The Incident

THE INCIDENT
(By) Andre’ Saunders

In conflict, I observe my surroundings. Tall buildings growing like trees in this unfamiliar concrete jungle. The buildings’ hard edges are softened by auto exhaust fumes on this gray cloudy day. But stores where there used to be houses and highways running through old neighborhoods, all familiar landmarks now made obscure with change.

And a lot has changed since the incident. The incident that made a boy a man much to soon. But still, where am I? I should still be able to find my way back home.

The first lessons learned in 1940’s segregated African American communities were your name, address and telephone number. And so well had this lesson been taught that, 37 years later, I can still remember the address of an 8-year-old child. Yet I’m lost and can’t find my way home.

Home for me as a child was usually Granny’s house. A small two story home, with never enough bedrooms, but always filled with kids. Erma Bell’s grandchildren, the third generation born to this family of former slaves.

Thelarry 3re were usually five of us at any given time: Danny boy, Scrappy, Jerry, Johnny and my-self. Though, sometimes Aunt Sis (Sally Bell Isley), would bring her four boys, and we would either rehearse for some church event, or just hang out. Or another one of our Aunts would drop off their kids and our numbers would increase. But somehow there was always room at Granny’s house.

And, Granny’s house always felt like love, fried chicken, cornbread and music. Sometimes there were special occasions when it felt like cake and punches on your arm.

It was a tradition, that for every birthday year, you got a hit on your arm. You would stand there and watch as we all lined up grinning, and telling you how you were going to be hit you so hard your arm would drop off.

With much laughter, you would stand like a man and say, “take your best shot”, and try not to cry. How proud you were to be another year older and closer, oh so much closer to becoming a…a…TEENAGER!

Saturdays at Granny’s was always special. Granny, usually got us up, she would come into our room and sort of shout in a singing way, “Rise and shine, everybody out of bed”. She would then go down to the kitchen, and within minutes, the smell of breakfast would have us rushing to get down stairs.

The five of us cousins, ages five through twelve, in one bathroom, well it was crowded, but fun. During the week we were slow in the bathroom and slow out the bathroom, because these were school days and Granny worked. But on Saturday mornings, we rushed.

By the time we got downstairs, Granny would have made thick slab bacon (the rind still on), and eggs with old fashioned, start from scratch, biscuits. And sometimes, Granddaddy would let us drink coffee and tell us stories about ‘Bro. Rabbit’ and recite poems.

After breakfast, Granny would start cooking Sunday’s meal for the family because she would be in church all day on Sundays. So, Saturday mornings, Granny cooked breakfast and after-noons, Granny rehearsed her choir for Sunday’s services.

When Granny cooked, she did so for at least seven, so everything was in large proportions. There would be mounds of chicken, some fried and some smothered in thick, dark brown pan-gravy with chicken drippings with the chicken neck and giblets cooked in.

There would be pans of corn bread, pots of black-eyed peas, collard greens, mashed potatoes just waiting for some of granny’s pan gravy to be poured over and maybe for dessert, one of granny’s cakes.

The rule was, you could look and you could smell but you could not touch. This was Sunday’s dinner, and you couldn’t have any until Sunday. You touched, you die.

But this was Saturday, and after breakfast, Granny would give the eldest (Danny boy), some money and send us to the Taystee Bread factory to buy half-priced bread and cakes for the week.

That was a chore we all loved to do, so Granny would send us all. But, she never failed to add, “remember to hold hands when you cross the street”. To this day, a Twinkie never fails to remind me of those youthful days.

When we got back, Granny or Granddaddy might give us each fifty cents each and send us to the movies. Wow! It’s hard to believe that fifty cents use to buy a ticket to the Regal Theater on Lynn Street. Imagine, $.50 paid the ticket and was still enough to buy popcorn or soda.

The day of the incident began as a typical Saturday at Granny’s house. We had eaten and did our chores so Granny gave us (Dannyboy, Scrappy, Jerry, Johnny, and me), money to go to the movies. After the movie, we decided to play some games at the Union Terminal Train Station.

