From what I can remember: 4-just before six-year-old

To this point, I haven’t mentioned too much about my mother’s parents. I’ve already stated that they were much younger than my father’s. My maternal grandfather was born in 1902. I’m not sure when my maternal grandmother was born. If memory serves me well, she wasn’t that much younger than grandpa. I use the term grandpa here for a lot of reasons. One is that this man, Andrew Jeffrey, was a beacon of strength and wisdom in my life. I’ll talk more about that later. My maternal grandmother, Emma, was called Sweet by everyone. I never understood why though. I assume that was a term of endearment given to her by grandpa. She was a strong, tough disciplinarian, which made it difficult for any of us grandchildren to reconcile what sounded like a term of endearment, Sweet, with her iron will. Through all her tough exterior, the love for her family was evident in all that she did.

To get to grandpa and Sweet’s place, you had to go up to Highway 64, turn left in the direction of town, Wynne, drive a few miles before turning left and continuing down a rough gravel road a mile or so. At this point, you would arrive at the eighty-acre farm, on the left, they owned. There was also another route where you would go in the opposite direction taken to drive to Highway 64 from our house. This route was shorter; however, the gravel road soon turned into dirt after leaving our house. The entire route was very undeveloped, even in comparison to a county gravel road. This was the route you would take if you wanted to go by foot.

As I try to recall details about grandpa and Sweet before I turned six, I’m only able to paint foggy pictures. What does come to mind are pictures of grandpa working his eighty acres with two mules and farming equipment being pulled by them. They lived in a three-room house (living room, bedroom, and kitchen). You might say the house was a part of a compound. It sat amongst a barn, a smoke house, a chicken coop, a hog pin behind the barn and an outhouse far behind it all. The eighty acres, the roughly constructed building, all were an example of self-sufficiency in early 1950s Arkansas. It all seemed so large back then. I remember when I left home to go to college, the place didn’t seem so large. Grandpa had no formal education, but he had a basic understanding of math and carpentry, which sufficiently equipped him to build his house and surrounding buildings.

My mother’s family was small in comparison to the thirteen children my father’s parents had. There were six kids. That seemed small back then to what country folks normally had. I used to hear it said that country people had large families because they needed ample hands to work the land. I’m not sure how true that was.

As I look back now, I do realize that most of my time, during the first six years of my life, was spent in a cocoon of comfort provided by my family. These weren’t the best of times for Black folks, but as a child the poverty and all the unequal treatment reserved for us was not a part of my life, yet.

For some reason, I do remember Weeping Willow trees. There was a big one in grandpa and Sweet’s front yard. This was the place to be during those hot days of summer, when the heat and humidity were brutal. If I close my eyes, I can almost feel the moisture from the trees gracing my skin.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

My heart is heavy. How about yours?

I penned the following one and a half days ago. Circumstances have changed somewhat since then; however, I was moved to write what I was experincing emotionally at the time. I feel no need to rewrite.

There’s so much going on in our world today, and too much of it isn’t good. I’m watching or should I say mostly listening to the NBC Today Show. The anchors are discussing the decision by National Basketball Association players to boycott the playoff games. Their decision follows the situation in Kenosha, Wisconsin where a police officer shot Jacob Blake seven times in his back. As usual these days, there was video of the incident, taken by bystanders. The players feel deeply that this incident is another example of what must stop happening in America, Black men being killed unnecessarily by police. Their decision has spread to other sports franchises: The Women’s National Basketball Association, the Major and Minor League Baseball players. There will probably be some individuals with access to a public speaking platform, who will criticize these players for their action. I never understood why some folks think athletes should play and shut up. That’s the lot that people want to assign to gladiators in any era. You’re paid to play, to make money, to provide entertainment, not to exercise a social conscience.

When I saw the video footage of Blake being shot by the police officer, I first thought maybe there was some justification for this. After all Blake was entering his vehicle, not complying with the police order to stop. Who knows, he could have had a weapon in the vehicle. However, the action of shooting Blake seven times was over the top by the standards of any rational human being. Whenever I see video footage of these types of incident, and there have certainly been a lot of them lately, I can’t help but think about the mindset of the officer pulling the trigger. How can one, who is put in a position to protect life act so cavalierly to end one? I can certainly see the justification for firing at someone if they have a weapon drawn or are in some threatening stance where defense of self is necessary, but this case with Jacob Blake wasn’t that clear.

