His paintings – “Earley Rising”; “The Drum Was The World”; and “My Queen” -- mesmerize the eyes and arouse the senses. Wide-sweeping strokes of his brush magically transform blank canvasses into pulsating hues. . . sienna, saddle brown, coral, dark red, dark goldenrod, maroon, indigo, aqua, sky blue, sea green, light orange, gold, and violet. . . . His artistic collection is not limited to the canvas but stretches to include sculpted figurines -- and clothing that dance with vibrant color and stunning patterns. During the early years of his career, he received numerous awards including a Ford Foundation Scholarship. He studied at the Vermont Academy in Saxtons, Vermont; The Arts Student League of New York in New York City; Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York; and Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts and is a graduate of New York City’s High School of Art & Design. One-man shows and group shows of his works have been held at The Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts in New York City; Boston University; Syracuse University; Rhode Island School of Design; Columbia University; Cornell University; Smith College; Wellsley College; Boston College; Hamilton and Kirkland College; New York City’s Randall Galleries; Georgetown University Hospital; the Mayor’s Office in Washington, D.C.; Restoration Corporation; Smith College; Alex Rosenberg Gallery (New York); Addison Greene Gallery (New York); Boston State College; The Studio Museum (New York); Cornell University; New England Conservatory; The New York Bank for Savings; and Adelphia Medical Art which was sponsored by Dr. Josephine English. His private collections grace the walls of the abodes of a long list of prominent individuals that include internationally acclaimed World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and 1960 Olympic Gold Medalist Muhammad Ali. And his work has been heralded in the American Artists of Renown (1980); the Amsterdam News (1974); and The New York Times (1969). In 1980, three art galleries in Paris, France extended an invitation to him to show and sell his artwork.
His tenacity, compassion and passion for excellence are admirable and inspiring. He is a man who never stays in the same place mentally and subliminally speaks to the soul and touches the heart through his art. He is Mr. Charles L. Earley. During the waning days of summer, I was privileged to engage Mr. Earley in a thought provoking conversation.
So where did Mr. Earley grow up? Who were his role models as he made the journey from childhood to adulthood?
“I was born in Baltimore, Maryland at John Hopkins Hospital in 1949. My first years were spent growing up in North Carolina. My family then took me to New York City when I was in the third grade which was when I started to art work. I finished school there. I just started to draw things and then I saw that I had – or it was said that I had -- a talent that was beyond anything that I had learned. So, my mother said that this was a God-given talent because it was something that I was able to do without having being taught. So, from that point on, I knew that art was something that was a part of my life and would be a part of my life from an early age because most things at that age I had to be taught to do. And so being able to do this at an almost professional level without being taught, I knew that it was something that was given to me and it wasn’t something that I had decided to do. As far as role models – I had many role models. My Number One role model is my mother because I was very close to her being that I was growing up with her and saw how she approached different things. She worked very hard. She did domestic work. She did all kinds of things. I was very impressed with her dedication and her determination to do whatever she had to do in order that we survived. My mother and father separated when I was a child and she had to carry a tremendous burden as she was not only required to do for herself – but also to do things for me. Seeing how she worked and the emphasis that she put on working, solidified in me and my sister the efforts that I should make because I was completely surprised at how she would work constantly and do whatever work that was necessary in order that we could move on. So that gave me so much confidence and so much understanding that if you are going to do something and if it is going to be worth something, then you have to get wholeheartedly into it. But the root of how she did things was her spirituality. When I saw that everything she did was also based on her love of the Almighty Spirit and that was the root of everything she considered to be essential, then I said as a child, ‘If this means this much to her then this has to be one of the most significant things’ because I was so impressed with what it meant to her -- what her dedication reflected -- which was constantly devoted to getting the job done. One thing she used to say was that she had not had a vacation in forty years, which meant that she worked so much in forty years because every day was another day to bring a little bit more and she did things to make things better for people. And I said, ‘If she can do this, if she can get on peoples’ floors and mop their floors, clean their windows when the temperature is almost at freezing and shop for them, cook for them and raise their families and laugh and come home and ride the subway for two hours going to work and two hours coming home from work and then get home and be delightful and act like she had the day off after working that hard, if she can do that, and putting that together with no breaks from a personal standpoint as far as any cultural achievements that she would be achieving but the necessity to do so to try to ensure some kind of situation for her personal family, I said that if she can do that, there this is nothing that I can’t do.’ And that is how my attitude about ‘anything is possible’ prevails and not from seeing other people that I didn’t know from a distance, but from being in the complete and close proximity to my mother and seeing the fantastic personality and integrity and perseverance that she displayed which I definitely admired, gravitated to and hoped that I would emulate. I have many other people that I look up to. I grew up in New York City so I was around a fantastic number of people who were some of the best in their field – some of the greatest people in the world came through New York. I remember one day walking down the street and meeting Muhammad Ali. He was walking down the street and he was known worldwide and he didn’t have an entourage of people all around him trying to prevent or keep people from being around him because of how famous he was. He was walking in the midst of everyone -- comfortable, gentle, relaxed and gracious at the same time. So, when you see these people as children, a lot of times you know that they are famous – you know that they are significant to the world but as you grow up and become a little older you realize just how important they are. And to see people like musicians, actors, preachers, scientists -- and then people who are in the community who might not have had a degree from a university -- but their wisdom surpassed what a lot of people learned through different educational systems to living and understanding and experiencing life and talking and their ability to convey that information to others, helps you develop a high level of respect for people in all of the professions and particularly in the professions that are not as glamorous because they require more of a person sometimes when there is not a windfall of profits or a windfall of material benefits and they are doing things that others will benefit from that might require some sacrifice of their own. So I have influences from little children to senior citizens to people who make it, but I admire those who have worked with the least and did the most and in places where they might have gotten the least amount of attention for what their efforts portrayed, but they did them out of the sincerity of their heart,” Mr. Earley recalled.
So how did Mr. Earley get interested in art? When did that he know that he was an artist?
“I took a pencil and a piece of paper and I remember that I tried to draw a face and it came out so well that I was shocked at how well it came out. I was in third grade. I must have been around nine or ten – something like that. But at art, I was more throughway. I was in the fast lane. I could draw things and my mother would say, ‘Oh this is a God-given talent.’ When my mother said that, I knew that there was nothing higher to her than that. When she said that, I knew that there was nothing that she could say to me that would have meant more to her. I was in love with all of the arts. Not just the visual arts. But arts for all of the senses. Anything that is developed to the highest levels that it can be taken to becomes an art that will reward you for the rest of your life as well as teach you so much about how to live life and how to understand life, and your perception of life will have a foundation that will really convey to you some of the things that are essential in comprehending what life is. Beauty is in the lack of color as well as in the inclusion of color. You might see things in darkness and how beautiful they are in silhouette in the darkness. Or you might see a complete array of various different colors and you realize that all of these things were brought into this situation by something that has the power to make that determination and to bring it forth. And then you say to yourself, ‘Well, this is beyond the capacity of man to do something like this. So, something had to be from a higher source that would bring this about.’ Your appreciation as well as your understanding of that which is real compared to things that are suggested and presented to you that are not real become very clear. So when someone is saying something to you hypothetically, comparing it to something that is processed from a natural standpoint becomes very easy for you because of the difference,” Mr. Earley remarked.
As an artist and an intellectual, who or what inspires him?
