I just want the world to know my name like Basquiat or Kara Walker
Minus the graffiti and silhouettes
Stun the world with abstract visions until they think I’ve done my best
Then tell em I ain’t done yet
Putting my paint brush down for a pen
Creating message after message
Planting seeds to help my people win
Because you see,
One day on common ground we must all meet
It’s enough out here for everyone to eat
We not the crabs in the bucket
We’re the Kings and Queens
With the heart of the lion and lioness
Broken free from the chains
Destined for greatness
Like the ancestors that left writings on the walls
Our actions will do the same for those next in line
And after I’m gone and my many greats say my name
It’ll be followed by words such as this:
My many many Great-Grandmother was an artist. She created abstract visions that stunned the world like Basquiat and Kara Walker. Minus the graffiti and silhouettes of course. When she wasn’t painting she was writing. Some would describe her as woke and others would say passionate. A conversation with her was always full revolutionary topics and funny jokes, but at the end of the day she was for her people and the people are for her. So when I say her name, I say it pride. Be a use of her, I come from greatness and now the world knows her name.
Silence filled the night as the young girl sat near the lake.
“What you doing out here,” a whispering voice touched her ears.
“Who said that,” she called out while standing.
“Dangerous place for a lonely girl,” the voice said again.
“Who’s there,” her heart sped up with fear.
Backing up preparing to run, the girl saw something that made her want to pass out. A glowing figure began coming out of the water. It was a African American girl about the same age as her wearing old tattered clothing. Her eyes held a hint of sadness and a lot of anger
“Where are you going girl,” her voice got stronger.
She turned to run, but a force stopped her.
“Going so soon,” the spirit taunted her.
Tears flowed down the girls eyes as she pleaded, “Please.”
With the snap of a finger, the spirit had the girl sitting back at the edge of the water with her.
“Relax girl, I won’t hurt you right now.”
“What do you want,” the frightened girl asked.
“What is your name,” the spirit asked back.
“Nechole,” the girl answered.
“Well Nechole, I am Polly. Named after my mother,” she said with pride.
“Are you going to hurt me, Polly,” Nechole’s voice shook.
“You intrigue me,” Polly looked closely at her, “Why would you be here alone despite the history of this place.”
“Lake Lanier,” Nechole was confused.
“You people must do better with learning history,” Polly scoffed, “Have you never heard of Oscarville?”
Polly waved her hand out towards the water and an image of a city appeared. In it you could see people running for their lives, buildings on fire, and so much death before water rushed through the town and the image sank back into the water. When she looked at Nechole there was tears running down her face.
“Was that real,” Nechole finally spoke.
Polly shook her head while sighing. It had been awhile since she told the story to anyone. Many were not worthy, but it was something that stopped her from letting happen to Nechole what happened to the others.
“It was very much real. Those that didn’t make it out safely, were killed all because people felt we didn’t belong in a town we created. Then they lived in the town like nothing happened before flooding it further disrespecting our bodies.”
Nechole sat there taking in all that was told to her. Not only was she talking to a ghost, but receiving a history lesson as well.
“Is that why there’s so much death here,” Nechole’s voice rose like she had just uncovered and major secret.
“Over 600,” Polly stood, You should go now.”
“What’s wrong,” Nechole was scared again.
“The others will be waking soon and they won’t be as nice as me.”
Nechole backed up from the shore and moved quickly towards land. Looking out at the water she saw other glowing figures begin to rise out of the water lighting up the night and watching her. What appeared to be the leader, held up his hand and made her stop in her tracks.
He then looked at Polly,” You told her our story?”
“Yes Father,” she moved closer to him.
“She has good energy. She is the one to tell the story.”
The father looked back at Nechole. In the blink of an eye he stood in front of her. He circle her with glowing eyes studying her before stopping back in front of her.
“My daughter is a fine judge of character. You radiate purity. Will you tell our story?”
“Is that what you want,” Nechole’s voice shook.
“Will the killing stop,” she inquired.
“We do not wish to kill,” he told her, “but with our sacrifice the descendants of others must pay the price as well.
“You take our people as well,” she stressed.
“They did not heed the warning,” he shrugged, “we were not welcome here then and we do not need to enjoy the creation that came from our deaths. Go back to your people, tell our story, and make sure the world knows what awaits them should they not heed the warning.”
With that he was back at the shore with the rest and they all disappeared except Polly. She lingered a second longer.
“It was nice to meet you Nechole, “ she waved.
“Interesting, but nice Polly.” Nechole waved to her.
“Tell our story and don’t come back.” She warned with a smile before disappearing.