Jacob Blake’s kids were in the car. They saw their dad being shot seven times in the back. His kids were in the car. They saw him being shot. The shock of seeing this will probably be with them for an exceedingly long time, possibly the rest of their lives. What will they think when someone tells them that police officers are there to protect you? That’s an argument that flies squarely in the face of the reality they witnessed.

And then comes protests, and God forbid mayhem in the streets. What follows? Police response is what follows. More injuries and a good chance loss of life. In this case, there was indeed loss of life from the action of an individual who lived from out of state. Kyle Rittenhouse, with no ties to the Kenosha, Wisconsin community decided his assistance was needed to manage the situation occurring in the streets of Kenosha. He’s a seventeen-year-old young man, and probably without very much wisdom, as many his age lack. With assault rifle in hand, and I would venture to say little, if any respect for human life, Rittenhouse decided to fire into the protesting crowd. His action resulted in the careless killing of two human beings.

How does any of this happen? We all can venture a reply; however, until we figure out how to stop it from happening again, my heart will forever be heavy.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The world according to the coronavirus

Remember when first word of the Coronavirus pandemic was in the news? There was an immediate deterioration of common sense. People started buying up toilet paper and paper towels. I recall seeing a video online where a woman had pulled a pickup truck up to a store and she had loaded the thing up to the brim with paper products. Someone, trying to appeal to her sense of concern for others, was asking her why she was doing such. She replied with a few choice expletives, letting the inquirer know that this was none of her business. For several weeks after the virus landed on U.S. shores, paper products were scarce. Supply has finally caught up with demand. I’m able to purchase my normal brand of paper products now at the grocery store. There are other shortages though.

I was watching a news feed from CBS on one of my local television news programs recently and it talked about shortages of lumber, puppies and crossword puzzles that have developed due to the Coronavirus. Other shortages that have become evident include lap top computers, freezers, bicycles, and web cams. Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but I’m sure you can see why these things would be short in supply now. Take web cams for instance. We have two laptops and a desktop in our house. The laptops have built-in web cams. The desktop hasn’t. Because the Coronavirus has brought about an era where online meetings have become more common than at any time before, I decided to go to Best Buy to purchase one for the desktop. I’ve always been able to purchase whatever electronic gadget I need at Best Buy. To my surprise, Best Buy didn’t have any web cams in the store. This was about three months ago. A sales associate called the other two stores in the metro to see if they might have one, no luck. Since the middle of March, people have been spending more time at home, resulting in the need to have more connectivity to the world. Web cams are big-selling items now. I found a web cam at one of many Walmart stores located in our area.

The Coronavirus has taken control of, what seems to be, an unquantifiable part of our lives. Furthermore, the longer it remains, the more we’ll adapt to doing things differently. Who would have thought that five months ago dedicated church goers would be satisfied with attending Sunday morning services from the comfort of their living room couch? Worshipping God in your most comfortable lounge wear is something with which we probably shouldn’t get too comfortable. When we do get back into the church building, our Sunday best might not be what it used to be.  Speaking of church and the spiritual realm, I read an article the other day about pastors who are experiencing difficulties during this pandemic. Some are being fired because their congregations don’t think they’re doing a good job, leading during the pandemic. Others are trying to lead congregations that no longer have money to make contributions sufficient to meet the financial obligations of their church. There has been an increase in cases of stress leading to poor mental health of many pastors.

The world according to the coronavirus, or is it the world according to our inability to manage effectively during this global challenge?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

From what I can remember: 3-spotty memory before age six

I’ve been trying intensely to recall events that happened in my life before I turned six-years-old. Unlike some people I know, my memory doesn’t work well for that time in my life. I see bits and pieces of things; however, live and in living color reproductions just aren’t available. In the absence of my ability to generate my own clearly defined stories, I’ll present a mixture of what I can remember and what my mother told me later.

I do recall these things: Me going to work with my mother. She worked as a domestic for the white lady, who lived on Highway 64, not too far from our house. My mother only had an eight-grade education. She worked as a domestic worker for many years. As I look back on those years, I can’t help but wonder why these white women needed someone to clean their houses, cook their meals and watch after their children. None of the women my mother worked for were employed outside of the home. They were just Southern ladies with husbands who had large farm operations, or they owned some business in town. Having a Black domestic worker to be a homemaker, while you did what seemed to have been nothing, must have been a status symbol. This was the South in the 1950s, less than one hundred years after the end of the civil war. I think this was a remnant of a time gone by.

