Love Lives On/Tranquil #writephoto

tranquil

Photo by Sue Vincent

I stood there in the secluded spot and tranquil place where we used to meet.  It was our secret place where we could love each other freely.  Back there it was against the law for a white man and a black woman to have relations.  Race mixing as they called it was banned.  The punishment for interracial marriage to be a year in jail and the white person was fined $100 fine.  The person who officiated an interracial wedding was fined $200.  How I hated those laws.  They were passed by ignorant and racist people who couldn’t accept that people of different races could fall in love with each other.

My parents were just as intolerant.  They believed that people should stick to their own kind–you know, to keep the races pure.  They even used the Bible to validate their racist views.  I read the Bible myself and nowhere did it prohibit interracial love.  In fact, there were examples of mixed marriages.  I hated going to a school where blacks weren’t allowed and even church which was to be the temple of the God who created all races, blacks weren’t allowed to worship with us.  I hated living in a state that was so intolerant.  I promised myself that I would leave it as soon as I was old enough.

My parents made sure that I went to the best schools and associated only with those whom they deemed to be socially acceptable–the filthy rich.  They even had it in their heads that one day I would marry Governor Brown’s daughter, Virginia (I can’t believe her parents named her after the state).  Granted, she was a nice girl, very pretty and I could tell that she liked me very much.  We went on dates and such and then, I went away to university.  It was an understanding that we were going steady and that in due time, I would propose.

When I returned from university one summer vacation, my mother told me that we had a new maid, Flora.  The previous one, Berta had been fired.  My parents never told me what happened but I was sore because I really liked Berta.  Well, when I met Flora, I quickly forgot about Berta.  She was much younger than Berta but about ten years older than me.  Flora wasn’t pretty like Virginia but she was very attractive.  She had big brown eyes that didn’t seem to miss a thing, smooth dark skin and a lovely voice.  Sometimes she would sing as she worked.

Once I asked her why didn’t she become a professional singer.  She scoffed and said, “The only thing white folks want colored people like me to do is cook, clean, do the laundry and keep my place.”

Flora had a room built at the back of the house where she would change into her uniform and use the bathroom.  She had special plates and forks to use for her meals.  She was paid $10 a week which in that time was considered good money.

Flora was a bit cynical and who could blame her?  Although she is well paid, she is treated with disrespect and condescension by my parents, relatives and family friends.  There are times when I sit at the dining table and seethe with rage.  The final straw came when Flora accidentally spilled a glass of wine and some of it got on Mrs. Miller, an insufferable and vain woman.  She rose to her feet and struck Flora hard across the face.  “You clumsy n—–,” she cried.  “You’ve ruined my dress.  It’s too bad you can’t be whipped for this.”

My mother didn’t bat an eye.  I couldn’t believe that she wasn’t livid that one of her guests had slapped Flora.  I guess I was foolish to expect her to say something in Flora’s defense.  Instead, she said to her crossly, “Clean that mess up.”

Flora quickly left the room and was back in a seconds to clean the spill.  I wanted to go after her but propriety made me stay put.  I promised myself that I would speak to her before she left this evening.”

“You should fire her, Rosemary,” Mrs. Miller said as she resumed her seat.

“It was an accident!” I said as calmly as I could although, what I really wanted to do was throw the rest of the wine in her sanctimonious face.

“You mind your manners, Boy,” my father scolded.

“You’re excused,” was my mother’s rejoinder.

“Excuse me,” I said as I rose to my feet.  I was happy to leave the table.

I headed straight for the kitchen where Flora was busy washing up the dishes.   I wanted to help but I knew that she wouldn’t let me.  Besides, it would get her into trouble.  I went and stood beside her.  I could see that she had been crying.  I wanted to hug her.  “I’m sorry about what happened just now, Flora,” I said quietly.  “Mrs. Miller had no right to hit you.  You’re a grown woman, not a child.”

“You heard what she called me.  That gives her the right to hit me.”

“Flora, sometimes, I wish I could take you away from all of this.”

“You shouldn’t be saying such things, Master Oliver.”

“But, it’s true, Flora.”

“And where would we go?”

“I don’t know yet but some place where you’re treated better.”

“Right now I can’t think of any place like that except Heaven.”

“Flora, after I graduate from university, I’m going to leave Richmond.  I want you to come with me.”

“Master Oliver, stop talking foolish.”

