Non-fiction Saturdays

theblackvote
Photo by Bruce Davidson via The Civil Rights Movement Archive

Mister Charlie Has No Blues

Flash Creative Non-Fiction

An Audio Piece for Sam McKenzie Jr.

There were some, only a few — they wanted you to believe your best interests were at heart. They cared. They gave you underpaying jobs and called it “honest work” while dipping into your pay. They raped your wives — “sowing wild oats” and pillaging where they could. If you are property, you mean nothing. You are nothing. A calf had more value — a farm over your life . . . You, to them, were subhuman or not human, depending on who was speaking. Your backs — the commonplace for burdens and griefs, yet shedding tears offered you nothing. If you were given what you were due, that did not go unnoticed. It was praised and worshipped.

It hung over you like the holy good deed.

But, let them tell it — they were good to you. You had it all. A shed out back big enough to draw a circle in the middle of the common room and walk around it twice. A rickety shot-gun home, drafty year-round. This was your life until you wanted to live — until you figured out this was not living. And when brains met action, you were dangerous. You figured out a ground was meant to be stood upon and stand your ground, you did. And this was trouble.

Trouble . . .

For “Mister Charlie” who has no blues but too many black folks causing him tension. If you wanted more, knew you could get it, and were meant to have it . . . If you figured out that equality meant “for all,” they had a problem. Your voice was your weapon. Your feet were your vehicle. Your strength was your saving grace. The power of a race built to be resilient does not diminish. When all you have is your heart to guide you, your hands to push you forward, your faith to bless you, and your family to believe in you, nothing else matters.

You stomped. You ranted. You raved. You conducted peaceful marches and picketed for justice. Back and side doors, balconies, separate water fountains, the backseats of buses and trains . . . Segregation — separating you from the “better” race for your own good — for their own good. And what good did that do? Remember, the voice is a weapon. You sounded off — refusing seconds, scraps, and the bits and pieces that did not add up to your whole. You took the front seat. You spoke up. You realized that you had rights and rights you fought to get.

Bless the black man who knew he was more than just a black man . . .

Bless the black woman who got tired of being silent. The voice is a weapon. Shots fired. Bullets had no name. Words dig in deeper. Movements sparked up in your favor. The right to vote. Integration. Front doors opened. Floor seats became yours too. Oh, look at that bus now with you sitting up front — ain’t it a sight for sore eyes?

The work you did, have done, no one takes for granted. You washed your hands with the blood of your sisters and brothers who were slaughtered before your eyes. Nightmares haunted you at noon instead of deep into the night. When you are believed to be ghosts, people treat you like one. But you were never invisible.

You were never invisible.

And that’s what scared them.


*Author’s Note: I am currently reading Blues for Mister Charlie, a play, by James Baldwin. To say that it is moving would be a gross understatement. This piece is my “Thank You” to Sam for his tireless efforts and the ultimate weapon that is his voice. He is such a powerful writer & advocate for equality and justice for African-Americans and People of Color.


Originally published on Medium. The link shared is a friend link as this is a piece behind Medium’s paywall.

Featured Writer for September

Nardine

A blossoming truth-teller of Egyptian descent was recently added to A Cornered Gurl. She took a bit of a break away from Medium and she was sorely missed. I remember hosting Nardine in This Glorious Mess, also via Medium, and since her return, the strength of her words are at an all-time high. Nardine writes from the heart and there is no shame in it. What she brings to A Cornered Gurl is soul-speak, the depth of the heart, and I am so happy that she is there. And now, the work that gained her September’s feature:


the girl in the frame

a poem

Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Late nights, red wine (I drank it hoping to be someone else)

Tall boy, sweet words (I felt his tongue against my lips and hoped he didn’t taste the insecurity)

Small house, big crowd (I wished someone would see me the way I saw myself)

(I didn’t want to go home because it was late and I’d face my mother, sitting under the kitchen light, looking afraid to find something on me she didn’t want to see)

(Sometimes I dream that the space between my body and the world has no shape and I bleed into everything, like a girl with no outlines)

On the kitchen wall of my parents’ house

is a drawing I did when I was ten years old.

The girl is sliced in half;

on one side, she smiles,

on the other, she frowns.

(How can I merge the two women inside of me? One who is daring and one who is submissive? One who is fearless and one who is afraid?)

 

I ask my mother,

why do you keep that drawing

of the broken girl up on the wall?