“I get inspiration from all sorts of things. And a lot of times I’m glad that I get inspiration from things that people might not think are inspiring such as unfortunate aspects in reality. It might not be unintended that that’s where you get inspiration from, but it is the resourcefulness of the observer to tune into how you must be encouraged from things that don’t go right because you can use that as fuel and then you will have an endless supply. I am saying that you can use tragedies. Because I realize that so many people do not have the opportunity to enjoy or live their life as they would desire to do, for those of us who have the privilege of reflecting some of that possibility, there is an obligation to represent to others -- as well as themselves -- that when humanity has a chance to reflect some of its truest self, we must do so in an honorable manner so that the world will benefit from it. So, in life, when you see where people try to make decisions and solve things by going against each other rather than being supportive of each other, we get far less up the road. We need to come together with each other regardless of our differences, development, and achievements. And so you get to enjoy being one of the flock of those who have the privilege to reflect the blessings that have been bestowed upon them.”
When we were children, art and music were a part of the curriculum taught in public schools. Art and music programs have been removed from a number of public schools across the country due to lack of funding in a number of school districts. What impact is this having on our children? Why is it important that our children learn and be exposed to art and music?
“Art and music are two of the most essential aspects – as well as other courses – but particularly those in the educational programs,” Mr. Earley observed. “In a lot of educational programs a child is just told to remember something: ‘Remember this – Okay, you have this date in history. Remember this date in history. You have this location in geography to remember.’ In music and art you can perform something. You can experience a more complete relationship with the subject and at a point you can be the determining factor in what you have learned. In other words, you can take that violin and write a piece of music and play something that means something to you and other people in the world. Art and music teaches you things about yourself. You learn so much more. You learn so much knowledge when you study the arts. You don’t realize that you are going to learn most of it. You don’t just learn about art. You learn about everything else. Also you learn about yourself because you are required to do something. And it teaches you what is required to do something. My hands, because I have dealt with art, are very precise. Precise hands is something that a surgeon needs if he or she is doing brain surgery or any other type of surgery. They need a precise hand. But in art and music, you can practice that without somebody’s life being on the line. In medicine, if you make a mistake with what part of the brain that was touched or with what part of the brain that was not touched or with what part of the brain that was damaged, it can cause some problems to the living person. It is better to master skills in situations that do not take a life where you can perfect those skills and then when you are working in situations where life is on the line, your practice will reflect perfection without a casualty being a possibility based on previous practices and skills through creative endeavors. Also, creative endeavors will make people have much more appreciation for other things in life. The Chinese have their kids study music for at least seven or nine years – each child – at the start of the educational period through high school. That’s seven to nine years of music. So, their appreciation for things is much greater, too. The development of the mindset to appreciate something is a beautiful quality that you will get from music. You must appreciate everything, because if you don’t, you are only giving a negative opinion about something. We have the privilege to appreciate and should not show that we do not have the ability to do so. It makes things that much better. People condemn things. They are very quick to condemn things. They don’t appreciate things at the same level. I see spelling contests for children who are coming into Washington, D.C. from all over the country --spelling words that if you are not looking at the words that they are spelling, it is hard for you to realize what they have spelled. It’s difficult sometimes. It is an actually fantastic achievement. You have to remember that a lot of the words that they are spelling in a spelling contest contradicts practically all of the laws of spelling. To know something useful – to be taught that and to remember that and then to see the winner of such a difficult thing as this – such a beautiful educational competition and practice only getting $20,000 for a scholarship towards higher education when most of the big schools want $150,000 for their educational programs – I mean, if you’re not giving out that kind of money to somebody that achieved something like that, then you limit and diminish the rewards for education because then you let people see that you are giving priority to somebody playing basketball and then somebody who knows something that all the basketball players together couldn’t spell is not getting any money for their efforts. You should always reward people who are achieving things through education. You should always do that. And if all of the universities that offer scholarships are not giving them to the winners of educational tests and competitions, but to the winners of sports competitions, then they are discouraging other people from entering them. They will say, ‘No, I rather keep my job just working in the movie theater selling popcorn because I make more than I could make if I win a championship for a spelling contest nationally.’ And that should not be the case. If you win something like this, you should be able to pick what university you want to go to. Because if you have that degree of knowledge – if you can facilitate that ability to realize and understand then what is the university there for, if it is not embracing that kind of attitude? You reward that. You just don’t give out scholarships to the one who won the spelling championship – they are all winners. This thing about winning and losing is over-exaggerated. If you have 50 or 60 brilliant spellers in high school that year in a competition, then they are all winners. It’s not about who’s the best. Because whatever word one might be able to spell at the moment of the situation might be different from what another child might be able to spell in that same moment. So this thing about ‘the best’ has to be extended to many and not just to a few, because it will make people say, ‘I have to be Number One’ rather than be amongst the best where most people are at. Nobody is just Number One at anything. They are just one of perhaps the world’s best in their category. Just like they had on television a man who was an actor who they said was the most attractive man in the world. That’s a false category. There is no man that is the most attractive man in the world. He might have the look that they decided upon that, of course, will receive the category of ‘most attractive’, but it is a false category. I mean sure, he is a handsome person – one of the most handsome persons, yes. But not, ‘the most’ if you have to compare it to all of the people in the world. It’s just like the World Series is played here but the only teams participating in it are the teams from the United States. It’s the National Series. It’s not the ‘World Series’ because teams from other parts of the world are not playing in it. It’s the ‘National Series’. It’s not the ‘World Series.’ All of these false statements about things are throwing children off the real reality. We need to use words as it pertains to your significance of something rather than irresponsibly using words that throw off the real significance of what is being described. People so often say, ‘I love you.’ But they don’t mean it at all. When you say that, you make sure you mean that! And don’t say it if you don’t mean it. That’s giving more respect to yourself and whoever it is that you are speaking to. And you are giving more respect to the word. Now, if I say ‘I love you’ to somebody they can take it to the bank. And they will have to tell the bank, ‘Stop right there! Stop right there! Stop right there! Don’t give me no more! I’ll come back and get a Wells Fargo truck to get the rest of your loving!’ And that’s just being for real. We call ourselves experts and all of that and we haven’t done anything. Those who do things a lot of times are reluctant to acknowledge it because they know they are glad to be where they are at. A wise person sees in the dark what an intelligent person sometimes might not realize in the light.”
When I observed that Mr. Earley had acquired his skills and talent naturally and had achieved a level of excellence in his craft through his natural talent while many others may have required mentoring to achieve a similar level of excellence, he offered the followed:
“My talent was instilled in me so I had to make less of an effort to acquire it because it was already in me. In some cases, there are a number of people who have talent in certain ways but they don’t show that talent or they don’t exercise that talent and unfortunately sometimes tragic situations will make a person appreciate their gift much more than a beautiful scenario. In a beautiful scenario, the necessity to be beautiful might not be as urgent. But in a distasteful scenario, the necessity to be beautiful is far more urgent. People will be depressed by negative influences and they need to see things that are positive and that are uplifting. You can’t just try to do something one time. It has to be reinforced. You didn’t try it try it long enough for it to be a failure. You have to try this for at least five to ten years before you can call yourself a failure. You let skepticism eliminate the possibility that optimism could have taken you on to a point. Our mind is one of the first obstacles that prevent us from being able to do something, because we will be blocked from the thought of it and we will defeat ourselves and the mental state and we won’t partake in the physical aspects to engage in the process. A lot of children -- because of how things are given to them or brought to them nowadays so quickly – are looking for instantaneous results in something rather than realizing: ‘Okay, if I want to do this, what is required to do it?’ But, you ought to try to find a love for something – something that you really love so that doing it will be a pleasure -- or other things that you are aware of that you can do that has a greater appeal to you. So that way when you wake up and you do this or whatever you will be doing, you are enjoying it,”
I noted that Mr. Earley meshes other mediums into his paintings – for example, beads, and the fact that it must be very time-consuming to string so many beads and incorporate the strung beads into his paintings. The wonderful colors that appear in his artwork are powerful and speak not only to the eye but to the emotions. So, where does his motivation come from? What is he telling the world through his artwork? How did he come upon the idea of combining beads and painting in his artwork?