Note: Oscarville, Ga was one of the city’s located in Forsyth County that experience what many have referred to as a racial cleansing. 1,100 African Americans were chased out of the town making it an all white town. Many tactics were used such as burning buildings, lynching, and more. In two separate occasions, a black man and two teenagers were hung in retaliation to the rape of one white woman and the murder and rape of another in 1912. Towns like Oscarville and others were then flooded to create Lake Lanier which took 5 years to fill up.
William “Froggie” James was a dashing young man. Tall and dark with a body full of muscles. Many women wanted him, but he only had eyes for his Sandra. They had been together for some time now and would be getting married soon.
Walking down the streets of Cairo, IL, he was filled with such pride. Black people had come a long way, but still had a ways to go. White folks still had a short fuse just looking for someone to blow up on. He made sure to steer clear of them when he could.
As he came upon a building, he heard a scream. Something told him to keep walking, but it was a woman and he didn’t want to leave her helpless. As he got ready to go inside, his friend Alexander came barreling out, almost knocking him over and continued up the road. Venturing inside he saw feet from someone on the ground that eventually revealed a young white woman. Fear filled him like never before and he dashed away from there.
Once he made it home, he slammed the door as his love came out of the kitchen.
“What’s wrong,” she rushed to him when she noticed the look on his face.
“I found,” he struggled to get his words out, “white girl dead.”
Sandra felt a chill come over her, “Did anybody see you?”
He merely shook his head no.
“Good,” she started to pace, “You didn’t do it right?”
“Of course I didn’t,” he yelled at the top of his lungs.
“We have to get out of town.” She started gathering their belongings.
William frowned, “I did nothing wrong!”
“You think they care!” She shouted.
Just then loud knocking came at the door.
“Come on out William,” they heard the voice of the well known sheriff.
“I didn’t do it,” William said as he opened the door.
The sheriff had been kind to him many times.
“People say they saw you running away from where a girl was found dead,” the sheriff pulled out his cuffs, “It’s better for me to take you in now before anyone else comes after you.”
William took a look a Sandra, “Stay here and don’t let anyone in.”
Tears fell as she watched them drive off. Dark clouds hung over the town. Destruction was coming.
Just as the sheriff was booking in William, a mob had formed outside. They were demanding that William be released to them for revenge.
Not knowing what else to do, the Sheriff snuck out the back and drove William out of town. He hoped to stay there until things calmed down. That never happened.
In the middle of the night, they heard rumbling where they were hiding before seeing a group of men.
“Hand him over Sheriff,” one of them said.
Before the sheriff could grab his weapon, they had him at gunpoint while others dragged William away screaming.
He was dragged all the way back to town, “Please! I didn’t do it!”
His words fell on deaf ears. That night the town seemed to destroy William and whoever else they could unleash their rage upon.
See as there was no getting through to them he yelled, I did it and Alexander took the lead!”
He knew the right person would hear the message in his confession.
William was dragged through the town square as people hit him and called him names. In the center, there was a noose tied around his neck as not the men, but the women pulled the rope. After he was hung, his body was riddled with bullets before the people cut pieces of his body for souvenirs. Then as they were finally satisfied, they placed his head on a light pole and set it on fire.
With all this going on, no one noticed Sandra standing in the background. Filled with rage, she embraced the ways of her ancestors. Her grandmother had taught her many years ago that she would know when to use her special gifts.
Calling on her ancestors, she placed her hands on the ground, “Ancestors, feel the innocent blood spilled here today. The blood of my love. He did not deserve this and neither did the ones before him. I declare today, until all wrongs are righted, there will never be peace. For as long as innocent blood is spilled, these streets shall forever crumble. Take the peace and take Alexander.”
The streets shook as a scream could be heard in the distance. That scream belonged to Alexander being dragged away before the mob even thought to look for him. Sandra walked off into the night away from the town never wishing to return. Now cracks fill the streets of the town and no matter how many times they fix them, they still crumble.
Note: Cairo, IL. is my hometown. Although I put a twist of love in the story, William “Froggie” James was an actual person that was lynched for the murder of a white girl there in 1909. Many of us resident have been taught the story. He maintained his innocence and just before his hanging, he admitted and said a man named Alexander helped. That man was never found. Many say that because of all the bad that happened there, the streets are cursed and indeed are filled with cracks no matter how many times they were fixed.Let me know your thoughts in the comments as if you have heard of this story. I hope you like the sprinkle of love and fantasy I placed in it.
The people lingered on the plantation unsure of what the day would bring. Many fidgeted with uneasiness and others were planning on the best way to escape should the day bring about terror as done before. They had been told early that morning that there would be an announcement come noon.
