowly side to side.

“Oh, my God.”

“It’s okay,” she whispers.


“It’s okay.”


He buries his head in her shoulder.


She strokes his head.


She rocks him slowly and strokes his head.

“Ohm’ God.”

His earth quakes


His water breaks.


And he wails three decades and three years of tears.

And time stands still.

The day after. From left: The grandmother, the spouse, yours truly, the nephew, the sister, the birthmother, the auntie, the eldest uncle, the younger uncle