“In 1975, a friend of mine brought some beads to me. We were in New York. He bought some beads from some people that were coming in from Africa who were selling strands of beads and I was painting one of my paintings and we were good friends and he said, ‘Charles, these are some gorgeous beads. I want you to look at these beads. If you decide to use these beads I know you are going to do something exceptional with them.’ This was about 1975 – thirty-one years ago. And so I looked at the beads and said, ‘These are beautiful.’ I had seen strands of beads around people’s necks prior to that time. At that point, I started to make necklaces and earrings and bracelets out of the beads. So there were all kinds of beads in beautiful colors, in beautiful shapes and in beautiful forms and it was interesting to see how you could take different combinations and do different things. But the people who had made the beads were from Africa – primarily the beads that I had – and as well as from other parts of the world. They made these beads out of the love that they had for the beads which were related, in some cases, to cultural processes that they had engaged in or to cosmetic aspects from their life that they wanted to reflect the beads’ relationship to their people. After using beads for a long time, I had collected a tremendous amount of beads. Because I had developed such a love for the beads and art and things, I knew that whatever I had was a part of our internationally known concept of bartering. Bartering is whatever you have that you feel that is of value when speaking to someone who has things of value and you both are looking at each other’s item. You can come to some kind of exchange or conclusion of equal value or values that would be accepted by each other, and you can make that exchange. At that point, I had so many beads that I said, ‘I want to try to do a complete work of art out of these beads.’ And there is a certain aspect of what I do as an artist that always is entering a door of examination – a door of experimentation – a door of ‘seeking-and-ye-shall-find’. If you make the attempt to do something positive, you will have, as I experienced, positive results. By the way, what looks like a painted surface on which the beaded artwork appears is really a wooden surface. These paintings had to be done on wood because I was attaching glass or beads with a fifty-pound nylon cord that would tear right through a canvas. I painted the surface of the wood because I wanted the wood to look like a canvas and not like wood. I am motivated to use beads in my work out of my love for the beaded work and my respect for the work that people had done with beads in Africa and other places. People use beads in Indonesia, Malaysia, China – all over the world. You see the commonality between these subjects and people all over the world and how it relates to their culture -- an aspect where the human being takes or has the opportunity to reflect the appreciation of the items being worked with that shows the development of the society that they are in that may go beyond what we have expected of that particular item to honor, salute and benefit from – and particularly, to pass it on to people who are coming after them so that it is all a part of building a highway where at first there was not even a path, but it became a path. Then those people worked on it and said, ‘Whoa, this is a path – only one person is going through here at a time. I see the foot marks. We can go this way’ And then they said, ‘Whoa, this needs to be a road because there are more people now. A road is built, but now there are more people. We need to build a highway.’ Okay? It just builds and builds and builds so that the coming generation will be further up the road because we are further up the road because of what previous generations have given to us and as quiet as it is kept and as little as it is known, in some cases, those who came before us are unknown to most of us because they are unknown – because their sacrifice was so difficult and so hard that they did not get any honors for what they did. Nobody knew that they went down at a certain time so that somebody else would live another day. So, that’s why – or one of the reasons – that hopefully, we have an obligation to pass on what we are enjoying and benefiting from to those who are coming up so that they can make their contributions as all generations should and can -- and I don’t know if they will. We are benefiting from the sacrifices that others have made for us,” he explained.
Mr. Earley’s artistry is not limited to the canvas but also encompasses sculpted figurines and clothing. He seems not to have a problem with artistically pushing the envelope and transferring to clothing and sculpted figurines the same level of vibrancy, power, soulfulness and spirituality that he pours into his work on canvas. When I asked him to explain his versatility he attributed it to, among other things, the fact that he came from an era which demanded that an individual be able to do a number of different things:
“Well, one of the things that I realize is that nowadays people think, ‘Well, I’ll either be this or that. I’m going to be one thing or another.’ In my time in growing up, we had to be or do a number of different things. My mother was one of the greatest cooks that I have seen. She is from North Carolina. She took simple food and made fabulous dishes out of them. So, her cooking was so good that I realized, ‘Hey, when I go off to college and when I go to other places – particularly in college -- I have to learn how to cook these types of things so that I can enjoy this wherever I am at.’ In pushing the envelope, when you are around people who do a variety of different things, you have to know things about different things in order to live a more fulfilled life and not just be in a shell with a certain type of knowledge that might not be utilized in situations that we really need at the moment. And in listening to jazz music, because I lived in New York, I have been able to go into different clubs and hear people who were some of the greatest people in the world playing fantastic music. You might go over to Japan where the musicians are playing in front of twenty thousand people. In the sixties, you could go into a club in New York and see the same musicians playing with twenty people in the place with a two drink minimum – filled with twenty or thirty or forty people in the place. The musicians are right there in a living room setting with the people. You will be able to talk to them after the show –and really talk – not just ‘May I have an autograph?’ I mean -- really say something and listen to something that was so beautiful and so intimate and it was so great at the same time, you know. It’s hard to see how any form of music would surpass what jazz is. Jazz is identified as a particular type of music but its freedom extends itself beyond any border lines and at the same time identifies with that particular form. You can do a jazz version of a rock tune, a jazz version of a blues tune, a jazz version of the classics. You can include all forms of music in what jazz can allow you to do and at the same time be a jazz interpretation. And so that in pushing the envelope – and when I see improvisation and creativity – and improvisation is not even necessarily knowing what you are going to do at the moment that you are going to do it but your instincts and your naturalism is so in tune that what you are doing is going to be on. When you see that somebody can do that, it is because love puts them there. Determination allows them to engage in the process in order to arrive there and practice and skills and gift allows them to be there. So, sure, as you are doing something you must attempt to go through the doors of pushing the envelope – of going further, because other people have done certain things already. You can paint like everybody else is painting an apple. But what are you going to give to the tradition of apple painting? And if you get to the point that you are considered to be a master – that term is used more significantly in Oriental countries. Somebody over here will call a child a ‘master’ and he’s fourteen years old or sixteen years old or eighteen years old. A lot of people flirt with terminology: Humility will arrive at a destination that ego will never experience. Humility will get you there if you think, ‘Oh, I’m not as good as I can be’ or ‘There’s so much better that I can be.’ I’ve seen great people not even acknowledge how great they are and I’ve seen people that just knew the least about a subject wanting to be acclaimed as the world’s most renown And so, you know, one is blind and one sees and one is wise and one is just talking. And so, sure, you must attempt things. Creativity shows the difference between what is possible compared to what is known – it’s a difficult area but it’s a gorgeous area. It’s a beautiful area. Difficulty, many times, is based on a lack of participation and familiarity is based on just being acquainted with something. If you do something over a period of time you will know how to do things that others who don’t do it, will say, ‘Wow, I don’t see how you can do that.’ And then you have to explain what the differences are. But a lot of times an explanation will come through the experience of it – indulging in something. If you told somebody what the experience of water is in a conversation and they don’t get any water to actually experience what water is, there are a lot of things they won’t realize about water although they can appreciate some things that you are saying through conversation but the actual participation in the subject would definitely solidify their comprehension of what it is. A lot of people want to just lay back and say like a lot of children say, ‘You know what I’m saying.’ They’ll start out a conversation just like that and have not said anything. Then when it comes time to communicate with people to actually say what they mean, it is very difficult for them to articulate because they did not practice.”