I’m sure the women for whom my mother worked didn’t pay her very much. I do recall my mother’s salary being supplemented with things like hand-me-down clothing, left-over food and the occasional household appliance that was out of style. At the time, we were poor, but I didn’t know that. In retrospect, I assume that any items given to us, no matter whether they were discards from my mother’s employers, went far to improve our style of living. My mother dutifully performed in these ladies’ homes from the moment she entered the back door each day. She humbly used the prefix yes ma’am/no ma’am in conversations with these privileged women. Many of these women we’re my mother’s age, but her relationship with them was defined by more than simply employer/employee. It was less than that for these women and far more than that for my mother. Remember, this was the late 1950’s in Cross County, Arkansas.

At some point, before I turned six, my father’s parents died. I don’t remember when exactly. I could research this, but that would defeat the purpose of why I’m writing this. Even though I can’t remember how they looked, I can still recall the scent of cinnamon in Grandma Katherine’s kitchen. That still gives me a warm and comfortable feeling some sixty years later. I don’t think that’s too bad. Do you?

One thing I do remember during this time is how loving my mother was. She was always there. I never went without her love and comfort. She told me later that I had a brother, Johnny Lee, born after me. He died early from health complications. No one could ever explain to me exactly what the complications were. There was another brother, Larry, born in 1955. He’s still alive and growing old like me. Larry was the first of my siblings to be born in a hospital. I wonder why no midwife like Johnny Lee and me?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

From what I can remember: 2-back from Mississippi

If you read my first blog with the same primary title as this one, you know that I’m attempting to offer a biographical survey of parts of my life. This is an interesting exercise for me. I don’t sit down at my keyboard with very much detail in mind about what I plan to write. There was at least one detail in my maiden attempt that came to mind as I was writing. Trust me, I’ll not be making this stuff up. I will be consulting with my first cousins, many of them with much better memories than mine; a brief family tree one of my cousins did some work on a few years ago; and a file of birth and death certificates I have on hand. If I find myself stuck on trying to remember some salient point, I’ll consult with Aunt Mary. She is the surviving matriarch on my mother’s side of the family.  I’m trying to pull as much from my hard drive as I can, using my own recapturing software.

My father was ten years older than my mother. She was eighteen when they got married. I’m sure you can figure the rest of the math from that. My father’s family was a lot older than my mother’s. His parents were born in the early 1880s, and they had a total of thirteen children. My father, born in 1925, was the youngest of them. His oldest sibling, Aunt Eula, was about the same age as my maternal grandfather.

My father evidently was quite skilled as a farm laborer. According to my mother, we had moved back to Arkansas from Mississippi when we lived just across the field from Grandpa Ulysses and Grandma Katherine. Dad worked for a white farmer, who had a large operation with acreage in both Arkansas and Mississippi. I remember my mother telling me on more than one occasion that dad was given the opportunity to move the family to Mississippi, where he would perform duties as Forman on his boss’ farm. For the life of me I wish I could remember the town in Mississippi to which we moved. (I told you I’m trying to recall as much detail as I can.)

Back in the early 1950s, Mississippi had a reputation as one of the most racist states in the South. There used to be a joke people would tell about Black people mounting tires on an automobile in Mississippi. One should never put white-wall tires on the front of a car with black-walls on the back. This metaphorically represented a Black person chasing a white one. This could end up being a fatal mistake. I can remember people laughing at this, but somehow, I find little humor in it today. Knowing what I know about the history of race relations in Mississippi, Black people were mistreated and sometimes lynched for far less than that. I remember seeing the picture of Emmett Till in Jet magazine when I was about seven or eight years old. His mangled face, battered to an unrecognizable state, ended up that way from a tortuous beating he received from rabid racists, who thought whistling at a white woman was just too much. I won’t go into too much detail about what happened to Emmett Till, except to say that he was a young boy from Chicago visiting relatives in a Jim-Crow state, who most likely wasn’t counseled about proper protocol for staying alive.

