These are awful times. Pandemics of biological, ideological, and political origins. Strange things are happening. I hope some of them will be for the best.
What is wrong with Wisconsin? I used to think of Wisconsin in very positive terms, even thought of moving back there…no more. My memories of my best friend girl, of Willem (who will always be Billy to me), of Larry U and the music, of the pig and dairy farms, of brats roasted in the ground, of theatre class, horseback riding. So many good memories. Wisconsin’s state motto is Forward. Why have they become so backward?
My precious son said to me last night that I should write my memoirs because I have lived an odd life for a Black woman in America. I’ve never been one to talk about myself. No need for a key light. Had enough attention when I was youngster with a hard body that dirty old men lusted after. People often wondered why I wore my hair short and sported oversized clothes. Silly women who wanted me to conform to the look of the day would call me son as if that would make me change the way of looking I chose for my own protection. It isn’t a good feeling to have Sheriffs cruising you as you walk home from elementary school.
My mother was a remarkable woman. Not one of the silly. Working-class, conservative in the way of Protestants, a Texan, a praying warrior. Daughter of an itinerant preacher and a very young mother, she was orphaned and raised with her brother by a maiden aunt who seemed to have had a cruel streak. Nevertheless, she did not let my mom and her brother go to an orphanage. We took care of our own, even if that care was not always the best.
Fortunately, Mom had a fighting spirit. She got out of Texas by dint of hard work. She was educated in the deep South in the 1930s and ’40s. She could read and cipher better than many of today’s so-called graduates. She was educated by Black teachers who cared about her success. They knew the road would be long and hard and they wanted their students prepared as best they could be for the struggle that was and continues to be Black life. Mom passed the love of learning to me. She encouraged my tendency to stick my nose in a book. She taught me how to use my hands to craft things, garden, take care of myself and my surroundings. She taught me to question everything. She raised me to be self-reliant. She did not pass on the abuse from which she suffered and escaped as soon as she could. Always kind and patient, she was the best friend anyone could ask for.
Mom grew up post-Depression. She knew how to save a dollar. She didn’t believe in frivolity, but she knew how to have fun. We would make our fun, dancing, listening to music, cooking, growing collard greens and flowers. Just the two of us. I learned a lot from Mom, but I never learned to like cornbread and buttermilk. That is one of those country meals you ate when there wasn’t much else. It was filling and seemed to have plenty of nutritional value. I much preferred biscuits (homemade) and syrup, you know, sopping!
I learned to live simply from my Mom, so what I’m living in today is disturbing. All this greed and self-centeredness. People who haven’t a clue of who they are because they can’t take the time to look within. Everything is externalized. All this need for representation and validation from sources that could care less about any of us. If I had grown up with these needs, I likely would not have grown up at all. No one represented Black folks except Black folks back in the day. Always separate. We had our own films, our own music, our own everything. We were linked by our exclusion. We were much closer to one another then. We were togehter in the struggle.
We are coming together again, but we are still divided. The class divide is greater. Many of the working-class have no love for the Black elite and the feeling is mutual. No matter my level of education, I have always identified with the working-class, the proles. Sorority sisters irk me. Frat bros are sickening. I digress.
There’s a march on Washington today. The message is vote. The message is make demands. I’m down with all that, but I think much more will be required to make a change in this peculiar time through which we are living.