On our way we were stopped by three white boys. They told us that we couldn’t go into the terminal because we were “Niggas”.

This was 1954, and White folk were still hanging Afro-Americans, so we were frightened. We also knew, if anything happened to Johnny, (the youngest and Granny’s favorite), Granny would kill us. So Dannyboy, the eldest, wanted to leave.

We had started to leave when one of the white boys pushed my cousin Johnny. Johnny at that time was about 5 years old and he started to cry. Now, talking is one thing, but when you hit or push one of us, you’ve got to deal with all of us.

To stick together, to take care of each other, this was a rule Granny had taught us since birth.
On our way to the terminal, we had picked some walnuts from trees that used to grow in Cincinnati, to throw at each other.

I had also picked up a stout tree limb to use as a bat to hit the walnuts. I still had this tree limb, my bat, and I tried to kill this White boy.

I wanted to knock his head off: I hit him on the head, the arms, the feet, anywhere I could. The other two white boys just ran away, leaving their friend. My cousin Jerry jumped on me and pulled me off, then we too ran away.

When we got home Dannyboy told Granny what happened and she called my mother and other family members. Two days later, I returned to the same Union Terminal to board a train for New York.

I was going to live with my father in New York because my family was afraid I would be killed or harmed in retaliation. This was Cincinnati in 1954, one year before Emmett Till’s murder, the Year of Brown v Bd. of Education which ended segregation in public schools, and I……..I was 8 years old.

On Getting Older

Reflections

Well, it’s happening.  I’m gettin old.  Maybe I shouldn’t say old; I’m getting older.  As I write this article, I’m 63.  And according to some commercials I’ve heard on the radio, 65 is something like the new 40; but I neither look nor feel 40.  I remember 40 and this (excuse the grammar) ain’t it.  If you’re reading this and you happen to be 75, according to my reckoning, 75 should be the new 50.  Good luck with that, I hope it works for you.

OK, you might be wondering, what’s this guy talking about and why?  I’ll tell you.  I come from a somewhat large family by most standards.  Eleven children were born into the Jesse and Gladys Brown clan in Wichita, Kansas. I was fourth in the birth order and to date I’ve lost a younger sister and two older brothers.  And when I was a younger man I hardly gave death a passing thought.  Like most, I just assumed I’d live forever.  Now I see my mortality in the rear view mirror and it’s gaining on me – fast!

So, I think it’s time for me to begin re-thinking this whole thing about getting older and about death and dying.  I don’t intend to be morbid about it.  I’m not trying to scare anyone and I’m certainly not trying to elicit some silly, sympathetic, emotional reaction that’s here today and gone tomorrow.  As I usually do, I just want to educate.  On the one hand, I see some positives (I’ll get to those a little later); yet, on the other, I see some negatives.  I’ll talk about those first.  There are some aspects of aging that are difficult at best. I’m reminded of a sign an aging friend had on the door of her apartment at the senior complex.  It read, “Old age is not for sissies”.

But, this is my reality.  I’m not as strong as I used to be.  I don’t have the energy I used to have.  I can’t do some of the things I used to do.  I don’t even want to do some things I used to do.  Yet, I wish I could do some other things I used to do.  And, there are even other things I can still do, but it takes longer to do them and it’s not nearly as easy as it used to be.  I’m not going to go into detail here, but you get the idea.  If you don’t understand now, you will later, your time will come.  The point is, I’m getting older and there are things that happen (or don’t happen) almost every day to remind me of that fact.  And when I’m reminded of it, my thoughts sometimes go to a place in time yet future, when I leave this world and meet my Maker.  So, the Father lets us experience old age because it eventually serves as a somewhat constant reminder that we’re going to “pass on”.  And, it is at that juncture it is hoped some wisdom has been gained and applied, some preparation has been made.