My mother told me years later, after we moved back to Arkansas that we had to move. Evidently, my father serving as a Foreman of his boss’ farming operation in Mississippi wasn’t apropos. I can still remember the fear in her voice whenever she would tell me this story.  We ended up back in Arkansas, still in the Jim Crow South, but with slightly less Jim Crow in the mix than Mississippi.

In the early 1950s, a white farmer hired a black man to be Forman on his farm in Mississippi. I would say that was a light during a very dark time. Wouldn’t you?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

How Is It That You Have No Faith?

Here’s a blog that is most timely. I hope you’ll agree.

Unshakable Hope

I don’t understand why, but many of us enjoy seeing others become frightened. Some of the funniest videos I’ve seen are of grown men getting scared and screaming like little girls.

It may be fun to see others get scared, but living in fear is nothing to laugh about.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been an Online Missionary for Global Media Outreach for ten years. Last week, I received the following message from a woman overseas:
Comment/Question: “Please pray for me. I’m going through anxiety, fear of the unknown.”

Research shows that fear is triggered by a loss of control or feeling powerless. With the pandemic, social unrest, and the economic meltdown, the world is seemingly spinning out of control. There are many living in fear because they feel a loss of control and a sense of powerlessness. Since the start of the pandemic, sales of anti-anxiety drugs…

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From what I can remember: 1-the smell of cinnamon

I’ve had several people tell me that I should write a book. Whenever someone tells me that, I find myself thankful and humble that anyone would even think that I was capable of such. Usually, these kinds of comments come from someone who has been reading my blogs, friends and relatives mostly. I must make a confession, I really don’t think I have the discipline to sit for hours on end, concentrating on the details necessary to compile a tome of four hundred pages or more. I suffer from OAADD (Old Age Attention Deficit Disorder). It may not be an officially diagnosed condition, but it’s real for me.

Instead of writing a book, I’ve decided to try my hand at remembering and blogging some events that occurred during my seventy years of living on this little blue rock. I’m not sure where this is going, what I will talk about, or how long it will last. I’ve made no attempts to speak with any of the old folks in my family, who were around at the time of any of these events. Most of the generation before me is gone, so I suppose I would be considered old folks now.  It’s just my memory and me, giving it our best. Given the fact that I have one of the worst memories on the planet, here goes:

It’s some time before I was old enough to attend elementary school, and I smell the distinct scent of cinnamon. This scent always paints an olfactory image whenever I think of this time.  I find myself back somewhere in my fraternal grandmother’s kitchen. The scent is strong as if I’m there right now whiffing every savory scent. I can’t remember anything else about Grandma Katherine’s kitchen except the smell of cinnamon. Was she a good cook? I have no idea. I also remember the old photos of people she had hanging on the walls; you know the kind that had those haunting eyes that followed you wherever you went in the room. There was also a grandfather clock that chimed on the hour. Her house was dark and from what I can remember everything was faded shades of brown, gray and burgundy. Wait, it’s coming back to me, there was a red-checkered tablecloth in the kitchen.

We lived on a gravel road about a quarter mile north of State Highway 64 in Cross County. The county seat was and still is Wynne, Arkansas. I don’t remember a lot about that time, except what my mother told me years after, during my early childhood. Grandma Katherine and her husband Ulysses, my grandpa, lived walking distance from us, across a field and just off the highway. I do remember walking that distance, which didn’t seem that far away. Of course, I was but a toddler then, so did I walk or was I carried? Grandpa Ulysses and Grandma Katherine were well into their seventies when I was born.

I’ve been told by many folks that you must talk to your older relatives about your family before they die. Being born into a family where oral history was the primary method of passing details down from one generation to the next, I realize the truth in that now, especially when the smell of cinnamon is the only thing I can remember about my fraternal grandparents. They must have had some powerful stories to tell. These folks were born within twenty years of the end of slavery.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Are we advancing backwards?

UNITED STATES – FEBRUARY 14: Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., stands on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in between television interviews on Feb. 14, 2015. Rep. Lewis was beaten by police on the bridge on “Bloody Sunday” 50 years ago on March 7, 1965, during an attempted march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

“The More Things Change, The More They Remain theSame.” This phrase was coined by French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in 1848, or there abouts. The following is a story of an encounter my 22-year-old granddaughter had recently on a fishing trip. These are her words, with truly little editing. I read this and it pierced my soul. At seventy years of age, I have experienced a lot of mistreatment because of the color of my skin. I sometimes find myself momentarily cocooned in naivety, thinking, no hoping that my children and grandchildren will not have to experience certain things. Read this and see what your reaction is. I know that may seem like a strange request; however, I want you to let this simmer deep within the bowls of your being.