So, how has Mr. Earley’s creativity shaped his perception of the world – politically, socially culturally and spiritually?
“In my work I try to focus on my love and my art. I call it all of those things. I want to show positiveness and I love color. I look at every color – every hue -- as a color. And so, I want to convey this. Politically, I think that if people would focus more on beautiful things then life would have more quality. If you exclude beauty from your perception of your life and your concept of life, things will be very mundane. It would be very depressing. Beauty is not here for no reason. It is one of the epitomes of the highest degree of optimism of the possibility of a subject that can exist in spite of the things that are around it. And you see a beautiful flower growing where things were discarded or where there are waste materials and you can just admire the strength of this little flower -- that if anybody stepped on it they could just crush it down – that it has the power to grow in such a difficult circumstance. Our children are like those flowers. Because in some communities in order for them to grow they have gone through so many different things that are blocking them, that are put in their way that cause them to be swept away in the Tsunami of people just not caring or not doing things that will enable them to have a better choice. You know, somebody who says, ‘Well, I have food on my table. Why can’t they have food on their table?’ And, I understand that, too. But sometimes – sometimes, we are our brothers’ and our sisters’ and, particularly, our babies’ keepers. And if we can’t help people get the necessities of things we will not go further. We will be stopped before we start. And as far as spirituality shaping my creativity rather than my art forming my spirituality, my spirituality has formed my art. Art is a beautiful way as well as many other things are – of expression. You can express your spirituality through just about anything -- you can express your spirituality by just how you love the world. You can just look and feel for the world. For example, people in India -- I have seen the different ways in which they will meditate and think about positiveness and goodness and just think and pray about it. You know, that’s a very very strong spiritual experience. My spiritualness – because you hope for a higher calling -- you know that you can’t be all of it. Nor should you. If anyone, let’s say, gives an example of some distance in the Universe that was a million light years away. --that thought alone is absolutely incredible. A million light years away. How far is that? How far is half of that distance? And what is on the way to that distance? And what is past that distance? And meaning too, that this thing is so massive that we are such a small part of it and with not knowing that, thinking that we have much more to do or think about things than we do. But when it comes to us reflecting positively when we are in a position to do something, we let things go astray. We are causing the water, the sky, the land, the air – all of these things -- to deteriorate because we want to know: ‘How much does this cost? How much does that cost? And so, if it costs this much, we can’t pick up the garbage. If it costs this much, we can’t clean up the water. And when we don’t spend what’s required to make those changes initially or to stop doing what is causing the problem particularly whenever we get to the point that the necessity of doing something leads to the point that we either do it or we cannot exist, the price tag on that may be a hundred or a thousand or a million times more in all cases wherein we allow ourselves to say, ‘Oh, what does it cost’ first. How many people are starving in America? Okay, well what does it cost to feed people who are starving in America? Well, okay, we can’t do this because it costs too much.’ There are always solutions but a lot of times, surprisingly, people do not want to deal with the solutions. There were so many things that were allowed to go undone. But don’t let that discourage us, let that encourage us. If you let it discourage you, you will be defeated before your time. Sometimes you have to be your biggest cheerleader. If everyone else around you is saying ‘There’s no time to do that,’ then do that. Just like some people said when I was a child: ‘You can’t be an artist. You don’t know anybody that was an artist.’ And when I was a child I would say to myself, ‘Now, that’s another reason I am going to make sure that I am an artist.’ My father used to say to me: “Who do you know that was an artist? You better get out here and go get yourself a job somewhere.’ Years later, my father went into a museum to see my work and they didn’t know that he was my father. He said to someone at the museum, ‘Let me see the work of Mr. Charles Earley.’ And they said, ‘Oh right over here, sir.’ So, when he saw the paintings, he said ‘How much does that cost? Oh, that costs how much? Oh, my gracious!’ So, later on, I came back to New York and stopped by his place and he said, ‘Hey, you really got something there! You are really something with that! Man, you are really something! Oh, you have to keep doing that! I knew my father didn’t have knowledge of art. And he only saw people in his walk of life that were not doing these kinds of things. So his answer reflected his lack of knowledge and just the things that he knew about. And my father was a sharp man in his mind. His mind was very sharp. I knew that he could have been anything – if he had the opportunity. But he didn’t have the opportunity. He had the greatest mind. His mind was absolutely sharp. It was like sitting across from a world class chess player every time you talked to him. Because he definitely knew how to probe the mind … how to investigate the mind … interrogate the mind. And he could throw about a second’s worth of compliments in there after an hour of dissertation. But one of the things that surprised me too was how fragile life is. One of my closest friends was killed going to a party. We were in the eighth grade. I was supposed to go to the party with him that night, too. He left early. The next day, I went by his place and was going to ask him, ‘Hey man, why didn’t you wait for me to go to the party?’ His mother told me: ‘He got killed at the party.’ And I was shocked. All I could say was: ‘Oh, wow!’ Somebody tried to take his coat from him and he wouldn’t let them take it, so they cut him and he laid down on the sidewalk and he bled for one half hour before the ambulance came. The ambulance came and took him to the hospital, but they couldn’t perform surgery because they couldn’t find his mother to get permission from her to do the surgery, so he passed away. So, when you are that close to something like that, the tragedy of it will let you see – ‘Hey’. Now, this was my closest friend at the time. A tragedy like that will let you see that you could go – that you could have went. And I think a lot of times, ‘If I had been there, what would have been the situation?’ And then also, you appreciate your life even more. So, in things I do now, I don’t just do them for me. I know that you can’t see a part of this art work that reflects my mother, but it is very much what she has done than what I have done. Because she sacrificed everything for me to do this. And her contribution was greater than mine – far greater. I say that with honor, love and constant respect. And there is no loss by me acknowledging it. It’s only a gain. It would have been a loss if I couldn’t acknowledge it. Because I would be less than I should be,” Mr. Earley explained.
We seem to live in a world that is much different from worlds of the past. Today, delayed gratification, honesty, respect and striving for excellence are scoffed at. Is the world warping our sense of reality and robbing us of our ability to reach our full potential as individuals?
