This piece is by Todd L. Adams. When Todd and I were working together, he asked me to edit this piece along with a number of others, which I did without compensation. Considering what he did to me, I thought about incorporating his work into one of my stories and passing it off as my own creation. But, these days, I find that I’m unable to consciously do wrong even to those who have done it to me.
See what you think.
Took a little drive today. Started out my front door, packed some bags with a few things for the road: maps, snacks–the usual for a short ride in the car. Looked around and thought east would be a good way to go.
My heart turned toward my favorite uncle, and I decided to head down South to see him. I hadn’t seen him for a few years at that point, sad to say. I called him while we were on our way and he was glad to hear from me.
Now this “little” drive was some 2,200 miles as the crow flies and I had not been on such a trip in a long time–since I was a young boy. Back then, I used to ride the Greyhound across America when going to see family and, thereby, saw this wonderful country of ours. Fear and trepidation mixed in with a little excitement were the norm for these trips.
As we made our way south, I didn’t realize at the time, that this trip would take me not only to see my uncle but also to see the past. With each passing state, county, and town, I found myself moving backward in time. I saw the places in which Jim Crow lived; I saw the homes of my ancestors and the fields where they worked for so many years. I imagined the load they had to bear during those troubled times–to stand in a field from sunup to sundown in the humidity and heat while pulling those sacks behind; every day trying to fill them knowing that they could not, because those sacks were bottomless.
I saw this and more. I went there with certain prejudices in mind, expecting to see the Rebel flag flying and white hoods at every turn, but what I found instead were warm people like my friend Mary.
Now don’t get me wrong–I know there are a few of those hoods still hanging in a closet or two, but I had to let go of some of those preconceived notions. This South had many faces, light and dark living together, and working together.
I saw beauty and the flow of time there. I felt connected to this place in a way that was different than before–fire hoses being used, the dogs of war released on our people. But during this trip, I also saw new things which were the product of the flow of time–African American mayors, business persons, teachers, lawyers, doctors and, yes, policemen.
I saw many things on my little drive, but what I had not expected to see was a new view of me.
Juliette Akinyi Ochieng blogs at baldilocks. (Her older blog is located here.) Her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game, was published in 2012. Her second novel will be done in 2016. Follow her on Twitter.
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