It’s a hot summer day. I’m home alone and my Mom is off at work again like she usually is during the summer months. Being the only child I was used to being on my own entertaining myself with my imagination and creative thoughts. Sometimes I would read books and other times I would draw. Not to much to do while your at home alone all summer long. My Mother was a single Mom so I was used to her working a lot. Around this time I’m about 9 or 10 years old and I already knew how to do most things for myself like cook and getting dressed for the day. I even was allowed to go outside and play, walk to the store, or even run across the street to rent a movie if I wanted. As long as I had my key to the house I was fine. Pretty grown for a 9 or 10 year old.
We lived in a two bedroom apartment in Cleveland Ohio right across the street from a small shopping plaza. Sometimes when I was really bored I would walk across the street to buy candy snacks or grab an ice cream comb from the ice cream man when I would hear the music from his truck passing by in the neighborhood. Back then you could rent VHS tapes for a $1 or 50 cent and I loved walking to rent a movie from the video shop in the small shopping center. I always gravitated to the fantasy section to look at fairy tale type rentals. I liked renting movies like The Labyrinth starring David Bowie or The Witches with Angelica Houston. I would probably rent movies at least once a week being so impressed with the cinematography that would always spark my colorful imagination.
There were two people that worked at the movie rental shop. An older white woman and on other days there was her son, a middle aged white man who seemed to dislike when I would come to frequent the store. Because I was so young the son would never allow me to rent movies, well at least that’s what I would say to myself explaining it away. However when I would visit during the times when his Mother was there she would always allow me to rent movies. Maybe she could see that I was just an honest young man. I would come in with the exact amount of change to rent the movies I wanted and I would return them when they were due and not a day late. She didn’t have to say much to me but she allowed me to rent those movies. She would ask me how I enjoyed them and that was all. Sometimes, because her son wouldn’t allow me to rent movies I would return them on the day I knew he would be there to show him that I still was able to rent the movies despite him not allowing me to. I guess it was the vindictive trait in me that wanted to say “ nah nah, I still got what I wanted “. He didn’t trust me and I felt that he didn’t really like me. His mother was nicer than him and trusted that I would return because of my track record of returning on time. After while I noticed I would always run into a nice white person and sometimes a mean white person. I came to conclude that there must have been two types. A “ Good white folks “ kind and a “ Bad white folks “ kind.
Growing up in the North I probably didn’t encounter the in your face racism that other blacks may have in the south. The racism in the north was much more obscure. Over time it was so obscure and subtle you just got used to little things that were unfair and you learned to explain certain things away in your head to be ok with the outcomes of a harsh reality. I guess that is just the way of life for an African American. You can sense the unfairness with in the community or within the system you grow up in but you work through it anyways thinking that that’s just the way things are. As I grew older I started to become numb to the unfairness and just accepted it as a way of life. Not an unusual thing for an African American such as myself.
As I got older I started to ponder more about what Africa might be like. Living here in American made any place outside the country seem like a dream. Little did I know a lot of things that were happening here were actually happening there as well. Knowing this I realized that where ever you are it’s best to make it work the best way you know how. Many people fled the south longing for better opportunities and more just treatment. Martin Luther King Jr while he was alive would preach to African Americans encouraging them to stay in the south. Many thought he was crazy for that however I later begin to understand what he meant. You will always keep running searching for better until you realize that better comes when you make it happen. It was better to stay in the south and fight to make things better or else you would continue to run all forever. Until we are ready to bring about the change we see with our own efforts we will never find rest no matter where we go.
An African American we should be proud to be because we were the ones who made this land what it is today. Why would we run from the land we worked so hard to build and why wouldn’t we take pride in this country that wouldn’t be the most powerful nation in the world if it wasn’t for us and our contributing efforts and labors. Staying to fight injustice is seeing and investment that our Ancestors put in come through. We are here as African American to reap the rewards of the seeds planted so log ago. I appreciate my family line and the sacrifices that the ones who have come before me have made. Because of them I had the freedom to walk outside and buy an ice cream comb or rent a $1 VHS tape without the harsh reticule or fear of violence that would have usually come with such independence. I’m African American and proud to be one. I send on the shoulders of giants and ones who imagine something so much better for me and the future. I can only hope to make them proud one day of the sacrifices they made for me.