“Yes,” says Mr. Earley. “Today’s world is warping our sense of reality and robbing of us of our ability to reach our full potential as individuals. All of those characteristics – delayed gratification, honesty, respect, integrity and striving for excellence – are qualities that were in our elders and in our families. And we seem to be – we are much further away from that. We are so into ‘bling bling’ and technology that respect and the higher qualities that make an individual something is not being reinforced. Things such as technology are on a periphery and people don’t know who they are. You first have to know or try to know who you are, what you can be and your foundation – your family, other peoples’ family – and to care for people, to care for community, to care for a nation, to care for the world – so that, we should be in relationship to that – everybody being a part of the Orchestra of Life. Let’s make harmony together. Let’s make music together in how we live with each other rather than, ‘Well, I’m whatever my computer is’ or ‘I’m whatever my degree is’; ‘I’m a specialist. I don’t cook food’; ‘I don’t drive anybody around. If I can’t get my chauffeur, I don’t go’; ‘If I can’t live in the biggest house I won’t live in this community because none of these houses are up to the level that I am at’; ‘If I can’t talk at international programs and affairs, I won’t speak to little kids on the streets that need to hear what I have to say more than they do. I tell them, ‘Look here, I’m on way to a lecture. I don’t have time to talk to you.’ Now that’s the very one he ought to be talking to because the folks at the lecture know what he is going to come there and say, but the kids on the street – they need to hear some of that. And you know we have to demonstrate respect. Show it and give it. A lot of people have children but they don’t raise their children. They just have the child but don’t assume all of the responsibility for raising the children and, in many cases, they are preoccupied with their own work responsibilities, that second job and part-time third job. They tell their children, ‘I’d love to read a book to you at night but I have to work every night on my second job’; ‘I’d love to cook breakfast for you in the morning but I have to get up two hours before you do to go to work’. And so there is this requirement ‘just to maintain’: ‘If I work this much then I will be able to get you that computer in another year or so.’ And so this requirement ‘just to maintain’ has the parent so preoccupied that they don’t have any time to give to their children. Plus, television influences children on so many things that you can raise your children a certain way over a period of time and then they can see certain things on television that is encouraging them to break away in college from what they have learned and have been brought up as children to do and be influenced by that. And so they engage in the things that they are influenced by with the attitude, ‘Oh, they are from the older generation. We’re from the new generation. They don’t know what’s going on with us. They are trying to put us into the old thinking. That’s old school.’ They are not realizing that you should try to take the best from each generation and make it a part of things that go forward. Just like a car that was built in the ‘30s, we took the best things from those cars and put them into the cars that were built in the ‘40s. We took the best things from the cars that were built in the ‘40s and put them into the cars that were built in the ‘50s, the ‘60s, the ‘70s, etc. so that from the different years they had something that included the best of those years hopefully that gave them a product after fifty years or seventy years that was really outstanding. There are so many things that children can learn from all members of their family – grandmothers, for example. I regret that I was not able to spend more time with my grandmother. She passed when I was young. I loved to be around other members of the family because I was learning things – learning from the simplest of events – learning how not to speak so much – listening to those who know more – and not being in the presence of people who know so much more than you and not letting them speak and you know so much less. But you have to see that. You have to know that. You have to have been taught that and grow up practicing it. And all of that happens over a period of time. Unfortunately, we need solutions far faster than the time that is available to get that solution ready. We have less time. We are losing certain generation of people in connection with how they are doing things. There are generations that have fifty percent of the children from those generations who have dropped out of high school. And how many more are acting like they don’t want to be there? Our children need to learn things and to grow. But they have to see some of their future. They have to see what is possible. They have to have goals. The whole time that I am doing whatever I’m doing, I’m thinking ahead also. I see behind me. Talk about not looking back? Yes, I look back – I look all around. Of course, look back. See in whatever direction you can see so that you will know where you are at. When you see good influences, try to be around them. Sometimes you can make the mistake of allowing yourself to be around bad influences and then these influences will rub off on you. Or people will cause people to do things just because they are in proximity. Bad associations will cause participation in things that a person should not indulge in. They may have to move immediately when they see a bad situation presenting itself and try to even prevent it from even getting to that point. That’s where foresight beats hindsight at a high cost.”
I asked Mr. Earley if our children’s imagination and creativity are being stifled by modern technology – computers, video games, MP3s, and iPods.
“Absolutely!” he responded emphatically. “Absolutely – because the arts as we practice them – themes should be incorporated in the arts to help people understand their individuality and to help them develop themselves so that they will know how they need a computer or want to use a computer or any other device. Know thyself and know creativity. When you are given a blank piece of paper and a pencil or a piece of clay or a chisel or a violin or a piano or whatever – do something. You will see who you are. You will know what it means to begin to do something and you will see the development of your ability. You will see what your tenacity level is, what your naturalness is, what your gifts are. Do you have the ability to stay with it? Why did you pick this instrument? You have to be shown the various different instruments because people prefer different things. Sometimes they will pick one type of instrument because they know that everybody else thinks more of that instrument than another one. What is it that your personality likes about this instrument? Are you really a trumpet player? Or did you pick that instrument because it sounds louder than the bass? The bass might be preferred more by more groups because it fits in better. Or it is more needed in more situations musically and it doesn’t attempt to lead, it mostly follows which is one of the greatest things that a real leader can do. So, we need to definitely practice all of these individual things so we will know who we are because when we go through this modern technology – this so-called modern technology – people will lose themselves. You won’t know yourself. You will see people on a disk. You are bringing up something that is prescribed. You know how to do that and that has a very very valuable use in society -- just knowing it. But at this standpoint, too, if fifty million people can be on computers, a virus can come in and knock out information on fifty thousand or fifty million computers which means that this level of technology also gave us the greatest level of vulnerability at the same time. The fact is that when they were talking about Y2K or something like that – they told people don’t even get in planes to fly from other parts of the world—don’t be doing anything at that time because viruses might affect computers all over the world. So, in developing something that you call an advancement, if that is an advancement that can destroy civilization then it should not even be indulged in because the liability of the product is more essential than the benefits of it, if the liability outweighs the benefits. Do not let the liabilities of modern technology become more of a problem than the benefits of it. I am for all of these higher developments. I admire them. I indulge in them and I use them, but I use them with a foundation from things that I have been a part of and it is absolutely wonderful to go from the computer to an original work of art. But the computer has millions of things on it and you can’t beat that. That is fantastic. But I can go and do something that is not in the computer right at this very second and that is a fantastic feeling and ability and thing to enjoy. My thoughts of tomorrow cannot be put into a computer in terms of how I am going to apply them in my art work. So, irregardless as to the state of the arts that the computer can get to, it will never replace what I am going to do in the future because I am doing something that is unprogrammable – that hasn’t been programmed. And so you realize the importance of that difference because they are talking about robots now. Great technical schools are coming up with robots that are so sensitive that they are now trying to program into them personalities so that an object that is a mechanical device will have a personality. With that research they might be able to help some of the kids that I know. Now they are saying that in another ten or twenty years, they hope that the computers will tolerate us. They are saying that computers are going to be so advanced they are going to teach themselves how to build themselves so that they will not need the human factor at all. So now if they deal with things according to all that they know of the knowledge of the world – they can hold the knowledge of the world on a chip – and then they assess that human beings are obsolete so they can be deleted from the world, they are not going to have any compassion or any emotion or any spirituality or any humanitarian aspect to prevent them from doing this. They are just going to, in an instant say, ‘Eliminate human beings now!’ We are programming — we are giving something -- the ability to eliminate the originators of this phenomenon. We have to enjoy the beauty of technology, enjoy utilizing it, but at the same time some of these things – if they are not controlled and regulated and worked into society to the best of its advantages, then they can become very problematic for society, which I hope will not happen. But from research it has been indicated that certain robots as they have been teaching them and programming them might be starting to run things, determine things, and make determinations based on their programming.”
Are the wheels falling off America’s wagon? How do we fix “America’s wagon”?
