It Matters

Submitted into Contest #45 in response to: Write a story about activism.... view prompt

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Writing prompt #194

Write a story about solidarity, activism, community, inaction and change.

It Matters   by clcronan 2020

Oh, so here you sit, on my porch, tryin to tell ME somethin? You don’t know nothin. Don’t be tryin to preach bout duty and all that when you don’t know from nothin. 

I was 12 years old (1948) when President Truman signed a paper said it weren’t right to segregate the army. Well, he missed savin my Uncle Titus from workin graves duty through his time serving ova in Italy durin The WW Two. Story goes his regiment aint never got proper uniforms or proper food, proper sleepin cots or barracks, and if it weren’t fer his platoon mate puttin up a record squawk, they might well not been accounted for in the plans ta bring them boys home when it all ended.

Uncle Titus had plenty to say when ol’ Rosa Parks keep her seat back in ‘55. Let’s see, I’da been round 19 by then. Knew plenty more about bein’ black by then too. So we was all full o’ pride that day. We’z all cheerin round the house, makin quite a ruckus. But see, Uncle Titus had his one “call to arms” story he’d regale us with whenever we might get a bit o’ faith that change was comin. He’d tell it like this:

“There I was, me an’ ol’ Bobwire, my pal from the 92nd, ridin in one of them Italian trains on a night off, when a couple of MP’s board with a Nazi prisoner. And don’t it just beat all, that wez’a forced to surrender our seats. Yessir, a Nazi prisoner gettin a seat before a serviceman. All cuz a da color of our skin.”

And there weren’t nobody named Truman round to help him with no GI Bill. Just like the way Granddad never got no work outta FDR’s New Deal. Big gub’ment programs to lift folks up may as well be stamped right on top, “less a course you black.”

I learned real young, that in 1896 the Supreme Court of these United States made “Separate but Equal” lawful. And so ol’ Jim Crow done got his way. As you sure know, Separate but Equal weren’t that a’tall, but instead it really stood fur “hush up or we gonna take it all away.”

Hell, since 1910 theyz been a NAACP, but you don’t see any our own graduatin college from ‘round here, now do ya? 

Jim Crow, live bout 100 years, done made sure we all learned, one generation from the last, that anythin’ we want for our kids to have in their life, we gonna fight for with our own lives. 

Every Sit-in and Freedom Ride was jus a bunch a niggas willin to die to move our lot forward a peg.

1955 Jet magazine goes an puts a picture of Emmitt Till out to the world. They was expectin’ a uproar I imagine. But more boys would follow, and no magazine picture fo’ dem.

1957 they put them 9 kids into a high school by military force. Now what’d they think was gonna happen ta dem kids? They weren’t neva gonna be left alone to learn nothin’. And that way, all the white folks get ta say, “see them niggas cain’t learn no how.”

1960 they go an send that po littl’ Ruby off to a white school by herself! Hum-ummm, her bein’ only 6 years old. That woman grew to speak of the damage that done to her. Integration is not otta be left up to the innocent. They don’t know how to deal with all tha’ hate. And they ain’t old enough to know how to stay safe. An them white teachers, they ain’t gonna help her out, they don’t want her there either. Lookin’ at her all the time like she dirty.

1961 My Uncle Willis went off to be a Freedom Rider and got hisself beat to a pulp in Alabama. He was just one breath short o’ gettin lynched. To his dyin day he walked real funny and got confused real easy.

1963 we hear “I Have a Dream,” sung out from the steps of the National Mall by Dr. King hisself. So many people went there. And then, know what happen? They went right back home again.

1964 Johnson thinks he’ll sign another paper for us. But them same words were givin to us in 1865 by Pres’dint Lincoln and again in 1873 by the Civil Rights Act, Only to find 1965 we need a Voting Rights Act. They just keep renamin it, and it don’t take much to see it fer the smoke and mirrors that it is.

And then, Lord save us, what ‘uz happin’ then, we see a string of ‘sassinations of anybody who tries to move us up a peg. The good Dr. King, that Malcolm X fella, coupla white brothers that got all the way to the white house. They were seen as ‘too sympathetic’ and they had to go.

We seen interracial married folk with lit up crosses on they lawns, 

And since then? Ghettoes, drugs, prisons fillin up with coloreds, oh, and we go from niggas, to nigroes, to blacks, to Afro-American, African-American and now folks be wantin to be blacks again. It just shows we ain’t got no identity worked out afta all these years past slavery when we wuz robbed to begin with.

An you sittin here tellin me I don’t seem mad enough to you?

My 84 years livin as a lower-than-low citizen of these United States didn’t go by without burnin up my hopes, without bashin down my efforts, without killin off my kin, without brakin’ the spirits of our men, and stealin the innocence of our women, and robbin’ our young of any opportunity out of this here ghetto. There is more history than you un’nustand coursin through these dryin up ol’ veins of mine.

I saw that man murdered on the TV same as you did. Broad daylight. Plain as plain can be. I saw it, like so many people in this country saw it. And I think all too clear, ‘bout all the men, and boys, and young groups of negroes beaten, lynched, burned, shot, and denied their god given rights. Denied any protection by the law. I seen so many papers signed at the highest level of our gob’ment that amounted to no more than a pretty picture of a bunch white men standing ‘round a desk, and they ain’t got no intentions of seein’ their seeds bare fruit.

What ‘chu think you gonna get for protestin’ - peaceful or otherwise? Do you think you’re gonna move us up peg? 

Community, solidarity - where those at? Your neighbors round here mixin’ in, looks like progress, but it only diluted what small bond we held together through all them changes that weren’t no changes. You thinkin there’s enough activism to roll the world in a diff’t di-rection?

You look at me and you see inaction. Well, I will jump in with both feet as soon as I think anythin’ might come of it. I would lie down in the street to bring you and yours a better future.

But I need to see how it would matter. Call me a ol’ bitter shrew if that be what ya see here. But you can’t ever see what I done seen. I sure ain’t here ta stand in the way o’ progress, but you ain’t convinced me that progress is what wait on the other side of this headline. I can’t see how any of it matters.

Woman, without hope, there can be no effort. Without effort, there can be no change. All those black folks in your story, in your life, they left us a legacy we need to honor. They gave their lives for the very reasons you said. Things have changed since Lincoln, Truman, Johnson, Jim Crow. Since all the unnamed left swinging from trees. From the buses and the schools and the neighborhoods that could legally lock us out. From the string of assassinations that knocked us down for a while. But we are up again. We are strong. We are going to be heard.

Rise up and take this banner in your hand, stand with the people who are here today, and the people who haunt your past. March, march with the throngs of believers from all colors and backgrounds that know there is work to do. Why? Why do I ask you to join us? Why do I care?

Because It Matters

June 11, 2020 20:33

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1 comment

Inna J
22:08 Jun 15, 2020

This is a very powerful story. It touches on so many aspects of black history. I like the narrator's voice too, I can visualize her without a description.


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