There are several things that come to mind as I start this.  First, I’d like to say that youth is mostly wasted on the young.  They don’t usually appreciate it, and they hardly ever use it to its full potential.  And second, I can say from personal experience that I’m convinced God in His mercy has a specific purpose in old age.  You may take this for granted or just accept it, because you assume it’s the natural order of things; but it was a brilliant move on His part to make us young and impetuous in the beginning of our lives and then slow us down to give us the opportunity to maybe think about what’s really important at the end.  This may sound ridiculous, but if at age 63 I was getting younger and stronger, more and more bullet proof, even more distracted with life and living, I’m afraid I just wouldn’t have time to think about my relationship with God.

Another is that we can always check our spiritual condition by honestly examining our attitude towards death.  Fear of death causes instability, insecurity and the inability to maintain a healthy relationship with God.  This fear is something the god of this world has always used to cripple people mentally, emotionally and spiritually to effectively keep them from being what the God of the universe intended.  “Since the children are flesh and blood, He too shared in this same physical nature so that by His death He could destroy the one who holds the power of death – that is, the devil. And, so He could completely set free those who had been enslaved all their lives by the debilitating fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14-15)

Now, I hope I can communicate this principle clearly for you.  I’ve kind of touched on the negatives of getting older, so what are the positives I mentioned above that I would talk about?  Well, the positives are all of the negatives.  You might want to give your eyeballs a good, hard knuckle rub, then read that last sentence again.  That’s right.  I said the positives are all the negatives.  Let me explain.

I’ve talked about this before in several articles, how suffering is a part of the deal.  The Scriptures tell us Jesus was perfected (completed) by the things He suffered.  We must share in His sufferings, if we expect to share in His glory. The Father has determined that difficulties are a necessary part of our pursuit of Him and of His plan for us.  That He uses unpleasant events and circumstances to mold us into the image of His Son.  The narrow road that leads to life is actually a path that takes us to difficult obstacles and stressful dilemmas, hopefully forcing us to learn how to trust God and rely on Him.

Do you get it?  The aging process is nothing more than an accelerated series of opportunities to gain the spiritual maturity the Father desires for each of us.  And let’s be clear; when I say spiritual maturity, what I really mean is an intimate relationship with the Father that’s real (for an explanation of intimacy, read “Intimacy with God and Eternal Life”).  The older we get, the narrower the path.  The great thing about getting older is that the difficulties can be more numerous, the negatives more constant.

The reality is that life can become more of a struggle as we see our strength, our health, and our ability to provide for ourselves and take care of ourselves get less and less. We won’t fully realize our dependence on God as long as we’re independent.  We don’t tend to ask Him for help until we’re helpless.  We don’t usually learn to rely on God the way we should until our own resources are exhausted and our options have run out.  That, unfortunately is our nature.  But the Father knows that.  So, in His great love for us, He lets us get old.

www.voiceofonecrying.com

 

Is Youth Wasted On The Young?

olderThere is a saying “Youth is wasted on the young”. That is to say that by the time you have made and corrected the mistakes you make in life, by then you’re too old to really benefit from the knowledge. A strange truth understood by anyone past their 50’s.

Just ask anyone in their sixties how they got to be so old and they will all have stories filled with how they did what you are about to do, in their lifetime. You look at your Granny or Granddaddy or you Momma and don’t see the child who has only grown older, taller and hopefully, more smarter. Without this experience, one can understand that this is a process of building on the child as foundation for the adult. There is no metamorphosis like a butterfly. You never lose sight of the child. Look deep and you will always find a child gazing back.

I would like to hear stories from people of all ages about their individual growing older process. Understand that from the moment you start to live, you start to die, (existentialism). It’s all about how you live, what you do between those two points.

So if you are say, sixteen years old and you want to share your experience of getting older, it’s valid so let’s hear it. If you remember some incident (positive or negative) that helped you in your growing up, PASS IT ON.

Remember that, when in life a kindness to you is shown
Remember that it was not meant for you alone
It was meant for you to enjoy, then to PASS IT ON.

This is an experience BLOG “ How I got to be so old”

I have a website “http://www.asaundersmusic.com/”>www.asaundersmusic.com that I put together to share some of my pictures, music, thoughts, experiences and a book about how I got to be so old.