“Yes the wheels are falling off because we are disregarding our children, our elderly and the people at large. We are disrespecting them. We don’t care. Never give the price of something when it comes to children as the reason things don’t happen. We have allowed what we call ‘price’ to eliminate the child’s possibilities and qualities. We are letting price be the dominant factor rather than the child. Whatever is required for the children to have what they need, then that is what we should do. We don’t look first to see what is in the piggy bank knowing that the piggy bank is being robbed and determine that the children can’t have this because there is nothing in the piggy bank, but when it is decided to do anything that is in the interest of certain people there is always something in the piggy bank. The piggy bank is only empty when it comes to doing things that are on behalf of the children or the senior citizens – the people that have worked twenty, thirty and forty years for their pensions and things and then it is said that, ’We have to take money from that and there isn’t going to be enough money left and we can’t guarantee what we told you that you were going to get and we can’t give you what you worked all this time for.’ We can’t break it at that point. We can’t change it at that point. You have to follow through and make sure that those who sacrificed and gave so that this country grew to be as it is, receive and recoup some of that which they were guaranteed. And you just can’t break that because when you do things like that you throw all confirmation between what is said and what is done out of the window. So these people then say, ‘I’m not going to give forty years to this company, because they are not going to try to help me. They are just going to get rid of us as soon as they can and then transfer our jobs somewhere else to somebody else. I’m not going to give all I can. I’m not going to do this.’ And so society gets discombobulated. And we fall to a lower level. Anytime we don’t reach high, we fall low. You have to reach high. You don’t have to acquire or get to where you are trying to go, but let it not be said that you are not trying. My mother rarely said to me in words, ‘I love you’. But there was never once that I did not see her reflecting love for me. And she said it so loud and so clear in every way that it would just be absolutely outrageous for her to say that in any other way because it was said in every thing she did. She demonstrated it. I heard somebody say, ‘Well, he said he loved me.’ And I said, ‘So, what? You two are together now?’ And the person said ‘Yeah’. And I said, ‘Sweetheart, he just said he loved you. What did he do? ‘ And their response was: ‘Well, he didn’t do anything.’ So, I said, ‘Oh, okay. And you’re with him?’ And the person said, ‘Yes, because he said he loved me.’ Now, love is not just what somebody says to you. And if their actions don’t precede their words, then it’s just words. They are reciting poetry. They are speaking poetically or in this case romantically to engage or manipulate someone. Love requires – I mean the statement is the least -- it’s like a label on a can. If there is nothing in the can, it doesn’t matter what the label says. And so, a lot of people ask, “No, no. What is love?’ There are different types of love. It’s not like ‘there is a thin line between love and hate.’ Not really. Where there is the least of love there might be the presence of hate. But not where a great love is, a great love absorbs that. It’s not like somebody saying, ‘Well, I love him so much I’ll hurt him.’ No, no, that’s a romantic statement that is untrue. If you love him so much that you could hurt him then that’s not real love. You can love something so much that you defend it, but not hurt someone that does not deserve that. We have accepted these terms to be applied to situations that reflect hate and not love. And we misunderstand. You will hear someone say: ‘Oh yeah, he loved me so much he hurt me.’ Or ‘You know he loves me so much he beats me.’ That’s not love. That’s violence. And you hear someone say, ‘He wouldn’t beat me if he didn’t love me like that.’ That’s violence. That’s not love. We have to demonstrate – you know, when children come in and see – they have to see what you are doing. A statement goes in one ear and most of the time flies out of the other ear. Our children’s ears become like a net to the fisherman. They have so much stuff in the net that they don’t know what to keep and what to throw back. Sometimes when a person hears things they will know, ‘Oh, this is something that I have to remember.’ And that’s what our children have to do. They are going to hear a lot of stuff, and they will need to know how to say, ‘Oh, this is something that I have to remember. This is a person that I should try to know. This is someone I should try to emulate. This is a situation or an identity that will help me.’ And pick those things out like strawberries in a patch. When I was in the South looking at the ground, there was a strawberry patch and we had to see which strawberries were ripe and ready. And we would just pick the ones that were ripe and ready and say, ‘Oh, this is delicious.’ And next to it was a strawberry just like that, but its time had not arrived. And when it did, it was absolutely delicious. And I hope for us that our time will arrive and we will be absolutely nutritious.”
The discussion moved to the complaints voiced by parents in urban, rural and suburban communities concerning the declining level of education that children are receiving. Mr. Earley weighed in on the issue of whether America’s public education system is crumbling and whether charter schools and alternative curriculums are the answer:
“The answer deals with many things. Solutions are whatever things work. Charter schools is definitely an answer. And it is a very beautiful one. Frank Crump’s program -- UPI Education -- and other people’s programs are excellent because you are dealing with concerned individuals who see a need that would help the children and help the parents. When you help the children, you help everybody. You see a need so you incorporate a program that will augment what you have and children need a variety of different types of educational programs because every child does not represent the same cookie cutter style of education. In other words, you need different types of institutions and different types of educational programs to help children understand the tasks ahead. And some children gravitate to the private programs more so than the general educational system because the general educational system for many different reasons – and you have a lot of dedicated people there – are not getting the job done one way or another. Sometimes the students have more rights than the teachers in many ways. They take the attitude of ‘Don’t tell me what I can’t do’ and they get on their cell phones and leave school or after you call them to come into school or tell them or e-mail them some information on the test or text them the answers to the questions and so on. You also have the issue of influence: Who’s dressed this way? Who’s looking this way? There are so many different things that will discourage our children from learning. It is harder now than it has ever been in raising children going into different educational systems. So we certainly need different programs that will help children to learn and educate them. When I first met Frank Crump, it was about twenty-some odd years ago and he was a person that was traveling all over the world and learning things and putting things together and believing in himself and it was a beautiful example to see. And from Day One, he has been active and on his program and developing it and I salute him for that. We all have to make a contribution in whatever way we can to children and to society and to the community so that society will embrace children more. Because I see all of the children as being strong contributors to the possibilities that exist that we need in society. We need the answers to all of the problems. A lot of times people allow children to become problems rather than problem solvers. They can be the solution to the problems and not the problems that we need solutions for, if you take children early in their life and help them to come to a position to take the responsibility to have the obligation to do something. If they lay idle and don’t know what parent to turn to, to look at something that should not be seen over something else that should be seen and just looking at things that do not reinforce the positive, then you will lose them in the process. So many children are lost in the process of ‘bling bling.’ It makes them think that all you have to do is come out with one Hip Hop song and you’re famous. All you have to do is do something simple or wear this gold jewelry and then you are somebody. No, work and develop and many doors will open. If that’s what you decide to do then fine. But know how to really be good at it. Don’t just get into something. Folks used to say, ‘Don’t fake the funk.’ Don’t act like you are just doing something – just pretending – and not really doing it. Really get with it and do something. You never take back the creative programs as well as the physical education programs. I learned a lot from being in physical education because we used to have a relay team in elementary school – four children running the 220. And each child --no matter how fast the first child ran -- it was based on all four of us running as a team to determine if we would win against thirty other schools. What you learn is that you have to do your job the best that you can but that is only a part of the total job that has to be done. Three other people, in this case, have to do their job the best that they can and then, collectively, your jobs together might reflect the best that was done on that particular day. But that is certainly what has to be done. It is very clear that you must pass on whatever it is that you are able to do to give something to the next person so that they will have, maybe, even less to do or if they are stronger to do more and bring it on home. But the emphasis is on being a team player and what it requires because in the game of life, everybody in every profession has to do this. I remember when I was living in New York and the garbage men went on strike everybody was saying, ‘Oh, they’re just garbage man They’re not going to get their raise – they’re garbage men. They’re not like the teachers or somebody else going out on strike.’ Man, when that garbage built up and the people did not collect that garbage and that garbage went up to the second floor of the houses in the city – it caused an emergency health situation. Then you heard people saying, ‘Hey, we need the garbage men as much as we need a NASA scientist.’ At the same time it just emphasized the fact that you cannot play down or belittle anybody’s role because everybody is making a different contribution to society. When we allow the jobs or situations to go down within a certain segment of society at some point or another we might get a taste of it also.”
