Friday, February 22, 2008

The History At Home | Snapshot 3

It’s supposed to be music night here during the 32 Days Of Black History sponsored by Deesha and Yvette. My daughter is having a hard time right now. I’m still sick. And any music I’m playing is to challenge her get-up-and-go.

But, I keep returning to these snap shots.

I think of:

Dad and Byrd arguing
the vocal purity of Billie versus Bessie;
whether the Steelers have it for the Super bowl;

the importance of making it across
the bridge to protest Kaufmann’s
or bringing it home from the courts.


Field explaining his moniker.
Where those crazy Euro-lines cross

and blur. Byrd was a badass m*tha f*ck* -
the physical embodiment of the precarious
skulk between house and field.

Kunte hiding beneath Ben’s face
the original Jack to any Jill,
bourgeoisie and proud

whilst down, dirty and defiant.
he was trying to subtly, sweetly
smack me upside the head -

with my over zealous video camera;
team of rabid documentarians;
and exuberant amateur historians -

some things are best learned at a kitchen table
with a properly mixed drink in the appropriate container
served by one’s junior officers.


NOTE: A few years back I had a conversation with a friend who was conflicted about expatriating to South Africa. They needed our bright, Black minds. He and his fiancé had bright, Black minds. (Shoot - husband and I even gave South Africa a second glance.) But - my friend went and was horrified by his former “friends” who had moved themselves into the place of the Afrikaners. They were buying up tribal lands; residing in elaborate and secure compounds; had a household staff of 6 or more; swung around in Benz’s or Porches’s. They became what they hated here.

I tried and tried to plead with him that he could make a difference. That just because it was available didn’t mean he had to use it like others around him. He looked at me like I as from outer space. I couldn't begin to understand why.

These were ideas I took this as a given. I grew up believing that Black people worked hard; achieved success; enjoyed it modestly; and accepted sacrifice as a means towards achieving a larger goal. Our family’s purpose in life was to reach out a hand behind us. My assumptions about what it meant to be Black.... and of means.... rocked his world view.

He didn’t go. He couldn’t reconcile what I was saying with reality. He was a rap meets hip-hop generation kid. Suddenly, I understood the danger of the genre. None of these children grew up in Pittsburgh’s Hill District where they could drop by the Judge’s house and Miss Billie would give them a sweet. This was how it was...SugarHill became Daeth Row....then the Judge, Miss Billie and Byrd both left.....because they died.

What would the world be like if we’d been like them?

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