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Frieda heard the sound and ignored it. When she heard it again, she opened the window and leaned out. The noise had come from the direction of the avenue and was faint, barely distinguishable from the other, ordinary, night summer sounds. She strained for a better view but, as usual, was blocked by the fire escape.
She listened intently for the sound of a motorcade. Perhaps it was another Negro Freedom rally organized by Paul Robeson, or it might be Mayor LaGuardia again, touring Harlem as he had done a few weeks ago with the Librarian president. But those motorcades always came up Seventh Avenue and this sound, this noise was different… In the Shadow of the Peacock, Grace Edwards
It was one of those hot, smothering summer afternoons in Elktown, the kind that makes you think you got asthma. 1983 was a hard year. How I had once dreaded coming back, but where else could I go? I had been to the West Coast, East Coast, and even to a far-off country, only to be broken by life or things I didn’t understand. More than anything in the world, I wanted to be whole, have children, and have a life like you see in Life magazine. At 33 years of age, I was back where it all started. I was still about five foot three inches tall and barely one hundred pounds, with my thick hair still down to my shoulders. I was indeed back where it all started. Most people said I looked like a young Diana Ross when she was a teenager. I hadn’t lost my smile, though. I’d just lost my way. I had come back now to live with Mama. I needed to be still… Weaver, Miriam Kelly Ferguson
A Home in West Woodlawn
Even though Chicago’s West Woodlawn community was a tight little island---with Cottage Grove as its eastern border and South Park, (now King Drive) it western, and Sixty-third to Sixty-ninth Streets its north/south boarders---it was not a closed little island. It was a place where aspirations could be realized, a place where role models were abundant, where lawyers and laborers lived on the same block, where day-workers and doctors worshipped at the same church, where stockyard-workers and school teachers shared the same seat on the streetcar. It was a place where a person had a chance to fulfill his potential, where not being white was not an excuse for not being successful. West Woodlawn was an oasis in a sea of black migrants from the south… Girl, Don’t You Jump Rope: a memoir, Betty Anne Hennings Jackson
Mommy never minced words. Instead of saying hello, she stood on my welcome mat, greeting me with an insult. “You don’t look good. You’re not getting enough sleep.”
Sleep. What was that? I’d had fifteen weeks off, but maternity leave was no vacation. I spent the entire time nursing, changing diapers, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and running back and forth to doctor’s appointments. Not to mention dealing with Spider. If Tee-Bo wasn’t crying, Spider was calling; they tag teamed me. I opened my apartment door all the way, yawning, “I haven’t slept since March…” Love Changes, Eartha Watts-Hicks
Harlow Ophelia Jackson’s skin---ebon silk and southern moonlight according to several male acquaintances---absorbed the light from the burning cigarettes of her patrons and the table lamps grouped in a semi-circle around the stage. And as she shook and gyrated to the syncopated beat of Jimmy Boom Boom Vicks’ drums, the spotlight slipped and slid over her glistening skin, and sparked the blue lowlights of her sleek black pageboy.
Throwing her hands out in front of her, enticing and rejecting as she smiled, all thirty six teeth and one deep dimple on display,
Harlow ignored the low hiss of her name, concentrating on the intricate steps of the dance. Her body, the darkest to ever grace the stage of the windowless club---the black coffee in the cream of Billy Stacks' Speakeasy and Jazzatorium---flashed against a white velvet backdrop as she spun.
Her name hissed louder and more insistent, recognition began to seep through adrenalin built up over the past thirty minutes like a cresting fever. The gruff, tobacco stained bass could only belong to one person. Dancing towards her finale, the dozens of silver beads on her blue satin costume convulsing, Harlow managed to keep her pencil darkened eyebrows from rising in surprise. What the hell was B.B. up to? Speaking Is Easy (unpublished), K.C. Washington
The Early Times Old Style Kentucky Whiskey tasted good for breakfast. I took another sip as I worked on my third glass and reread a passage from an article my father wrote in a newspaper the year I was born. It was five o’clock, Christmas morning, 1999, and I waited.
People, places, and things never really die because my mind holds them when I’m not paying attention, like gene pools or circles or photographs connecting to the beginning of my life. My hands danced across my face wiping tears away as I read the last poem I’d written in my journal, after Blue Greene went home to take care of business, a prayer for my own healing. Birthday’s have a way of making me pray.
I observed photographs of my parents, myself, and a love letter my father had written to me on the day I was born that I found hidden beneath my mother’s mail in a top dresser drawer when I was eight and discovered the scent of Chanel No. 5 perfume on my fingertips.
Last night, the hospital had called me before Blue Greene had. My father’s pressure had been dropping all evening. Daddy had been in a diabetic coma for two days.
Waiting for death a day before my birthday when I was 12 gave me anxiety every birthday after that because I was always waiting for a phone call telling me that someone had died. For 17 years, I’ve been waiting, only to find out that now, at age 29, I can’t handle it… An Ocean of Jewels, Judy C. Andrews
Dawn, the beginning of the southern work day. The sky ain’t blue yet, and the air is still damp with dew but all is right with mother earth once you hear the Blacksmith’s hammer hit the anvil.
The big man forges metal with long even strokes and the sound, a sound that assures you that God is in his heaven, echoes through the sweet smelling morning as the sun shines on trees filled with hummingbirds, bushes dripping of honeysuckle, roads lined with dogwoods and pines, yards filled with cocks crowing and their hens cackling as they lay. All God’s creatures and all God’s children are in dreamy attendance as the sound fills the universe for the steady ringing of the Blacksmith’s hammer is calling it to order.
While some folks still lay snug under their covers in the dewy Atlanta dawn, the big cocoa brown Blacksmith has risen and seen what those who dream under the watchful eye of the Lord could not see. While dark still rules the sky the big man, the Blacksmith named William Brown, rolls over in a bed almost too small for him to share with another person and kisses the long haired part Indian woman at his side. He clings to her with a passion they have never spoken of, and then he lets her go. There is no time to go beyond the morning kiss to linger in their familiar embrace. He is the last of Atlanta’s great smithies and the city will be waiting for him come dawn. She rises with him, the long gown that has rolled up above her hips in the night falling daintily to cover her legs. She stares at the mirror above the heavy wood dresser, picks up a silver handled brush and begins to go at her hair with quick strokes…The Blacksmith’s Daughter, Minnette Coleman
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours from Harlem Writes!
And Remember, Write to Delight!