What is going on in our schools and in our country that we now need to turn to “alternative vehicles of education” such as Unified Progress International Education (“UPI Education”) which offers a Life Skills SolutionsTM curriculum that is meeting with great success in schools in New Haven, Connecticut?
“Well, for some reason – or for whatever reason -- the kids are not dealing with the normal educational resources to the best of their advantage,” Mr. Earley surmised. “But then, too, a lot of times it comes down to the guidance of the parents to let a child know the significance of what they are going to be taught. The responsibility begins first at home and it is how they are dealt with in the home situation that gives them the preparation for how they are going to do things in school. And in cases where children have not eaten before they come to school, they cannot be in their best position to learn. It’s something as simple as that. If they have to go too far on transportation, or if their family was arguing the night before or if they saw too much television or may be not hearing the right things or don’t give thanks to higher levels of spirituality, or wasn’t in focus, don’t have the clothes that they want to wear in school or don’t appreciate the opportunity to go – and for all sorts and types of reasons -- or ‘I don’t want so-and-so in the classroom’ or ‘I don’t like the teacher’ or ‘I don’t like the school’ or ‘We don’t do this in school’ or ‘Other schools have better uniforms.’ It could be any of those things or none of those things. But the final results are – or one of the final results is -- so many kids are not getting any education and sometimes it is a thing of, as they say, ‘You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.’ A lot of times the information is there but the deciphering of the information is overwhelming because children are distracted by so many things. And in certain situations, some skills are harder to learn than others. Now I can do art work with music on, with a basketball game being played, people hollering, things being dropped and all of that because I can still do artwork. There are certain professions and certain fields in order to do certain things you need a different type of atmosphere – sometimes quiet, or whatever, to focus on whatever you are doing. So, it’s a complicated thing. There is no one answer – you know like people will say, ‘Give me one answer. What’s the one thing we can do to make this better?’ Well, it’s not just one thing. It’s many things. Okay? You talk to children about having the chance to learn, about how – what happens to certain people that practice learning. You give examples. And you let children see people. You take them to places and you say, ‘You know, this person has been practicing being a singer for twenty years. This is how well they sing. This person has been cooking donuts for twenty years. This is how good a donut tastes. This person has been raising chickens and this is the difference between the chickens from there and the chickens from here. This person has been building homes for this long. And this is the kind of house that they built after this many years. So, what do you want to be – an architect? A chef? A musician? An artist? Because you know this artist, you saw this chef, you saw this musician, you saw this architect. So, do you want to play this?’ You see, you have to expose children to all of these things and then they will have something to make a comparative analysis with. I saw an artist working in a studio. And that really benefited me. Because I saw the difference between the application of art from the theoretical thought of art. I saw it in somebody. So, when we see the examples, it really fortifies things. We need the examples because theory is hard to apply. If I show you how to make a jump shot it is different from you reading about it on a piece of paper -- ‘take the ball, bounce the ball, jump in the air and shoot it.’ For one thing, you will understand much quicker. I used to study something called Tai Chi Chaun and if you study that you really have got to have somebody show you because it is so subtle that you would not realize what is actually happening – internally, in particular – just like somebody who is looking at an owl laying on a book that might think that the owl is just sitting or standing there. There is a lot of wise evaluating going on – but the owl is so still and so quiet. When you look at the outside of the computer, do you see the activity of the computer? Or do you just see the shell of something that the internal aspects of which contain impossible amounts of knowledge?. So we are learning not to speak so fast. And particularly the younger people who are assuming that they know what they don’t know. You have the privilege to know and to understand, but at a certain point you will be expected to know. In education as it is being taught, they give so much information rather than making sure that our children understand certain things. You know, if I give you fifty things to learn, you aren’t going to learn them because there are too many things. Okay? But if I give you just a certain number of things that I know that you are going to need in your life and we deal with them – let’s say five things – where you have been shown fifty things and because you were shown so many things, you know so little about each of them – too little to do anything with any of them, rather than the five things and you’re ready to do all of them because you really learned something. So that is where it is important for children to learn something that is significant after you have passed the test. Because after he or she has passed the test, you catch them two weeks or three weeks later and they might not remember half of the stuff because they were just trying to remember it long enough to pass the test. It is much better to really learn something. How much did they learn? Okay, how much did the miss of applied knowledge? If you don’t apply the knowledge, you didn’t learn it. You heard it. You might have discussed it, but you didn’t learn it because you didn’t apply it. You know, we are sending a lot of things to people and inappropriately with what is called a test when you just remembered what is told momentarily and then after that you can’t recall practically anything about it. That’s a misunderstanding and a lack of understanding and a lost opportunity.”
What is going on in homes across America that creates the necessity for a life skills curriculum such as the one offered by UPI Education which teaches children to open their minds to the social, economic and political rigors of life – i.e., what society will expect and demand of them and what it will take to “be” a good citizen, capable of contributing to the school community and society at large? Are these skills not being taught at home? What has happened? Who dropped the ball?
