Writer’s Wednesday – Beyond the Colored Line

Sooo. Yea. One reason I don’t like saying what I am going to do is because I end up not doing it (don’t ever say what you will do. Bad idea.) So, when I said Chapter 3 of The Men with Blue Eyes was coming this week I did not anticipate not finishing it. But yea, it’s not finished. So, this week I am sharing a Chapter from my novella “Beyond the Colored Line” (2015) instead. Enjoy.


September 4, 1923

“You’s white.”

Margaret and Josephine had their hands on their hips again, Josephine taking the lead role as always. The wind felt soft against their skin and swayed the handmade dresses in all directions, hovering well below her long, skinny legs.

Her pony tails were twists that never really wanted to stay together. Stella got lost for a minute. Slightly envious. She wished her hair was as thick as Josephine’s. But instead hers could never keep a braid. School had just started at Crestwood Elementary of Belvedere City, just south of Boone County Illinois and already Stella could see this would not be a good year. Same as always.

“I’m not white; I’m Negro, same as you.”

Josephine rolled her eyes, “You look white. You sound white. I thinks you white.”

The girls laughed. Meanwhile, Stella’s blood boiled. Her hazel eyes darkened, blonde hair glistened in the sun, and the blush of anger showed quickly in the space of her cheeks and around her ears.

“You’s white ‘cause we say you’s white,” said Margaret.

“That’s right”, co-signed Josephine, “what kind of name is Stella anyway? What, you some kind of slave?”

“Naw, said Margaret, “she ain’t no slave, she massa.”

Josephine turned her head toward Margaret and laughed in her ear but Margaret saw it coming from her peripheral.

“Josephine!” she yelled. But it was too late. Stella was already on top of Josephine pulling her neatly pressed hair and slamming her face into the dirt. She could hear the screams of the teachers nearby calling her name but she just couldn’t stop.

“I’m not white! I’m not white! I’m the same as you!” she yelled, hot tears streaking down her face.

Josephine was crying now as Margaret tried to peel Stella off her.

“I’m Negro the same as you!” she yelled, slamming Josephine’s face into the ground, the screams from the teachers nearing, inaudible to the anger that consumed her.

Later that Day

Judith stood by the door, tapping her foot impatiently against the hardwood floor as she burned a hole in the back of Stella’s head who sat silently on the sofa, her head down.

“You’re going to have to learn to control yourself Stella.”

“But Mom—”

“Did I ask you to say a word?” Scolded Judith, opening the door at the same time. She expected her guest and opened before she could knock. Mrs. Velma Connor, Stella’s teacher, walked in.

“Good Afternoon, I’d like to apologize again for what happened today. May I offer you some coffee?”

“Never mind that”, said Velma, “I don’t specs to be here long.”

“Well”, said Judith, “let me offer you to a seat then.”

The women walked over to the sofa. Judith sat beside Stella as Velma took the sofa across from them and cleared her throat.

“Stella seems to be having a difficult time adjusting. Her temper is far too easily tickled, if you catch my meaning.”

I do”, said Judith.

“We think perhaps she would be better off in a more comfortable environment. Somewhere more of her liking, if you catch my meaning.”

Judith straightened and looked Velma in her sparkling blue eyes, “Not exactly.”

“Well, Ms. May, the accusations from some of the children are hard to ignore.”

“What accusations?”

“Well, you know. Children will be children,” Velma laughed, “It’s just that they don’t take very well with our kind. Surely you ‘d prefer for Stella— “

“Our kind?” interrupted Judith.

“Why, yes.”

“You don’t have to say anything more Mrs. Conner”, said Judith standing. The fair-skinned woman smoothed the apron hanging from her waist and walked to the door. Opening it, she turned to Stella.

“Stella Mae?”

“Yes mama?”

“Go on upstairs so me and your teacher can talk.”

“Yes ma’am”, said Stella, hurrying up the stairs.

Velma remained seated, “Is there a problem?”

Judith smiled, “No. There’s no problem but I do want you to leave my house.”

Velma’s cheeks turned red as she stood, pointing her nose in the air and strolling toward the door. Her face cringing a scowl.

“By the way, the school has placed Stella under suspension, you understand why.”

“Oh, I do”, said Judith, “you see, defending ourselves, is what we’re taught.”

Confusion washed over Velma’s face as she stared into the green eyes of the white woman in front of her, disgusted that she would stoop so low as to lay with one of them.

“What we’re taught? I’m not sure I follow.”

“Oh yes,” said Judith, “It’s one of the first things my Negro father taught me. You know, our kind I guess.”

The pink rushed to the woman’s nose as she hurried out the door.

And that’s how things had been for us growing up. I couldn’t understand what made Mama so strong. She loved Daddy with every bone in her body but society would never have of it. Mama was Negro sure enough as she was white but Papa didn’t trust it. Being with the love of his life was just too costly for him I guess. I thought about Papa that day and all the days afterward as I stood at the top of the stairs, and watched as my mother waved goodbye to my racist teacher with a smile on her face.

– Stella


This book is available now on Amazon.