“Stop calling me Master Oliver,” I retorted.  “I’m just plain Oliver and I’m not talking foolish.  I’m very serious, Flora.”

“I’ll think about it now, go before your mother comes in here and finds us together.”

“All right. I’ll go.  Goodnight, Flora.”

“Goodnight, Mas–Oliver.”

The next morning, she was gone.  My mother had taken Mrs. Miller advice and fired Flora.  I was so upset that I didn’t speak to my mother for weeks.  I found out where Flora lived and the first opportunity, I had, I went to see her.  She was alone.  After I letting her know how upset and furious I was that she had lost her job, I made her promise to meet me that afternoon at the pond where no one ever goes.

I got there first and waited.  As I waited, I picked a bunch of wildflowers I saw there.  Flora would like them.  I bet she never got flowers from anyone before.  I would be the first.  I smiled at the thought.  She showed up five minutes later.  I gave her the flowers and she took them, smiling.  She smelled them.  “Thank you,” she said.  She reached up and kissed me on the cheek.

I felt my face get hot.  I also felt strange sensations in my body.  “You’re welcome, Flora,” I said.

We sat down on the grass and talked and talked.  I loved being with her and I could tell she felt the same way.  We promised to meet there again tomorrow.  She left first and then I left several minutes after.  When I went home, my mother told me that Virginia and her parents were having dinner with us that evening.  It would be the first time I would be seeing Virginia since I’ve been home for the summer.  I was more excited about seeing Flora tomorrow than seeing Virginia that evening.

The evening went well, I suppose.  Virginia didn’t seem to notice that I was preoccupied with my thoughts.  She talked mostly about herself and what she had been up to while I was away at university.  I didn’t make any plans to see her again.  After we parted company, I went up to my room where I remained until the following morning.  As soon as the afternoon came, I was racing down to the pond.  This time Flora was waiting for me.  And she brought two huge slices of an apple pie she had baked.  After we ate them, we went for a swim.

Afterwards, we lay in the sun.  We talked about different things and then, I rolled onto my side and looked down at her.  She had her eyes closed.  The strange sensations stir inside me again and this time, I lowered my head and kissed her.  She didn’t push me away or slap me in the face.  Instead, she reached up and put her arms around my neck.  We ended up making love for the first time.

Day after day we met there in our secluded spot until one day we were discovered by Virginia’s brother and his friends.  I was promptly sent back to Atlanta where I spent the rest of the summer until it was time to return to university.  I don’t know what happened to Flora.  No one would tell me anything.  I was devastated because I was madly in love with her.  I wanted to marry her.

When I returned to Virginia, I went to her house.  At that point I didn’t care what people said or did or thought.  All I wanted was to see Flora.  However, when I went to her house, the neighbors said that she was gone.  They had no idea where she had gone.

Dejected, I returned to Atlanta where I tried to forget about her.  I even got married to a nice girl named Amy and we had a boy.  Time passed but the memories of my summer with Flora never faded.  I still yearned to see her.  I still loved her and no amount of time would make me forget about her.

After Amy died, I tried to see if I could find out any information about Flora.  I wish I had a photo of her that I could have put on Facebook but I didn’t.  In spite of these setbacks and disappointments, I haven’t stopped hoping that one day I will see her again.

It’s 2018 and summer again here in Richmond.  I’m here by the pond, allowing myself to relive the happiest memories of my entire life.  I look at the wild flowers and smile.  I will never forget the spark in Flora’s beautiful eyes when I gave them to her.  If she were here now, I would give her another bunch.

“Mr. Jones?” a voice called out and startled, I turned.

It was a young African American girl.  “Yes,” I replied.  “I’m Mr. Jones.  Who are you?”

She came closer.  “I’m Regina.  I was told that I might find you here.  Someone asked me to give this to you.”  She held out a letter sized brown envelope.”

I took it.  It didn’t have any address.  It only had my name written neatly at the front.  “Who asked you to give this to me?”

“My grandmother, Flora.”

My heart caught in my throat.  Flora.  I sat down on the tuft of grass and eagerly opened the envelope.  I pulled out a letter and some photos.  I looked at the photos first.  They were of Flora and a lovely little girl.  She looked so much like Flora but much fairer in complexion.

With trembling fingers, I unfolded the letter and read it.  Halfway through, I started to cry.  Flora was pregnant when she left Richmond.  She wanted me to know about Olivia and wrote to me at the university several times but all of her letters were returned.  She never got married, she said because there was only one man whose wife she wanted to be.