“Yesterday, I went fishing on Lake Wedington (I know, me fishing. Who knew?!) It was a fun time. My fishing line became the biggest tangled mess, but somehow, I still caught a small bass (again, who knew??) It was me, Daniel, and one of his friends. We’re out in the open, the road right next to us by the lake. Cars and motorcycles are flying by. A red truck came cruising around a curve, packed with guys who had their windows down. Everything was fine until one of them in the backseat saw me and yelled “f***in n****r” at me.

The way my body flooded with heat. I paused, surely, he wasn’t yelling that to me, in progressive Fayetteville, AR. (Fayetteville is a college town, with a reputation as being one of best small towns in the United states to live.) Surely this wasn’t reality. But it was. I looked to Daniel and his friend, praying they didn’t hear it, because for some reason I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that my skin color attracts the most hateful negative attention.

But what I felt the most was anger. I understand that there are plenty of wayward souls in the world who are plain nasty, hateful, and evil. But what I continue to struggle with is understanding why, as a country, we still back Trump, who has been the role model for such ugliness. We have a president who refuses to acknowledge the oppression of America’s black citizens. A president that does not condemn the actions of the hateful. Instead, he uses physical force to silence us. And because of his ignorance, many more American citizens refuse to see that change is needed. Refuse to see how this one man has negatively influenced those all around us.

What I want to see in the leader of the free world is someone who stands up for humanity. I want to see someone who holds compassion for all citizens, who fights for everyone’s rights. And I will make sure that my vote counts this November 3.

America deserves better. We deserve better.”

I’m old and blessed (despite the ugliness in the world) …hope you will be too.

Taking it to the streets

Have you paid close attention to what’s really going on in the world today? Yeah, I know you’re probably like me, you read the headlines of your e-newspaper, scan an article and move on to the next one exercising the same manner of review. However, perusal of your paper will show that people are upset. And it seems as if they’re upset everywhere, around the world, about a plethora of things. They are protesting vehemently in the streets. Of course, all of us know about the demonstrations that have been taking place about the police killing of George Floyd.  That tragic incident is still sparking protests globally. The reality of a global pandemic that’s taking lives indiscriminately hasn’t placed a damper on the motivation for people to prepare their best placards, and to put their frustration on display for the world to see. Inequality and injustice seem to be at the heart of most of these protests.

According to the Telangana Today ( August 4, 2020 edition, 2019 was a record year for protests worldwide.  Protests are having noticeable effects on government operations in many capital cities around the world: Amsterdam, Dublin, Berlin, Toronto, Paris to name a few. Although the issues that people are protesting about may appear to be varied: police brutality, climate change, human rights, corruption of government officials, justice and equality are the threads stitching together the motivation to protest. One might ask, with over seven billion people on the planet, how can there be a common denominator to all this open frustration? I would suspect the speed with which news of occurrences are transported around the world is a large part of the answer. People can see a video of what appears to be wrongful police shooting on Main Street, U.S. just minutes after it happens in Berlin or Paris or London. People see this and it breeds emotions of familiarity. This is happening in my neck of the woods, too. Another world citizen has been mistreated by their government. I’m upset and I want to do something about it. It’s tantamount to it happening in the global-village square.

As I’ve watched people in the streets of Portland, Oregon protesting against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter, I often wonder about the words to the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States Flag. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Obviously, the protestors on U.S. streets don’t feel that liberty and justice are being served warm to all of our citizens. Today, August 5, 2020, marks sixty-nine days people have been taking their frustration to the streets of Portland.  Whether you agree with the reason they’re protesting or not, you have to give them credit for sticking to it.

The longer I live, the more I see the commonality in what motivates all of us, regardless of the space we occupy on the planet. The human model today, as ions ago, is driven by intangibles such as love, hate, greed, compassion, and a desire to ensure that all are treated with dignity and respect. I realize the latter may not be what drives all of us; however, I think the majority can lay claim to these laudable qualities. And it’s because we do, we oftentimes get sick and tired of being sick and tired and we take to the streets, hoping our voices aren’t like vapor evaporating in the wilderness.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.