I think on those colored men in the courthouse every day. They was brave, from my way of seeing, dog-bone set to fight for a idea, no matter the risk. Not all the old ones see it the same. Lucy used to say by stepping up, the colored courthouse men bring the white man down on us, but what foolishness is that? Some white folks never change from thinking on us as they own personal beasts of burden, even after freedom. Those ones down on us already.
But we got the strength to outlast whatever trials is put before us. We proved it. There a special way of seeing come with age and distance, a kind of knowing how things happen even without knowing why. Seeing what show up one or two generations removed, from a father to a son or grandson, like repeating threads weaving through the same bolt of cloth. Repeating scraps at the foot and the head of a quilt. How two men never set eyes on each other before, and, different as sun and moon, each journey from Alabama to Louisiana and come to form a friendship so deep they families twine together long after they dead. How one set of brothers like hand and glove, but two others at each other throats like jealous pups fighting for the last teat. How two brothers from the same house marry two sisters, sets of bold and meek. How men come at a thing nothing like what a woman do, under the names dignity, pride, survival. The words alike, but the path not even close between man and woman, no matter they both trying to get to the same place. Making a better way for the children. In the end, making a better life for our children what we all want.
Eighteen seventy-three. Wasn't no riot like they say. We was close enough to see how it play out. It was a massacre. Back in 1873, if I was a man, I'da lift my head up too and make the same choice as my Sam and Israel Smith and the others, but there was children to feed and keep healthy and fields to harvest and goats to milk. Those things don't wait for history or nothing else. But I saw. I cleaned up after. I watch how 1873 carry through in the children that was there, and then in they children years later.
My name is Polly. I come to the Tademys not by blood but by choice. Not all family got to draw from the bloodline. I claim the Tademys and they claim me. We a community, in one another business for better or worse. How else we expect to get through the trials of this earth before the rewards of heaven?
Copyright © 2007 by Lalita Tademy
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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