I looked up at Regina who was standing beside me.  “Where’s Flora?” I asked.  I longed to see her.

“I’m sorry, grandfather, but she died this morning.”

I broke down at that point.  Regina dropped to her knees and put her arms around me.  The only thing that gave me any comfort was the knowledge that Flora and I have a daughter and a granddaughter.  Our love will live on through them and generations to come.

Those we love are never really lost to us–for everywhere their special love lives on – Amanda Bradley

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Tranquil at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Sources: The Washington Post; The Post and Courier

 

 

 

 

Claudette Colvin

She was the original Rosa Parks.

Claudette_Colvin

Dubbed the original Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin was arrested in 1955 at the age of 15 for refusing to give up her seat to a white woman on a crowded segregated bus.  The incident began when the bus she and her friends were on filled up and there was a white passenger standing in the aisle between them.  The driver wanted all of them to move to the back and stand so that the white passenger could sit.

“He wanted me to give up my seat for a white person and I would have done it for an elderly person but this was a young white woman. Three of the students had got up reluctantly and I remained sitting next to the window.” She informed the driver that she had paid her fare and that it was her constitutional right to remain right where she was.  Of course, the driver didn’t see it that way.  He continued driving and when he reached a juncture where a police squad car was waiting, he stopped.  Two officers boarded the bus and asked Claudette why she refused to give up her seat.  She was handcuffed, arrested, and forcibly removed from the bus all the while shouting that her constitutional right was being violated.   She was initially charged with disturbing the peace, violating the segregation laws, and assault.  There was no assault, of course.

Instead of being taken to taken to a juvenile detention centre, she was taken to an adult jail and spent three hours in a small cell with nothing inside of it except a broken sink and a cot without a mattress.  Her mother and pastor bailed her out.  Her mother, well aware of Claudette’ disappointment with the system and all the injustice they were receiving, said to her, “Well, Claudette, you finally did it.” 

After she was released from prison, her family feared that their home would be attacked, so armed with a shotgun, her father kept a vigil just in case the Klu Klux Klan showed up, while members of the community were lookouts.  Claudette was first person arrested for challenging Montgomery’s bus segregation policies and her story made a few local papers but nine months later Rosa Parks did the same thing and her story could worldwide coverage.

Claudette knew Rosa Parks very well. “I became very active in her youth group and we use to meet every Sunday afternoon at the Luther church.  Ms Parks was quiet and very gentle and very soft-spoken, but she would always say we should fight for our freedom.”

Claudette was one of the plantiffs in the court case of Browder v. Gayle during which she described her arrest.  “I kept saying, ‘He has no civil right… this is my constitutional right… you have no right to do this.’ And I just kept blabbing things out, and I never stopped. That was worse than stealing, you know, talking back to a white person.

On June 5, 1956, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama issued a ruling declaring the state of Alabama and Montgomery’s laws mandating public bus segregation as unconstitutional. State and local officials appealed the case to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court summarily affirmed the District Court decision on November 13, 1956. One month later, the Supreme Court declined to reconsider, and on December 20, 1956, the court ordered Montgomery and the state of Alabama to end bus segregation permanently.

Following her life of activism, Claudette gave birth to a son who was light-skinned, leading many to believe that his father was White.  She left New York in 1958 because finding and keeping work was difficult because of her participation in the Browder v Gayle case which overturned the bus segregation.  After her actions on the bus, she was was branded a troublemaker by many in her community.  She had to drop out of college and struggled in the local environment.

She and her son, Raymond lived with her sister in New York.  She got a job as a nurse’s aide in a nursing home in Manhattan and worked there for 35 years.  In 2004, she retired.  She had a second son who secured an education and became an accountant in Atlanta, where he married and had his own family.  His older brother, Raymond died in 1993 in New York from a heart attack at the age of 37.  Claudette never married.

In 2017, the Montgomery Council passed a resolution for a proclamation honoring Colvin.  March 2 was named Claudette Colvin day in Montgomery, Alabama. Mayor Todd Strange who presented the proclamation said of Colvin, “She was an early foot soldier in our civil rights, and we did not want this opportunity to go by without declaring March 2 as Claudette Colvin Day to thank her for her leadership in the modern day civil rights movement.”  Claudette could not attend the proclamation due to health concerns.

