Cleaning a bigot’s plow

“Now what are you talking about? I know what’s right and wrong. And you hanging out with a colored is not right. What would your parents th …”

Kent’s words hang in the air, his sentence unfinished. He knows what my parents do. He knows we’ve had Mr. Overton, our new Local president of the NAACP, over for dinner. Kent saw him when he dropped by that evening last spring.

I point a finger to his chest and feel like Olvie. “It’s time for you to leave, Kent. You’ll never understand.” I turn to go inside.

He grabs my arm. “You’re full of shit, Grace. All this time I thought you were smart enough to—”

My eyes burn coal. “Let go of me.”

“Problem, Chicken Coop?” The familiar voice sounds protective.

Isaac saunters up the walkway and up to the front porch. He’s about the same height as Kent, but thinner. Yet his presence towers over Kent a hundred times over. When he looks at Kent, his eyes don’t shift, don’t blink.

“What are you looking at, colored boy?” Kent says, but his wobbly voice betrays him.

“Not much,” Isaac says.

Kent pulls back a fist then launches it toward Isaac’s face. Isaac catches it somewhere in mid air. Kent opens his mouth, then closes it.

“You see, Massa,” Isaac says. “I ain’t s’posed to fight with white folk. So, my Daddy and my Mammy both taughts me to be quick on these here feet. Ya know, to’s protect m’self from de harms dat be.”

“You stupid, nigg—”

“Nigerian, you were about to say.” Isaac says losing his accent. “Right, Kent? Because when a white person says that other word, it means they are ignorant about walking in the footsteps of humanity. I highly suggest you leave Mrs. Monroe’s porch and bike it to that theater. You show good movies there.”

Kent’s mouth opens. His chin drops. He can’t quite manage the puffing out of his chest. His posture deflates until he reaches the curb. Kent straddles his bike and points to Isaac. “Your plow needs cleaning, boy.”

As he rides off, Isaac yells, “Ain’t got one no mo’. Done sold it to my Massa.”

I turn to Isaac. “I didn’t know you were such a tough guy.”

Excerpt from WIP, Bare Bones of Justice (working title), set in 1963

Daily word prompt: Local

Sitting in the back of the bus

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photo credit

I’m sitting with Isaac in the back of the bus as we pass Pease Park, one of my favorites. Daddy said Governor Elisha Pease owned the land for a slave plantation. But Pease believed in the Union’s cause so I must imagine that he treated them with kindness. Pease also owned the area the area now known as Clarksville. Freedman Charles Clark Griffin bought two acres of that land for one-hundred dollars, the land where Elias Ford has his home.

But Shoal Creek, the grass and the oak trees, aren’t what catch my eye. I’d recognize that red Schwinn anywhere. He’s staring at the bus.

“Duck down, Isaac.”

Isaac doesn’t ask why until he scrunches down in the seat, his eyes wide.

“It’s asshole. He must have followed us.”

Ours is the next stop. We don’t get off. Fifteen minutes later, we find ourselves back downtown. The bus’ engine shuts off. I have to pee in a bad way.

The driver stands up, his hands on his hips. “This ain’t no tour bus,” he yells to us.

“Sorry,” I yell back. “I must have fallen asleep. I’ll stay awake this time, I promise.”

“What about you, boy?”

“Must’a dozed off too. I’m headed for Clarksville.”

When more people climb the steps to board, Dick-Driver restarts the engine.

“I think we lost him,” I say. “He won’t find me now.”

“We’re stopping at Clarksville first,” the driver fumes out.

Isaac is the only Negro on the bus.

We pull to a stop. The brakes screech.. “Out,” Dick-Driver says.

When I follow Isaac out the door, the driver shouts at me. “Where you think you’re going?”

Fifteen passengers turn their heads and glare at me.

“Home,” I say.

“Home,” Isaac says as he waits for me to get off the bus.

“What a jerk,” I mumble.

“Shoot, that was nothing. But I don’t mind saying, it feels good to be in Clarksville again. No offense or anything. I enjoyed the movie.”

“None taken. Can I use your outhouse?”

Isaac nods. “Uncle Elias keeps it real clean.”

After the bladder relief, I meet Isaac on the front porch. “I was wondering. Mind if I look at your books. I think that’s another thing we have in common. You know, movies, books, dislike for mannequins.”

“What time is it?”

“Not time for your uncle to be home if that’s what you’re asking. Besides, I won’t stay long. I have to get back to Olive’s.”

Isaac ushers me inside. Of course, I see no TV or radio.

“A hurry to get back to the mannequins?” he says.

“Yep. Can you imagine if Gladys and Fritz only have Olvie to talk to?”

Isaac snickers and points to the books. The one open next to his sleeping pallet has no writing on the outside. “Your journal?”

“Private, if you don’t mind. Now it’s my turn.” Isaac heads out the front door.

The bright green cover is the first of his books to grab my attention. The Negro Motorist Green-Book was about how to avoid problems when travelling. I dig further—The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes, Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Harriet, the Moses of Her People by Sarah Bradford.