”Well, we need things outside of the home because in most situations where we have children who have not learned what society will expect and demand of them and what it will take to be a good citizen because their home environment has not supported that educational experience. Most of the times the parents have been too busy doing other things. And in many cases, the parents do not know the knowledge themselves to convey to the children because they have only learned a certain amount about certain subjects and things might have advanced to another level of knowledge and in sincerity and honesty to them they do not know but so much about the subject that is being presented at this time. Most times – or a lot of times, anyway – parents have so many things that they have to be preoccupied with that they do not have the time to educate their children about the subject matters which they need to have support in, or they might not even know the subject matters well enough. If you bring computers home to most of the parents that are just trying to make it, most of them won’t know how to tell their children how to use the computer. My mother didn’t take my school books and look at them and look at what I had to learn in them and tell me what I had to know because when she was a child she had to drop out of school and go to work to help her mother send her brothers and sisters to school. She couldn’t even go to school herself to learn what she needed or wanted to learn because her mother was single in North Carolina after her father passed away. So, she had to drop out and give up her education in order to help her sisters and brothers to go on to school and a couple of her sisters went on to college. Now, what she learned was the ultimate sacrifice. She didn’t learn that Columbus discovered America. She learned the ultimate sacrifice of oneself on behalf of one’s family. Now, what that taught me was far more than her telling me that Columbus discovered America in 1492 or on whatever day it was – whenever. It taught me much more than that, because that sacrifice – you know, when you see people give up so much of themselves on behalf of someone else it is the least that you can do to make their efforts not be in vain. I saw my mother working to do things that were much harder than what I was doing. She taught me: ‘Hey this is nothing compared to getting up at four o’clock in the morning and cleaning this house up and then taking a two or three hour train ride and cleaning up somebody else’s house up ‘spick and span’ and you are only making a few dollars and you’re out in the cold and don’t feel like going and you go with a smile on your face and you go like you’re going on vacation.’ My mother showed me that she had that kind of strength. She showed me strength. What I’m doing is the icing on the cake.’ She has made the cake, you see. I’m just doing the icing. I looked at what I was doing as the least of what I could do. I went to three universities and three or four or five private art schools. My mother’s influence was greater than all of those schools because she instilled things in me and she didn’t tell me: ‘I want you to be this or I want you to be that.’ She told me, ‘I want you to really try to do whatever it is that you try to do, because if you try to do it sincerely, I will help you as much as I can.’ That was as simple as it was said and it was as great as it could have been. And as simple as that was, that was my coach in the huddle and I went at whatever I went at because I knew she wasn’t giving up after going to work for a straight thirty or forty years and she acted like she loved it and when she cooked she sang. And I used to say, ‘Boy, she reminds me of Sarah Vaughan so much.’ My mother – I used to say, ‘If she had singing lessons, boy, her and Sarah Vaughan – they would be singing duets right now.’ But she was cooking. She came home at six o’clock and seven o’clock at night and yet she is still going to wash her clothes and cook for me and do other things until ten o’clock or eleven o’clock at night, clean the place up and get ready to get up at four o’ clock in the morning and she didn’t really have enough time to rest, let alone do anything else. So, this was more motivational for me because I was so impressed and I was so lucky to have someone that loved me like that -- to do that for me. I was lucky enough to see it once. I have seen love, but not that great. That encouraged me to understand that the least that I could do was to be something. I was going to be a number of different things. I was not just trying to be just one thing. I was going to try to be a musician, an artist, an athlete, a chef, a poet – whatever – so, not just one thing. If people think on a one track mind, they will give up quicker because they will think that all they have to do is try one thing. They will think that all they have to do is one thing. That’s wrong. How many things do you do well? How many things are there that you don’t do well? What things should you do? What are the things that you are considering doing that society would benefit the most from? Never make a selfish decision. Never make a selfish choice of what you want to do irregardless as to the impact that it is going to have on the rest of society. Doing something that would benefit society is a more noble thing to do. Your conscience will be better served by it. People think, ‘If I just satisfy my ego . . . If I just satisfy my material passions then I have succeeded’ and then their conscience comes in and they realize that they could have helped people who would have thought the world of a bowl of a rice … who would have thought that somebody loved them if they just sent them some rice or to have the opportunity such as they do to be anything in the world. That’s a genius out there that might be going without that bowl of rice. That’s a genius – not just a person who’s hungry. A genius is going without things – somebody who can make a contribution that might help save the world… that’s not just a person who’s hungry. They are hungry also but they are a person who just might make a contribution because when people come from the greatest extremes they themselves become our highest choices of possibilities to many situations, because when you are at the bottom of the barrel you know all about the rest of it because the rest of it is on you. Anybody can live in the big house because you are just there enjoying the top of everything. But can you live in the out house and take the worst of it and make things to enjoy? They didn’t give you that because they wanted you to like it. They gave you that because they couldn’t stand you and you made a delicacy out of it. That’s where the greatness of creativity comes in—things that are unintended that work in your favor … to be turned around and to build something positive in spite of the intentions that were incorporated – on your own – in spite of all of this. Some people say to me, ‘How many times have you been to Africa?’ I say, ‘I have never been to Africa in person, but my heart has rarely left.’ But you can travel through your heart and spirit also. That which is Africa is inside of you and is the essence because you can go there and not have the essence and you can never have been there yourself, but your Ancestors are from there and have the essence and that is what we hope to not lose – what our real essence is. Enjoy your choice. Enjoy your privilege to be anything that you want to be. Be anything that you can be, but realize that the greatness of your essence allows you to be the best that you can be. And we have to realize much more than we see. What we are seeing are things that will cause our imagination to be stifled. We are not encouraging pure thoughts. We are not encouraging open-mindedness. My mother emphasized – and other relatives – and people that I grew up around in New York --- and I grew up with the attitude that there was nothing that I couldn’t do. There was nothing that I couldn’t be. It was what I was willing to be or what I was going to decide to be, although I knew art was my trump card. I knew that I had been given that so as I thought more about it, I would say: ‘Hey, I was intended to be an artist. I didn’t decide to be an artist.’ I was intended to be an artist and given a professional ability even before I even tried to do art and I knew that if it was given to me like this, that something that determined where my art, my lungs, my eyes, my head, my heart and hair would be and gave me this talent, then I was made to do this. Then if something gave this to me, then what should I do? I must certainly do it because it is a complete principle. Whatever does not happen on this plane as an artist, when you focus spiritually, it is at a higher level. You never do what you do for rewards at this level. This is like a seeding ground or a sowing ground – something that you have to develop, you prepare. You look forward to experiencing beyond this level because there are more of that than there is of this and we came from that momentarily in this on the way to that. You know, but it is hard to perceive of that concept if we are more emotionally in this moment. Sure, we have fruits and, of course, make the fruits and efforts of your labor and what you do as positively as possible during the experience and that in itself will cultivate the process of something that will be fruitful and ongoing. The spirit transcends reality. Our bodies are strictly limited to physicality and where the body gets to the point that it can’t continue on with the spirit then if it has to be where it’s at, then so be it, but then the spirit is where it needs to be, then so be it.”
So, what’s next for Mr. Charles L. Earley?
“Well, I’m looking forward to meeting people and talking with people such as yourself. So, the first part of that is happening right now. I am intending to go to Hawaii -- a place where I want to see nature growing so naturally – where there are flowers that are three feet tall or four feet tall and fresh fruits that are growing larger than in many other places, fish that are bigger. I want to just see and appreciate natural phenomenon as sweet as it is reflected in places such as islands – different islands – as well as go to Paris and Cairo, maybe, to see some of the most incredible – the most absolutely incredible things – such as the Pharaohs and to take whole mountains and to make that into a piece of sculpture. It is the most incredible thing to see a society which was that developed so long ago and to see the beauty of the places. I mean many places. It can be not just places far, but places very near. Just to see a child or to see anyone anywhere and appreciate that. The art of appreciating wherever. You don’t have to go anywhere or any long distance to enjoy things. In traveling to places I realize that you can see the same things or most of it or some of it or part of it in many different places and also don’t let all of those beautiful things have to come to you, go reach out for them. The more you reach for them, the more attainable they will be but if you just wait for something to come to you it might be in your midst but it might be hard to grasp since you are waiting for it to come to you, but if you are offering sincerely toward the privilege then there is a likelihood that you will experience that. I am looking forward to visiting China at some point to enjoy the greatness of their culture as well. And then to see people in different parts of the world and they can be here or wherever . . . and just enjoying them by sharing and letting people see what you are trying to do and just shake somebody’s hand and smile and say ‘Hello’ and regret to say ‘Good-bye’.
And how can individuals purchase Mr. Earley’s art work or items from his unique clothing line of European cut formal wear for men made from Ashoke cloth, mud cloth and kente cloth?
“I can be contacted concerning my art or my clothing line by e-mail at Ucearley@aol.com as well as through my cell number which is 323-252-2669 in Los Angeles or in Washington, D.C. at 202-882-1515,” Mr. Earley replied.
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