So what have I been writing?

Since I’ve devoted most of my writing to class assignments instead of the blog, I’ve been debating whether to post anything to the blog.  That was the mental debate I had in a previous post.  Thanks to some kind words from a couple of followers, I think I’m ok with at least putting samples out here, especially as I don’t plan to publish any of them later.What I’m writing right now is for class anyway, and it’s already been critiqued.  Note that I didn’t say it was perfected!!!!

So for your reading pleasure (!) here’s a little sample from one of my classes.  Critiques are welcomed, BTW.

KEOWEE CITY

 

Reveille

The recorded bugle startles me awakeThe cover flies up and I’m out of bed before it settles back down, just like in the cartoons. It’s time to get up, and I have to hustleThere’s shower, then my roommates and I have to clean up the room for inspectionBlankets folded and sheets tightRun a white handkerchief over everything before the CAB gorillas give our room the white glove inspectionMake sure my helmet is polishedThen get in formation for the march to breakfast, bracing myself for the firing of the cannon, the raising of the flag and pledge and the National Anthem, the morning scripture from the chaplain, the morning marches, then exercise, then assemblies, lunch, then more marching, more assemblies…

 

What I was, and what I was not…

It was the summer of 1970The dying days of Peace and Love but still a lot of social turmoil going onLegally, the Civil Rights Bill was only six years old; socially it was still a work in progress. Old habits and notions don’t disappear according to a calendar. I, along with many of my schoolmates was very involved in the local civil rights activitydespite my stepfather’s disapprovalWe attended the rallies and marched with the grownups. While my stepfather complained that I should be studying instead of marching, and told me that if I was arrested I was “on my own.” I was opposed to the Viet Nam war, and at just over 100 pounds with the eyesight of a bat, the possibility of seeing military action didn’t appear to be in the cards.  

 

When reveille played that morning, I was entering my senior year in high schoolI was not in a real military unit, I was in a unit named “Keowee City,” and we always formed up right next to that damn cannonThis was not on a base somewhere in Viet Nam; I was at The Citadel, just down the street from my home in Charleston, South CarolinaI was one of the first African American students in the state to attend the weeklong Palmetto Boys State summer camp, sponsored in each state by the American Legion.

 

I was NOT even thinking of “pioneering” anything, although I knew that I’d be among one of the “firsts” that seemed to be a part of every news report during that timeThe first Black person to do thisThe first woman named to a board.  You had no problem picking out our faces in large group picturesThings were definitely opening upI never thought (and still don’t think) of putting myself in the same class as those little elementary school kids who braved the angry crowds to become the firsts at their schoolsThey were the heroesMe, I just heard the words “summer camp.”  

 

According to the American Legion’s web site

The program was designed for “young men to learn about the American system of government and politics by participating in a mock governmental system.”   Everyone would have theopportunity to run for elected offices, from city council to governor“Citizens” were nominated by their high school teachers and guidance counselors, then interviewed and selected by the local American Legion chapters to represent them.

 

According to Mr. Wineglass…

… the Vice Principal, and the letter my parents received, that’s how it was in 1970. It was Mr.Wineglass who recommended me to the African American chapter serving the Charleston area, and his word was good enough for them to waive the interviewIt was not going to be the last time he played a positive role in my school life, stepping up where my stepfather fell shortI was one of the students you see all over the yearbookMost Likely to SucceedMost Certain to Get Beaten Up by Drunks. Clubs, writer for the school paper, student council, one of the founders of SBC – the Students for Black Culture  (approved only after we convinced our principal we were not planning to be the junior varsity team of the Black Panther partyHad my ass handed to me when I tried out for the football team, thinking I could transfer my success as a superstar receiver in touch football over to the real thingThis American Legion thing was right in my wheelhouse. Air-conditioned civics lessons, the only sweat coming from playing games, and for the first time a whole week away from home by myself, at the Citadel no lessWe were not talking vacation Bible school at the church’s educational annexI could handle a week of this.

 

Since it was free, my stepfather grudgingly gave his approvalMy mother signed the approval formMy grandmother cried and praised GodMy friends promised to come see me sometime during that week. Mom, Mr. Wineglass, and Miss Harrison, the French teacher and our SBC advisor, each gave me the “representing us” talk.  

 

As far as I knew every Black adult who was the first knew this, and every young Black kid who was the first was told thisEyes were upon you, and stereotypes, even the ones you have aboutothers, would be reinforced or die based on what happenedI think it’s timeless and reachesacross all cultures – you represent our family, our tribe, our village, our city, our people, our state, our nation…make us proud.

 

This was not like in sportswhere a team could be the first to accomplish things such as winningback to back to championshipsEvery team has an equal chanceHere, we’re talking inequalities.These were firsts accomplished against forced limitations, against forced separations, imposed upon others based on class, caste, color, anything that makes one group different than another.With that, separation comes expectationsYou can’t be as smart as, as good asand as tough as  any other groupI was to remember this, and at least be aware that some people would be sure to remind me of that. The words from the adults to me were the exact opposite – I was to remember that I was good enough and smart enough to be there.  

...to be continued

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