Get it free in exchange for an honest review. Email me HERE


“Stella: Beyond the Colored Line is a fascinating walk through the ages–from slavery, to segregation, to the black power movement, to modern times. Through the eyes of one mixed race woman, the author touches on major events in African American history, allowing the reader to experience them in real time. The story deepens when Stella decides to live as a white woman and raise her children as whites. As her family grows and develops within a changing society, Stella and her children reveal complex perspectives and attitudes that make it clear that it doesn’t matter who your ancestors were. Nothing is just simply black or white.”

– Christa Wojo.,

Amazon Customer Review

Moments Become Memories

Don’t waste it today. Don’t waste your time or hold back your goodness. Do not withdraw your kindness or take for granted the gratitude you can gift to someone else. Gift someone today. Crown them with hope and courtesy. Who knows which of us will be called back to the dirt. Whose breath will leave their lungs to be stored away in the chamber where breaths are. Whose body will melt back into the dirt? Whose bones  will become the home of carcasses that roam the cemeteries? We are told to live every day like it is our last. But how? How do we take what is cliché and make it real? Think of moments. How they live for only seconds at a time. Think of pictures. How they capture those moments when they become memories. Don’t gamble with your life today. Enjoy the warm weather, accept the truth for what it is, and apologize. Apologize and forgive like a well of “I’m Sorry’s” that won’t run dry anytime soon. Be not held captive by anything or anyone. Do not enslave yourself to pain and emotion and sorrow. Always be forgiving. If only because it makes no sense to give us flowers when we’re gone. Do not weep for me, or throw arms around caskets that could have hugged my flesh when breath stopped the skin from melting back into the earth. Don’t waste it today. Don’t waste your time or hold back your goodness from those who need it. You don’t know if today is their day or if it is yours. Because moments only live for seconds at a time and soon they become memories.

Writers Wednesday – Chapter 2: The Men with Blue Eyes

Chapter 2 – Missing

Did you miss Chapter One? Start Here!


“Ronnie, no!”

Tina shot up, swung her legs off the bed and snatched her robe from the hook on the door. Pulling it tighter around her body she was in Janiyah’s room in an instant and rocking the seventeen-year-old in her arms. There was no explanation needed and no sound escaped either of the women’s mouths except the whispered shooing coming from Tina. She rocked and rubbed the young woman’s head with her eyes closed. This had become her routine. Running into Janiyah’s room in the early mornings, holding her through the nightmares she didn’t think would have lasted this long. She also worried she could not sympathize with her sister’s daughter as intimately as she wanted. After all, she wasn’t there but Niyah was. To lose your baby brother in such a violent way was one thing. To witness his murder was another thing. And then, there was the other thing.

Tina’s cell vibrated in the other room, the loud hum calling out to her. Peering down at her exhausted teenager, she removed her arms and let the girl’s drowsy body fall back into the sheets and covering her, Tina tippy toed out the room.

“Hmm.” She looked down at the tiny screen and plopped down on the bed. That was odd. What was the office doing calling her so early? She looked toward the window. The sky was still dark, the sun not yet peeking through. She still couldn’t believe the city settled and despite four people living here, the house was still too big, though no amount of money could bring her nephew back. She threw herself back into the bed and called the number back.

“You better have a good reason for calling me so early in the morning,” she laughed, pausing as the person on the other end spoke.

“What?” Tina’s smile faded and she shot back up in the bed.

“Everyone? How is that even possible?”

Balancing the cell between her ear and shoulder, she slipped on a pair of jogging pants. Trying to do the same with a blouse was not going to work.

“Hold on a minute…” Placing the phone on the bed she slipped on her shirt and decided it was best to put the phone on speaker.

“The phones are blowing up over here. Officer Parks said she started getting them as early as last night,” said the caller.

“Calls? What calls? I thought I told you to hold…”, she said before almost slipping on a sock. She picked it up and put it on. Now if she could just find the other one. Tina wasn’t the organized type at home. What she could do in the courtroom somehow did not manifest in her private life. It was one of the worries she had about being a mom. Lawyers didn’t exactly have a lot of time on their hands. She found herself hiring a Nanny against her better judgment to help maintain that balance. She had little time for laundry and housework and now that Janiyah had her license she could pick up her brother and sister from school. She did make it a point to be back in time to make dinner and spend time with the kids. It made her feel motherly, like she was upholding her end of the bargain. Ms. Alice was not allowed to cook for her family except on occasion and during emergencies. This was one of them.

“All I know is you better get your butt down here asap.”

“I’m on my way,” said Tina looking under the bed, “Where in the world is that other sock?”

“Yea, I know what that means. I’ll give you an hour,” said the caller.

“Freddy, chill. I said I’m on my way.”

“Your on-the-way has a different meaning from everyone elses. Yours means two hours from now”, chuckled Freddy.

Tina rolled her eyes and hung up on her partner.

“Kayla! Michael!” she yelled, grabbing the toiletries bag on her way out the door. She’d only have time to jump in and out the shower.

She bypassed Janiyah’s room and climbed the stairs where a giant blue M hung against a door. She banged.

“Michael!”

She turned around and ran down the short hall where a giant pink K hung, she banged, “Kayla!”

