ROCK HACKSHAW: DEAR FOLKS ON MY E-MAIL LIST:
IT IS WITH MUCH SORROW THAT I NOW INFORM YOU THAT MR. MAURICE GUMBS PASSED AWAY YESTERDAY.
THIS TRINIDAD-BORN POLITICAL-ACTIVIST WAS A FIXTURE ON NEW YORK CITY'S POLITICAL SCENE SINCE THE SEVENTIES.
AROUND 2000 HE RETIRED TO FLORIDA AFTER DECADES TEACHING WITH NYC'S BOARD OF EDUCATION.
HE WAS ALSO A JOURNALIST, POLITICAL CONSULTANT,WRITER, EDUCATION-CONSULTANT, SCHOOL BOARD MEMBER AND COMMUNITY-ACTIVIST PAR EXCELLENCE.
HE WILL BE MISSED.
ANYONE INTERESTED CAN CALL ME ABOUT FUNERAL ARANGEMENTS AND I WILL CONVEY THEM WHEN I FIND OUT WHAT THEY ARE.
As some who used to regularly butt heads with the late Mo Gumbs, a former Room 8 blogger back in the site’s swaddling days, let me join those who are saddened by his death.
I’d once written that Gumbs was not a reformer; but a crank, and that reading him was like panning for gold in an open sewer. But, even then, I admitted that since Gumbs was looking for corruption, his stories about Brooklyn politics hit paydirt like he was in California during the Gold Rush, even if much of what he wrote was often composed of homemade effluent.
But, my lack of membership in Maurice’s Amen Corner does not preclude me from paying due respect to one who earned it. I think that Maurice preferred to preach to an audience beyond the choir; those who prefer to speak to an echo chamber surely have that as their destiny.
Mo forced one to take him seriously and engage in brain-work; Mo forced one to get the facts right; Mo one forced one to re-examine one’s conclusions; and on at least one occasion, Mo forced one to change his mind.
Mo’s standard of justice was unyielding. Mo rarely tempered his justice with mercy, but Mo would always give the devil the due to which he thought the devil was entitled. “Joe Hynes” his headline once complained, “sometimes a bully, but never a racist”, in a piece which was as passionate a defense of a political adversary as has ever been written. I’ve seen Mo show more compassion towards political enemies facing legal troubles than was shown by many of their “friends”.
And I’ve seen Mo Gumbs time and again savage me in terms running from half affectionate sarcastic endearments to blistering condemnation; that being said, Maurice Gumbs was never shy in bestowing praise upon an adversary who he believed had earned it. Some of the bouquets he’s tossed in my direction have been amongst the kindest remarks about my writing I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve proudly enshrined at least three of them on my Room 8 homepage.
Mo would not dissemble and did not tolerate it from others. Many times Mo got facts wrong, but never (at least in his writing) distorted the truth as he saw it (but boy could he get it wrong!). His work in political blogging began before the beginning, in his home published, irregularly circulated, newspaper, “Footnotes” (another pioneer of this era, Miltie Goldner , did not survive to the age of the blogger). As I’ve said before, in a way Gumbs is father to us all.
Even those of us who disagreed frequently with Mo could not help but be impressed with his passion and compassion; he truly was committed to a vision of a better world (or maybe just a better Brooklyn). Most impressive was his commitment to social justice, especially as it involved our children.
Don’t call me over-sentimental; I disagreed loudly with Mo on matters large and small, including his silly crusade against the Lawyers Torah Club, a group open to anyone, which met four times a year for lunch so that a bunch of old men could get together to talk about their prostates while eating deli. But reading Mo was always one of my guilty pleasures, even when I was drowning in so much pretty prose as to be able to save myself only by skipping every other paragraph (lol), a trick I learned the first time I read “All The King’s Men” by Robert Penn Warren.