Brownsville

From Fear to Peace

When I was very young I almost drowned.  I went under twice and came back up flailing my arms and trying to scream as my mouth, nose, and lungs filled with water.  The third time I went under I felt a hand wrap around mine and pull me onto the side of the pool where there were bars.  It was my cousin.  Even though I didn’t know how to swim I thought I could pass him as we edged around the pool.  I would only let go for a few seconds and then be back on the pole.  A few seconds away from the pole turned into one of the scariest moments of my life.  I lived with the fear of drowning for many years even after taking swimming lessons twice.

But recently I find solace in the waves.  Gone are my fears of how water can take everything away – life, property, landscapes.  And in its place is a calm that fills me with security with a future that is completely unknown.

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Brownsville, Family & Friends

IN HONOR OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH – NESSA

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I do not know anything about my great great great grandmother (who was married to Moses) but I wrote this short story in her honor.  This is another aunt of mine I used as an aspiration.

In the darkness of the early morning Nessa heard the snores of her husband and children fill the house. She had thirty minutes before Moses woke up and then only an additional fifteen minutes before all of the kids were stretching and heading towards the kitchen.

 

She fried the bacon and sausage together in the large black iron skillet she inherited from her mother while she whipped half a dozen eggs with salt, pepper, and bit of milk in a medium sized glass bowl. She’d put the dough together for the biscuits the night before so they sat in the oven waiting to become the perfect golden brown on top and bottom. She still cut off pieces of bread from the loaf to be eaten with the meal so there would be biscuits left for the kids and her husband to carry for lunch.

 

Moses even liked to take a few strips of bacon with him to go after eating his full share of everything. Richard, the oldest at 17, ate the second most but Edmond, 15, and Tyrone, 12, put in a good effort to beat him. Naomi, the youngest girl, would only eat cereal and Bobbi, the oldest girl at 14, barely ate at all. Nessa didn’t dare touch any food until after everyone else ate.

 

When Moses sat in his chair at the head of the table all of the food was laid out on the table ready for his pickings. The children soon followed and they engulfed the food while she started on the dishes. Luckily she ate a bit as she cooked so by the time the frenzy started her belly full enough.

 

As she washed the dishes her mind began to drift to her trip into Manhattan a few days ago. She went into the city to pick up material for her church to make new choir robes for the church’s 20th Anniversary. They could have bought cheaper cloth in Brooklyn but a 20th Anniversary only happens once and the members agreed to work together to raise the money not only for new robes but also for decorations, food, and a small gift for the pastor.

 

She was looking forward to the Anniversary celebration because her church family was just an extension of her actual family. She was an active member of the church ensuring that her children were there every Sunday and attended every Bible study course. The only person she didn’t have a hold on was Moses. He used his job as an excuse as often as possible but never chastised her for all the time she spent there.

 

As she washed the large black skillet she thought of the conversation she’d had with Moses the night after she came home from the city. Moses had the same routine for morning and evening so Nessa knew bringing something up shortly after he put on his pajamas caught Moses in his most relaxed state when he was most likely to agree to something.

 

“So I was in the city today.” She wanted him to be aware of her comings and goings so she often told him exactly where she went everyday.

 

“Why?” She didn’t often go into the city. Brooklyn had just about everything the city had and they couldn’t really afford to buy anything in the city so he was always a bit suspicious when Nessa mentioned going there.

 

“I had to pick up the new cloth for the choir robes for the 20th Anniversary celebration. You know the colors are white and gold. We have all the decorations and the food will be taken care of. So now that we have the material for the robes we’re just about set.” She paused to see if he was really interested and his brown eyes were fixed on her lips so she knew he was.

 

“I made my dress already. It’s all white with a little lace on the trim at the bottom. I didn’t have to spend any money on new cloth. I had everything I needed right in my closet.”

 

“That’s good.” He was thinking that she was going to ask for money for new cloth but before his relief was fully realized Nessa continued.

 

“The only thing is that I don’t have a white hat and you know I don’t know how to make hats.”

