Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The assignment - from Women in The Village

I walk purposefully across the perfectly manicured grass at Long Beach State University. I pass the drama department doing theatre exercises outside. Pass a group of Asian-American students in a seemingly deep conversation about something I can't understand. There are African-American students gearing up for a protest against police brutality and a group of white women and men in a debate about women's rights. I love the diversity of the students and faculty at this school. I fly up two flights of camel colored stairs to my English class and wait for Professor Cheatham to hand out the break assignment. This is my first year of college and I am taking it in like a sponge. Storing every assignment as opportunity to expand my world. I don't even mind that we have homework during spring break. Each week there is something else to keep me on my creative toes. I get to class and stare at the assumed privilege of the other students. The fancy clothes and expensive cars. Trips to out of state homes every vacation. The assumed privilege. I love Professor Cheatham. She reminds me of the women from home with her round bottom and this dresses. Chocolate skin and big legs. And every now and then after a great big laugh, the music comes out in her tongue. Home. The assignment is...home. We have to create a project describing the communities we come from. Already I have ideas. I'm going to focus on the women of my home.

Home for me is less than forty miles away but it seems much farther. I live in a part of Los Angeles that many people don't know about. Most of the people where I live either come from the south or their parents or grandparents did. I live in a really small section of a very big town. We don't venture out much. Our world is divided into two smalls parts we call The Jungle and The Village. Mostly we interact with each other. I'm from The Village.

This assignment could not have come at a better time. Lately I sit in my dorm room at night and stare out of the window. Remembering the trees, the lovin', the language. The women in The Village.

My name is Phoebe Sunday Morning Waters but most folks call me Sunny. I have lived most of my life in The Village. All of my life until I went to college. If it was left completely up to me I would have continued school right there in The Village at Harriet Tubman College behind The Joint where the drums, jazz and poetry never stopped, but Daddy wouldn't have it. Mama and Daddy divorced with I was only four months old and I lived with my daddy. They both raised me 'cause Mama lived less than six miles away in The Jungle. Daddy made sure I did well in school and Mama made sure I kept writing poetry and painting and playing chess. She taught me how to play chess. She said I was born writing poetry. They both said I would go away to college and see the whole world someday. I have always done well in school and could have gone somewhere out of state but I wanted to stay close enough to home for now. I'll have plenty of time to see the whole world. But the whole world oughta know The Village is what I always felt.

I didn't know how magical it was until I left. I spent nights in my dorm room laughing over and over at things that were normal at home that would be so strange to the rest of the world. I'm so sorry for the children who don't have The Village. When my schoolmates and I are having lunch sometimes I entertain them with a story or two. They think I'm making most of them up. None of them have ever heard of The Village. I catch the bus home often to see my favorite cousin Michelle who I keep trying to get to visit me here. "Leave for what?" She always says. I get it. I really do. The drama of real life is more real there than anywhere. And I don't have to go everywhere to know that.

From the outside looking in it is easy for one to believe that we are not progressive, that we are ignorant and stale. Nothing could be further from the truth. That's what's so funny, you know? Watching the faces of folks who could never understand why we do what we do, speak how we speak, love how we love. Like Michelle, who had her first baby when we were seventeen. She named him Thomas Jones Pride, Jr. the first. See, Michelle and Thomas had been going together since the ninth grade at Bishop Tolliver's Junior High School, and he pinky blood promised her that they would get married and stay married forever. She believed him. Maybe he believed him too at the time. She got pregnant and just three months after that, Sharita Bailey with the big breast and long hair got pregnant too. Turns out he told her that they would get married and live happily ever after too. Michelle and Shairta never got along very well and this just added salt to a fresh cut. Michelle still wanted Thomas and of course Sharita did too. You would think that there some shortage of men in The Village but folks want what and who they want, you know? At the same time they both found out that they were having boys and Michelle's baby was due first so of course hers would be da da dadaaa! Thomas Jones Pride Junior the first! And Sharita's boy was just plain ole Thomas Pride Jr. (poor Sharita). See, we love the way we love.

They come from everywhere and ended up here. They ain't goin' nowhere. Ain't nowhere to go. Ain't nothin' to get. These women in The Village are being. Don't concern yourself with time and space. Don't be fooled by the lazy tongue. Don't you confuse grammar and wisdom. They ain't nothin' to do with the nother. These women, they know the secret. This is the village that raised me.

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