And she looks at me, alarmed, and says,

why in the world you would think the girl is broken?


Copyright©2019—N


Originally published in A Cornered Gurl via Medium

Home

I traveled home to Savannah, Georgia this past weekend for a mini vacation and truly enjoyed myself. Here are a few pictures and a haiku.

Fake Turtle in the Sun, Savannah, Georgia
Fake Turtle in the Sun#2, Savannah, Georgia
Palm|Savannah, Georgia
Jernee, On Guard in the Hotel Room|Savannah, Georgia
Night Tree|Savannah, Georgia

Home:

Back home to my roots

Found some time to simply rest

Sun was more than kind

Give Them Something To Believe

Teaching the youth. My older cousin Phil and my younger cousin Alex, his nephew. Photo Credit: Tremaine L. Loadholt

Here, you see one of my older cousins speaking to one of my younger cousins, his nephew. Phil, my older cousin, is a successful businessman, an entrepreneur continuing to grow his brand. He has a vast amount of knowledge to share with anyone willing to listen and I watched him as he spoke to my cousin Alex, giving him pointers on what to do in life with his talents in order to have his dreams come true and in turn, work for him.

I sat there amazed by the exchange. As you can see, Alex is listening intently. He is focused. This is nothing new to Phil, regularly, he speaks to hundreds of people who have aspirations of being self-employed and successful in the fields of realty and investments. One of my brothers started his own clothing line, S.T.T.Y. (Stay True To Yourself) and a number of our family members have jumped on the bandwagon and are supporting the Kid by purchasing his creations. The first person I told my brother to reach out to was our cousin.

Young, African-American men need this. They are often hanging by the seat of their pants, struggling because they don’t know the way and they have no idea which path to choose. I am investing in my brother’s company. I believe in his dream. I tell him how exceptionally proud I am of him and I make it a point to rejoice with him when things go well and genuinely empathize when there are hiccups along the way.

The Kid, Posing, but he’s no poser

I want what is best for these young men in my life, for them to reach out and pull back a star. For them to jump up and shoot to the moon. They cannot do it alone. The village is still needed regardless of what some people believe. If we are not willing to get our hands dirty in the mix of catapulting our young ones to a height they’ve never experienced, who will? We must give them something they believe, show them that there is more beyond fast money and slow thinking. The future needs to be filled with a plethora of them paving the way for more and more and more little black boys who will yearn to be for and work for themselves.

If they’re dreaming, don’t crush it. Help build it up. Nurture it. Water it. Speak life over it. KEEP THEM OFF OF THE STREETS! The kind of money out there is the kind that’ll leave them wanting more or send them to an early grave. Our intention should be to watch them live, watch them soar.

If they’re flying high, they won’t have time to come down. Build a young black man up today. He needs that.

Believe me, he needs that.

Centered

My Great-Grandmother Lucille Tiggs pictured at the far left. I have no clue of when this was, but I love this picture. Not sure who the other people are, but I aim to find out.

I remember my Great-Grandmother being more than sure of herself, she was confident and she had a presence about her that demanded your attention. I was close to her, undeniably and inexplicably close. Her passing more than sixteen years ago now gutted me. I felt as though my world would crumble. Her mind decided to give up on her. She had a form of dementia that beat her to a pulp and shrunk her overwhelming presence to one that we needn’t cower from. 

I do not want to ever know what it feels like to lose your mind, your sanity, your ability to make vital decisions for both yourself and others. When my Great-Grandmother’s condition worsened, her children agreed to have her placed under the watchful eyes of an appointed caregiver. There, in someone else’s home, she was monitored and cared for accordingly by professionals. It was there on my visits to her, that I noticed how aggressive this illness was. She didn’t know me anymore. Oh, she knew that I was family, but she kept referring to me as my older cousin. It pained me to watch her wither, to witness her become someone I did not know. 

Even though she was no longer as smart as a whip and her memory began shifting and leaving her day by day, there was still a sense of groundedness in her. I looked at her and she appeared centered. Was it the fact that she was in her eighties and had been the epitome of strength and tenacity for our family for decades? Was it because I still saw the confident and self-assured reckoning of a woman that she was? I am certain that it was a combination of these things, but now, when I feel as though I may fall or am falling, I think of her. I remember who she was and…

I tell myself that I am of her blood and I am centered, grounded, confident, and sure. 

I am hers even if she’s gone.