Running back downstairs Tina revisited the slightly open door from earlier and peered in, “Niyah, ya’ll come on. I need ya’ll to get up.”

The young woman stirred and slowly sat up, a black night scarf covering her head. Her elegantly arched eyebrows shot up, “What time is it?”

Tina smirked. She didn’t know how she did it, but Janiyah managed to be cute at every occasion, even after waking up. The nose ring she begged Tina for didn’t look bad against her golden-brown skin. Janiyah scratched at her nose as if reading Tina’s thoughts and as she could have guessed, her nails were freshly done.

“I need you to call Ms. Alice, tell her I need her to come in early. Like, right now.”

“OK.” Janiyah patted her head and then laughed, “Where’s your other sock?”

Tina cut her eyes and smirked as she turned away from the room to head back across the hall.

“Mike, KK. Up. Now!”

As she prepared the shower her mind flooded with Freddy’s urgent message.

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Everyone involved in the Ja’mella case were missing. The men accused of the rape, their girlfriends, the police officers, the journalist who wrote about it, even the detectives who investigated the case. Gone. “How was that possible?” Tina pondered as the shower poured its steaming hot blessings over her body. It didn’t make sense. The black men accused of raping Ja’mella Jones, a famous hair stylist on Chicago’s West Side, had been found innocent after the woman admitted she made it all up. Ja’mella even opened her store back up last year. From every angle it just didn’t add up. At least physically it didn’t.

Tina stopped moving, letting the water drench her skin. How could she have forgotten the most important piece of the puzzle? Her nephew Ronnie.

She tried to tell him about these streets and his loyalty to Big Sam ultimately cost him his life. THEY had killed him. Is that why the city had settled? Who would want to admit that Ronnie’s death was not by the hands of men but…

Tina shook her head. It’s these kinds of thoughts that got her in trouble in the first place. Still, she couldn’t shake the truth and her skin shivered from something more than the cooling water. Her skin had also started to wrinkle. Her “quick” shower had lasted longer than she wanted it too.

Tina pulled the dry towel from off the top of the shower rod. She knew. Had known all this time that Big Sam wasn’t human and that Ronnie’s death was no accident. And something told her the Ja’mella case was connected and that she was not the only person who knew. Someone was trying to keep it hush hush. Or something.

The Perfect Piece

poetry-and-types-of-poetry

Repost for World Poetry Day.

 

To the lyrically talented
the brave who do not stop at sing-song
and music
but poems whose words themselves
are like melody
like the rhythm of rocking chairs
like serenity
like soldiers stomping truth into the torso of the earth
like Assata’s
like revolution
like Maya Angelou’s
and Ntozake’s
perfect like marching orders
like biblical
like Deborah’s
and Sara’s
like faith
and the wisdom of the eyes
the fire of truth
the sweet delicate of love
real love
the perfect piece

I anxiously anticipate undressing you
pulling back the symbolic layers of your metaphors
and deciphering your definitions
your rhymes curve perfectly around the waist of melodies
and swim better than oceans
you taste
why you taste like deserts springing forth with water
like tongues taste new wine
bringing the heat of our passion together
like fire to chocolate
like when bodies melt
and pens bleed both love and pain
you give birth to both truth and wisdom
the perfect lyric over a tight beat
you’re
the perfect piece

Don’t Box Me In

I come from a place where twitching mouths and search for the white stuff on the floor is protocol. A place where the White Gods ruled, food stamps sacrificed to glass pipes and crack is the answer to every question and yet, I don’t plan to leave any of them behind. Not the government cheese, hand-me-down clothing or the streets chalked with junkies. I ain’t nobody special so if I can be healed they can too, if they choose. I won’t miss a trip to Egypt or beautiful Germany (I almost went one time..bummer that it didn’t work out). I can be found quoting the likes of  Whitman, Dickinson, or Frost and I think Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet is beautiful (even though his eyes look weird to me.) I’m a sucker for deep conversation, red wine, and education. I love to learn, pray, and study scripture. After all, what’s a beautiful woman whose mind is weak? I don’t mind walking into your fancy dinners either just as long as you’re paying for the plate. I hate the spotlight, true (though I will stand by my word). Shy most definitely. You can have the credit. I’ll wait and speak when the time is right because I’m kind but not weak and humble but not timid. Don’t box me in. My overcoming is a bridge for all people, not a closed door. Two Xs and no spaces except the one I found outside the box. No boxes please.

For Those Who Are Sad

Can I cradle you in the nook of my arms? If you were here, would you let me? Hold you I mean? I don’t just want a hug. I want to hold you so we cry together. Kiss the top of your forehead like a mother would. On the shoulder of comfort, let your tears drench my shirt and I will love you like an infant. Can these words hold your head up? I do not want the soft spot of your pain to blemish the fragile newness of the warrior you are becoming. Your critics will look at what you are, but I see what you can become. But you’ve got to let me do my job. Let me hold you. Cradle you in my arms. This is not a blog. Not today. Today this is air. This is breath. This is the permission to breathe. This is words wooing lullabies for the exhausted spirits of the broken.