Neva, a young slave girl, stood holding her daughter close to her body. Her skin was the color of dark chocolate, her body was short and petite, she had a long braid going down the center of her back, and dark eyes filled with strength. She prayed that this would not be the last day she would see her daughter. Each day they had together was a blessing from the universe. Many of her children were sold long ago. If the day should be their last, she had prepared her well to survive, but that would not ease the hurt.
“What’s happening, Mama,” her daughter Betty asked, looking just like a mini version of her.
Just then, a man rode up on a horse bringing many others with him. The slave master stood on the porch with his wife, both faces were twisted in anger.
The man got off his horse and looked at all of the people. It was a shame that even after being free for over two years, these were the last to find out. It was terrible how that information was withheld from them. Some say the messenger was killed and others say it was done deliberately to get another crop of cotton. Either way it was just plain wrong.
“I come with news from General Granger,” he spoke loud enough for them to hear.
Murmurs could be heard throughout the crowd. What could he possibly have for them to hear?
“As per General Order 3, The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer.” He began to read off the paper.
Gasps could be heard throughout the crowd. Many cried, many shouted, and many stood in disbelief. Their dreams and prayers had finally been answered.
“What’s going on mama,” Betty asked her mother.
“We’re free baby,” she lifted her up as much as she could with tears falling down her face.
People started rushing off to get their belongings. Many unsure of where they would go next, but knew the plantation life was not for them.
“Where are you going,” the slave master yelled, “There’s nothing out there for you people!”
“That may be, but there’s nothing here for us either,” a man named William yelled before walking off with the others. He was a large muscular man with skin the color of molasses.
As Neva and Betty gathered their belongings, they heard music playing. Stopping to look outside of their shack they saw people gathering around in celebration. Food was being brought out of houses and combined to make a big spread for everyone.
“Can we join them mama,” Betty looked up with hopeful eyes.
“Of course, they’ll always be our family,” Neva smiled down with tears still in her eyes.
They both ran out and joined in the laughter and dancing.
Soon Neva felt strong arms around her. Turning she saw William with that smile she had come to love. They had been quietly seeing each other for quite some time now and shared many meals together as a family.
“We’re free now baby, you know what that means,” he asked.
With her words lost, she merely shook her head.
“Today we finally get married and then me, you, and my new daughter is headed north to start our new lives.”
And get married they did, surrounded by all of their newly freed brothers and sisters.
When it was time to leave, William stood embracing Neva and Betty.
“We’re finally free,” she whispered.
“So we don’t have to live here anymore,” Betty asked fearfully.
“No baby, we’re free,”William lifted her up and tickled her, “but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
With one last look, they then joined the others walking up the road to a new freeish way of living.
This short contains the exact beginning of General Order 3 that was instructed to be read announcing the end of slavery in Texas. Also, the names listed in this short, Neva, Betty, and William are all relatives of mine. My grandparents and mother. Although they were not actually there I thought it would be cool to incorporate their names in the story. Let me know in the comments what you think and if it interests you enough to want to see more shorts like this on here. Thank you for reading!
Someone once said that when an old person dies a library burns down.
So you mean to tell me that all that knowledge and wisdom will be reduced to ashes simply because their spirit has left it’s temporary housing?
The walks of my people will now be erased like the rain pouring down to wash away footsteps, is that what you are saying?
Well that is something I just cannot accept.
My history will not be erased like what was tried to be done to the walls of the great pyramids.
The pyramids my ancestors built and left messages for those to come that have now been smeared to tell an altered story.
The story of my ancestors will live through me and the generations to come because they will be taught to never stop telling the story’s.
Through me they will know that their roots trace back to Benin, a country in West Africa that once was named the Dahomey Kingdom.
Through me they will know that my grandmother hid her deaf brother in the trunk of a car and drove from Tennessee to Illinois to escape being lynched.
Through me they will know that they have ties to the land between two rivers also known as Cairo, IL. Where race wars played a pivotal role in its downfall.
Through me they will know that their mother and father were soldiers and didn’t hesitate to fight for their country even though many are not so understanding of who they are.
And through me they will forever say the names Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Oscar Grant, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Pamela Turner, Korryn Gaines, Emmett Till, George Stinney, and the countless others throughout history.
For those names tell a story that will force the world to face a cold hearted reality that many just cannot accept, but will hear because it will never be silenced. Just like the tales from the old person that is no longer with us.
So yeah, some may feel a library is burned down when an old person dies, but I say it’s built stronger.
Every time the stories are told another book is added. And after all the shelves are full and there can be no more, more libraries will be built because my library will never burn down.