Mister Charlie Has No Blues
There were some, only a few — they wanted you to believe your best interests were at heart. They cared. They gave you underpaying jobs and called it “honest work” while dipping into your pay. They raped your wives — “sowing wild oats” and pillaging where they could. If you are property, you mean nothing. You are nothing. A calf had more value — a farm over your life . . . You, to them, were subhuman or not human, depending on who was speaking. Your backs — the commonplace for burdens and griefs, yet shedding tears offered you nothing. If you were given what you were due, that did not go unnoticed. It was praised and worshipped.
It hung over you like the holy good deed.
But, let them tell it — they were good to you. You had it all. A shed out back big enough to draw a circle in the middle of the common room and walk around it twice. A rickety shot-gun home, drafty year-round. This was your life until you wanted to live — until you figured out this was not living. And when brains met action, you were dangerous. You figured out a ground was meant to be stood upon and stand your ground, you did. And this was trouble.
Trouble . . .
For “Mister Charlie” who has no blues but too many black folks causing him tension. If you wanted more, knew you could get it, and were meant to have it . . . If you figured out that equality meant “for all,” they had a problem. Your voice was your weapon. Your feet were your vehicle. Your strength was your saving grace. The power of a race built to be resilient does not diminish. When all you have is your heart to guide you, your hands to push you forward, your faith to bless you, and your family to believe in you, nothing else matters.
You stomped. You ranted. You raved. You conducted peaceful marches and picketed for justice. Back and side doors, balconies, separate water fountains, the backseats of buses and trains . . . Segregation — separating you from the “better” race for your own good — for their own good. And what good did that do? Remember, the voice is a weapon. You sounded off — refusing seconds, scraps, and the bits and pieces that did not add up to your whole. You took the front seat. You spoke up. You realized that you had rights and rights you fought to get.
Bless the black man who knew he was more than just a black man . . .
Bless the black woman who got tired of being silent. The voice is a weapon. Shots fired. Bullets had no name. Words dig in deeper. Movements sparked up in your favor. The right to vote. Integration. Front doors opened. Floor seats became yours too. Oh, look at that bus now with you sitting up front — ain’t it a sight for sore eyes?
The work you did, have done, no one takes for granted. You washed your hands with the blood of your sisters and brothers who were slaughtered before your eyes. Nightmares haunted you at noon instead of deep into the night. When you are believed to be ghosts, people treat you like one. But you were never invisible.
You were never invisible.
And that’s what scared them.
©2020 Tremaine L. Loadholt
*Author’s Note: I am currently reading Blues for Mister Charlie, a play, by James Baldwin. To say that it is moving would be a gross understatement. Sam, I know you would enjoy this book if you have not read it yet. This piece is my “Thank You” to you for your tireless efforts and the ultimate weapon that is your voice. Ezinne Ukoha, yours will be next. Thank you for reading and listening too.