The last book is called Black Like Me written by John Howard Griffin. Something about this book jars a Distant memory. Is it on our bookshelf at home? I open the front cover and see that it’s a library book. I pull the yellow card from its pocket. Checked out on July 31 by Sylvia Peterson. The day she disappeared.

Excerpt from my WIP, working title Olvie and Chicken Coop, set in 1963.

 

Daily word prompt: Distant

Haters

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photo credit

I can’t see anything out of the ordinary, only Olvie’s backyard. But I hear it. Words my mother has heard slammed in her direction.

“<N…> lover!” the boys chant.

Five of them emerge from the backyard bushes and run towards the front yard.

I grab a frying pan and head for the front door.

“Cooking out tonight?” Olvie says.

I ignore her and run outside.

Boys scramble in the cab and the back of the pick-up truck and shoot me the bird. Kent, the last one in, glares at me. “Beam that Fry pan over your own head, Grace. You’re not thinking straight.”

They peel off. Hearing the frying pan slam the sidewalk gives me a bit of satisfaction. But not enough.

“Chicken Coop?”

Olvie stands on the porch, her eyes pinched and curious. “Somebody got shot?”

 

The damp cloth feels good on my forehead, but I could forego Gladys’ positioned arm against mine.

“Want me to call that imbecile Garvey?” Olvie says sitting next to me on the leopard skin couch.

I shake my head. “He couldn’t do anything anyway. Name-calling’s not against the law.”

“So, who were those ragamuffins?”

“I only know one of them. They called me a <n….> lover.”

“Next time,” she says, “Don’t be so stupid. Pull out the cast iron skillet instead of that cheap enamel one. No, never mind that. You’re too scrawny to lift it. Be best if you grab the baseball bat under my bed. But if you swing it, don’t miss.

“I don’t want to be violent,” I say, trying to sound like my parents.

“You hear what I said? Don’t miss.”

 

 

I need your help. Seriously.

No matter your walk in life, we have all been affected by racial diversity. Some find it threatening. Others find is socially and culturally mesmerizing and exhilarating. For the purpose I am pursuing, let’s narrow it down to the white and African American culture.

While starting my new novel, my fear is the voice inside my head. It says,”How can you, a white woman, write about the African American experience in 1963? How could you possibly understand?”

Here’s my goal. To write an entertaining novel for all age groups but especially for young adults who may not know important historical facts about the Civil Rights Movement- which I will weave into the novel. I want the reader to take pause, reflect, and think about their actions going forward.

Big goal, huh? But I sincerely believe that understanding the past will put us in a better position for the future.

Here’s the premise to the novel:

In 1963, while staying with the unhinged friend of her deceased grandmother, a 14 yr old white girl from Texas meets a teenaged “Negro” boy from Alabama and learns first hand about racial injustice.

 

I am doing tons and tons of research. I have read “Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin and The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin.

So here’s how you can, hopefully, help me.

  1. Is this a reasonable goal?
  2. What suggestions do you have for reading material that may help my accuracy?
  3. What experiences have you had that led you to a racial awareness/enlightenment?

I appreciate any and all suggestions!

Thank you for reading and responding!

Carolyn

Oh, and if you decide to write on this topic, MAKE SURE YOU LET ME KNOW. I promise to reblog unless it is offensive to humanity.

I’m ashamed, and shocked

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… but I don’t take full responsible for my ignorance. As you, my blogger friends and followers know, I have very little patience for the intolerance in our world. My belief system stands firmly planted to the principles of social justice, civil rights and equality. So, why did I just recently learn about Emmett Till? I’m curious. Have you heard of him?

I am currently living in 1963. While working on my new manuscript, I am researching various aspects of life in the 1960’s. Presently titled Olvie and Chicken Coop, teenager Grace Cooper tries to befriend a “Negro” boy who’s visiting from Alabama, but can’t understand why he is so stand-offish. (Not the whole premise of the novel but I’ll tell you more about that another time.) But my particular story line was set when research introduced me to Emmett Till. (I must have missed Bob Dylan’s 1962 song, The Death of Emmett Till)

I know about the Woolworth sit-in, Rosa Parks and the bus, the Freedom Fighters, etc.  I didn’t realize, but now know, that many African American’s moved from the south to Chicago to distance themselves from the John Crow laws — Chicago where they could walk with their heads held high.

I was shocked to learn that this fourteen-year-old boy, who travelled from Chicago to Mississippi in 1955 to visit relatives, never made it back home and the mortifying reasons why.

This boisterous, self-assured young man, didn’t know the “rules” of the south at the time. In some disputed way, either by words or by wolf-whistling at a married white woman, Emmett Till was hunted down by the man’s wife and his half-brother for flirting with a white woman. After being terribly brutalized, Emmett’s body was discovered in the river. The murders were acquitted and set free.

God Bless You, Emmett Till, a kid with only candy in his pockets.

And, ironically, just over a month ago, Emmett Till’s accuser admits she lied. Time to clear her conscience?

For more about Emmett read here.