 

“How much is it?”

 

“What?”

 

“The hat. How much is it.” Moses already knew he was going to give her the money before he asked but he needed to know just how hard he needed to work to get it.

 

“It’s $2. But it’s perfect – white with a bit of lace. Being that I’m on the usher board I could were it every Sunday. The money will not go to waste.”

 

“Let me think about it.” Nessa knew that “I’ll think about it” probably meant he would give her the money but the only way to be certain was to never bring it up again. He didn’t like feeling coerced. The decision had to be his own.

In the kitchen that morning Nessa was so engrossed in her own thoughts time passed by and she didn’t realize that all the food she’d made was gone. Moses stood in front of her

reached in his pocket, pulled out two dollars, cupped the money in his hand so the children wouldn’t see, took Nessa’s hand, kissed her goodbye and effortlessly transferred the money.

 

She didn’t have time to say thank you. And she couldn’t show any change of expression that would attract the attention of the children.

 

At 6:30am she sat in the living room and took a deep breath before starting the laundry. She wondered how she could show Moses how much she appreciated him. She felt his love knew no bounds and she had to do something more than prepare one of his favorite meals to assure him that she felt the same way.

 

Brownsville, Family & Friends

IN HONOR OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH – MOSES

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This is a picture of my great great great grandfather.  He was the first Black police officer to retire from the force.  I wrote this short story in his honor.

On Monday morning, several weeks after beginning his new role as patrolman, Moses got up, brushed his teeth, washed his face, and looked in the mirror as he slicked back the few strands of hair that covered his head. In the midst of his daily routine he took a moment to be thankful for how well his life was turning out. He was born into slavery and walked from North Carolina to New York City. He went from running from the law that would have taken him back into slavery to becoming the law in the North. Initially the North was not the land of opportunity that others seemed to think it would be. When he took the exam to become a police officer he did not know if they would actually accept him but when the letter came he could see his future clearly. He would work as a police officer until he retired and enjoy his old age with his pension.

 

He worked hard to support his family and keep the small home he was able to purchase on his police salary. It had three bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen with enough room to put a table. It housed the seven people in his household. There were his three sons – Tyrone, Edmond, and Richard. There were his two daughters – Bobbi and Naomi. And there was his wife Nessa. He’d met Nessa in the North and all of his children were born free. His children would never know what it meant to be owned by man. They would be their own people with their own rights and freedoms he had the authority to protect. Moses was proud of the fact that his wife could remain at home to care for the children. He knew that many other Afro-American women spent their time taking care of White children while the young Afro-American children sometimes were left to raise themselves. Moses and Nessa were a team and the success of their children was their main goal.

 

But this August morning in 1912, his first full year as a patrolman, he braced for a day that he hoped would be no different from the rest. He worked for the 75th precinct that serviced the East New York area of Brooklyn. He lived right on the outskirts of the neighborhood as Afro-Americans who were doing well did not live that far away from Afro-Americans who were struggling.

 

East New York was one of the most dangerous parts of New York City but Moses was not easily intimated. Each day was a bit of a battle but he trusted his partner, Ernie. Moses never thought he would call a White person partner and he was certain Ernie had his own biases but they were still learning about one another, what to ask, what to expect, how much to trust. Moses not only had to think of what Ernie’s biases could be he also had to recognize his own biases. They both had been very respectful of one another while sticking to safe topics like sports and weather. Many days over the past couple of weeks they spent in silence as Moses got the feel for the community and adjusted to having a partner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When it was time to park and walk the beat they made sure to stay close to one another but Moses often liked to find a moment to speak with the young Afro-American boys alone. He didn’t want to have to arrest them but oftentimes they left him no choice. He had to admit that the kids in East New York didn’t have a whole lot of options. There were more opportunities to steal, lie, and hurt others than there were to help them find jobs or at least hold their attention to keep them out of trouble.

 

As he walked Moses down the block, looking ahead while Ernie scanned his periphery he saw something that looked like a wallet lying on the ground about 70 feet ahead of him. He was headed in that direction when two young boys walked right up to the object, picked it up, and stood close together so Moses could not see what they did with it.