Councilman Larkin’s sister was on the bus in 1955 when Colvin was arrested. A few years ago, Larkin arranged for a streetcar to be named after Colvin.  According to her sister, Gloria Laster, “Had it not been for Claudette Colvin, Aurelia Browder, Susie McDonald, and Mary Louise Smith there may not have been a Thurgood Marshall, a Martin Luther King or a Rosa Parks.”

Notes to Women celebrates this unsung heroine who didn’t get the recognition she deserved for being instrumental in the fight against the Montgomery bus segregation by refusing to get up from her seat which she believed was a violation of her constitutional right.

“I feel very, very proud of what I did. I do feel like what I did was a spark and it caught on.”

“I’m not disappointed. Let the people know Rosa Parks was the right person for the boycott. But also let them know that the attorneys took four other women to the Supreme Court to challenge the law that led to the end of segregation.”

“Whenever people ask me: ‘Why didn’t you get up when the bus driver asked you?’ I say it felt as though Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on one shoulder and Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down on the other shoulder. I felt inspired by these women because my teacher taught us about them in so much detail.”

 

Sources:  Wikipedia; BBC News

Choices

nick-allen-from-sandra-c

PHOTO PROMPT © Nick Allen

She found him in the shed, sorting through old paint cans.  “I’ve decided to move back to Atlanta.”

He turned.  “Just like that.”

“What else do you expect me to do?”

“I expect you to stay.”

“But what about Jamey?”

“Stay for his sake.”

“When I did the video about choosing life, I didn’t expect the attacks or the hate.”

“As a rape victim, they expected you to terminate your pregnancy.”

“But, I chose life–Jamey’s life.”

“You made the right choice.  Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise.”

“I won’t.”

“So…?”

“I’ll stay.”

“Good choice.”

96 Words

This story was inspired by a true story of a rape victim whose decision to choose life made her the target of Abortion activists.

This was written for the Friday Fictioneers challenge hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields For more details, visit Here. To read other stories based on this week’s prompt, visit Here.

Jolene/Stark #writephoto

stark

Photo by Sue Vincent

“Y’all gonna be okay while I’m gone?” Darlene asked her husband, Mick and her daughter, Jolene.  She was heading off for the weekend to a Women’s Ministry retreat in Atlanta.

They both looked at her before Mick answered, “Yes, we gonna be okay.  Don’t fuss so.  It’s not like you ain’t been away before.  We can take care of ourselves.  Jolene’s gonna take good care of me, ain’t you, girl?”

Jolene’s answer was to blow a large bubble and then pop it.  She was at the table putting nail-polish on her long fingernails while chewing gum.  Her dyed blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail making her look younger than eighteen.  Long dark lashes framed big, bright blue eyes which narrowed now as she glanced at her step-father.

Darlene wasn’t convinced but, she just had to believe that they were going to be all right for the weekend.  She knew that they didn’t particularly like each other.  Jolene’s Dad died when she was three and until a year ago it was just the two of them.  Then she met Mick at a friend’s barbecue and fell in love with him.  He was a handsome man, tall, well built with jet black hair that covered the nape of his neck and he had the most amazing green eyes.  He was in his mid-forties but looked at least ten years younger.

They got married a couple of months after they met.  Mick tried to be a good Dad to Jolene but she no part of it.  In the beginning they were like cats and dogs with each other but now they seemed to tolerate each other, although the animosity was still there.  She had misgivings about leaving them alone but she was glad for the break.

The sound of a car horn, alerted her and galvanized her.  “Loreen’s here,” she announced unnecessarily.  “Well, you have enough food to last you until I come back on Sunday.”  She went over to Jolene and hugged her.  “You behave yourself, Missy.”

Jolene pursed her lips.  “Ma, I ain’t a child, ya know.”

“Oh, I do wish you’d speak better than that.  What I been sending you to school for?”

Mick chuckled.  “She ain’t into book learnin’.  She’s into boys.  Why you think she’s paintin’ her nails?”

Jolene took up the open magazine on the table and threw it at him.  It hit him on the shoulder.  He turned and glared at her.

Darlene shook her head.  “I’m gonna pray for y’all,” she said.  “It’s high time that y’all bury the hatchet.”  She went over to Mick and hugged him.  They kissed and then she pulled away to grab her overnight bag.  “See y’all on Sunday.  Love y’all both.”  And she was out of the room and the house.  Minutes later came the sound of a car driving away.  Silence, except for the television.

Jolene finished painting her nails and held them under the fan until they were dry.  Then, she got up from the table and went over to the sofa where Mick was.  Instead of sitting down next to him, she lowered herself slowly onto his lap.  Smiling, she put her arms around his neck, her bare legs over his long ones.  She felt his body respond.  “You want to bury that hatchet now?” she asked coyly and saw his face flush.

“You’re a little tease, you know that?” he muttered under his breath before he put his arms around her and lowered his head to kiss her.

“All set for a nice Spirit filled weekend?” Loreen asked Darlene as they sailed down the long stretch of road.  “I’ve been looking forward to it all week.

“Yes, I been looking forward to it for weeks, but I was worried about leaving Mick and Jolene alone cause of how things are between them.”

“Don’t worry about them.  I’m sure they’ll be fine.  Mick’s a no nonsense man.  He’ll keep Jolene in line.”

“I hope they’re gonna be all right.”

“I’m sure about it. Now stop worrying.”

Darlene looked out of the window at the landscape and then, she exclaimed, “Oh no!”

“What’s the matter?”

“I forgot to tell Mick that I had a security camera installed yesterday because of all those recent break-ins.”

“You can always call and tell him when we get to the retreat this evening.”

Darlene shook her head.  “No, it can wait until Sunday when I get home.”  She felt better knowing that it the camera was there in the house.  No one could tell that it was hidden behind the wall lamp in the living-room.  Right now it was recording everything that was happening in there.  So, she’d know if Jolene was giving Mick trouble or not.  Jolene.  She worried about her sometimes.  I’m gonna say a special prayer for her and hope that one of these days, she’s gonna give her life to the Lord.

 

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt –  Stark at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman was one of 13 children to Susan and George Coleman, sharecroppers.  The family lived in a one-room cabin in Atlanta, Texas.  When she was two years old, Bessie’s father left the family in search of better opportunities in Oklahoma.  Bessie’s mother did her best to support the family until the children were old enough to contribute.  When Bessie’s older brothers went to work, she took care of her two younger sisters.  She became the family leader, reading to her sisters and mother at night.  Bessie promised her mother that she was going to “amount to something.”

Bessie began attending school when she was six and had to walk four miles every day to her segregated one-room school.  There she loved to read and had the distinction as an outstanding Math student.  The school closed whenever the students were needed in the fields to help their families harvest cotton.

Bessie attended Langston University, known then as Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University.  She was able to complete one term before she ran out of money.  She returned home.  At 23 she moved to Chicago where she lived with her brothers.  It was when she was working at the White Sox Barber Shop as a manicurist that her interest in aviation was kindled.  She heard stories about flying during the war from pilots returning home from World War I.  American flight schools did not admit black women and one of the pilots was willing to teach her how to fly.

Determined to earn her pilot license and encouraged by Robert S. Abbott, founder and publisher of the Chicago Defender, Bessie went to France after taking a French language course at Berlitz School in Chicago.  In France, she learned how to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane and on June 15, 1921 she became the first African American and Native American to earn both an aviation pilot’s license and an international license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.  For the next two months, Bessie took lessons from a French ace pilot near Paris to polish her skills.  When she returned to the United States she became a media sensation.

She specialized in stunt flying and parachuting.  She earned a living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks.  In 1922 she made her first appearance in an American airshow.  It was an event honoring veterans of an all-black 369th Infantry Regiment of World War I.  She was billed as “the world’s greatest woman flier.”

It was Bessie’s dream to establish a school for young black aviators but she didn’t live to fulfill it.  On April 30, 1926, Bessie was killed in an accident while preparing for an airshow.  She was only 34 years old.

Bessie Coleman remains a pioneer of women in the field of aviation.  “Because of Bessie Coleman,” wrote Lieutenant William J. Powell in Black Wings 1934, dedicated to Coleman, “we have overcome that which was worse than racial barriers.  We have overcome the barriers within ourselves and dared to dream.”  Lieutenant Powell served in a segregated unit during World War I and pushed for black aviation in his book, journals and through the Bessie Coleman Aero Club which he founded in 1929.

Notes to Women is pleased to honor this remarkable woman who broke down gender and race barriers by daring to dream big.  She kept her promise to her mother.  She did “amount to something”.

The air is the only place free from prejudice.

I refused to take no for an answer.

You’ve never lived till you’ve flown!

I decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly.

 

Bessie Coleman painting

Sources:  Biography; Notable Biographies; Wikipedia; Brainy Quote