 

Moses whispered to Ernie and pointed in the boy’s direction, “I think they just picked up a wallet.”

 

Ernie’s eyebrows lifted and he turned towards the boys. “You sure?”

 

Now Moses wasn’t 100% certain but he made the decision to tell Ernie so he had already decided to catch up to the boys and find out. “I’d like to find out.”

 

The boys were happy with their find so they were not in a hurry to get where they were going so it was easy for Moses and Ernie to catch up with them. Pretty soon they were walking right beside them. Ernie was on the right side of one boy and Moses on the left side of the other.

 

“Hey, did you two find something back there?” Moses was careful not to call them boys. Even though they were boys he knew they might have taken it in a negative way and he didn’t want to provoke them. Either way he recognized the absolute shock in both of their faces when they looked into his brown eyes and thoroughly examined his mahogany skin that reminded them of a parent. But Moses could see their expression change to a bit of disgust as they came to the realization that he was a police officer like the White man standing with him.

 

“Are you a real cop?” The boy beside him asked. He already knew the answer but he wanted to express his disregard for his authority.

 

At this point Ernie responded. He knew that part of his role was to ensure that everyone respected Moses. “We both are. You heard him. Answer his question.”

 

Moses could tell from the smile that crossed over the boy’s face that he was going to lie. “I didn’t find anything.” He turned to his friend and asked, “Did you find something?”

 

The boy had the same smile on his face as if he was hiding something no one would ever be able to find. “I didn’t find anything. What makes you think we found anything?”

 

“So you don’t mind if we search you?” Ernie had read the sly smile as a lie just as Moses had.

 

“What? Right here?” The boys knew nothing of their rights but they preferred being searched in public than taken back to a police station.

 

Moses conducted the search. He patted down their legs, arms, the back and front of their chests and emptied their pockets. He found nothing. Things were exactly as they should have been. They didn’t have one cent between the two of them. Ernie and Moses let the boys go.

 

Moses felt like his eyes must not have been as good as he thought but the boys had bent down to pick something up. He had no idea where they could have hidden it but there was a stretch of time when he could not see what they were doing. He wished he could have asked them what they did without having to arrest them. The curiosity would plague him for weeks.

 

As the boys walked away the boy who had questioned his legitimacy as a police officer turned around when they were about 15 feet in front of Ernie and Moses, spit on the ground, and spoke loud enough for Moses to hear but not quite loud enough for everyone to hear, “Uncle Tom”.

 

Moses did not flinch. It was in that moment that Moses knew exactly what he had to face each day. He’d made a new allegiance to the law and the people who looked like him no longer saw him as just another Negro. His was a protector and a provider but in a class all of his own.

 

Brownsville, Free Write

Relationships

I tend to think that the people whose paths I cross are apart of my life for a reason.  When someone is no longer in my life I think back on when they were and I wonder why they were present in my life at that time.  What did I need to learn from them?  How can that experience help me going forward?  What will I do if I come across someone like them again?

I’m not sure that everything happens for a reason but I’m pretty sure every life has meaning and everyone who crosses my path did so with a purpose.  I just have  to figure it out.

Brownsville

Urges

I ate Dominos and I thought to myself –

“If I eat Dominos today I won’t gain twenty pounds tomorrow.”

Lately I’ve been thinking of how I’m going to do on my own.  I’m ending my personal training sessions at the end of this month.  November – the rest of my life – I will try to make this work on my own.

I’m telling myself – I got this! – But time will tell.  I will say this the bad foods I used to love don’t taste as good as they used to.  No more Doninos until 2019!

Brownsville, Lessons

“If You Like It, I Love It”

So someone tells you something that sounds horrible to you and you can’t understand how they can deal with what they are dealing with.  You want to give them advice but you know that nothing you say to them is going to make them do anything different.  So you give up on them and trying to get them to change and you say,

“If You Like It, I Love It”

It’s the new way to call people stupid. – FYI