Once upon a time, in a small town near Birmingham, there lived a regular black family who was struggling for their lives in a hostile society. With three kids, Jimmy Bruce, and Kiki, the father and mother, Jarome and Martha, were subjected into working hard for their children. Not many black families were able to succeed in this cruel world of the 1960's. The kids, each being too young and of the wrong race at this point in time, were unable to attend a school or even go to church. Instead, they went to a friend's house whose mom taught them things. This was their school.
The life of this family was totally obscene. One day Kiki, their 12-year-old daughter, went for a walk in what they thought was a safe town. While she was walking down the street many racial slurs and comments were made toward her. White people were rare to these parts of the town, but every once in a while, a bunch of white kids, whom just graduated from high school, would drive around the peaceful town of cardboard boxes and lean tubes and yell out and even throw things at the black folks who were un rightfully segregated. As Kiki walked back to her home in an abandoned shack in the middle of a one-acre field, she had tears dripping from her precious brown eyes. When she returned, she saw that her father had been beaten severely as well as her brothers Bruce, who was 13, and Jimmy, 14.
"Why do they do this to us Daddy" she asked out in a horrible cry, "What did we do to them" She was too young to realize the concept of blacks not belonging in a country that was primarily white. Coping with the devastating treatment toward them, the Washington's kept living their lives. Jarome found a decent job at a farmhouse down the road. The Anderson's farm is what it was called. A rich white family owned it and had three other slaves working for them. The pay was $10.
00 a week and a half-full grocery bag of canned corn or beans. The conditions in whic they had to work in were horrible. The sun be 3 ating down on their dark skin tired them very quickly. Between six workers they were given two jugs of warm water for the whole day and a cold egg sandwich to eat. The plows were all hand driven and very rusty and sharp. They were given no shoes or boots to walk through the muddy fields or the cow and pig pens.
Once a week they would have to stand in cow dung up to their knees and clean it out. Their bodies would reek so badly of cow dung that flies couldn't even stand it. Many times they would catch themselves puking from the outstanding sight and smell of cow and pig dung. If they were caught though, they received a slash across their sore backs by the ten-foot whip old man Anderson often used to motivate them. This was a fairly good job for the blacks.
Once in a while they would steal a bag of corn ears or a bushel of tomatoes. The only way they could survive was to steal here and there. If they were lucky, sometimes the Anderson's would forget to lock the gate to the barn and they managed to pick up a watermelon or a few apples. This is how they got by. Margaret, the 39-year-old wife and mother, was a prostitute. She would walk up and down the streets looking for young boys who might have a few dollars.
Most of the time she would end up getting beat up and raped by older guys, but once in a while she would get a nice boy who paid her $5. 00 for an all day ride. Jarome did not know about this side job she had, but she covered it up by saying she was going to walk the kids home from school and white men jumped her. As far as he knew, she stayed home and tried to protect their home from others who were unfortunate enough not to have a wooden roof. Many kids in the neighborhood would often tease Kiki, Bruce and Jimmy. They would all say that their mother was a dirty nigger tramp and slut.
Not knowing why they were saying this, all of them would deny everything and pretend that these kids were just trying to make fun of them. One day, Jimmy had enough. A few of the kids were joking around and calling his mom a doorknob. "Jimmy's mom is a door knob, because everyone gets a turn!" the children chanted. Jimmy ran home and grabbed a knifed out from underneath his bed.
He had found the knife along the side of the road where there was once a murder earlier in the year. He proceeded to go to the boy's house that had started all of the teasing and knocked on the door. When the young boy opened the door, Jimmy stuck the shiny sharp knife in and out of his body about five times. When the screams from the boy let out, his mother came running. "What the he-, oh my GOD! Randy!" she screamed hysterically. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Jimmy wailed.
"I didn't mean it." Jimmy really didn't intend to kill him. He just wanted to scare him. Something just snapped. A week later, Jimmy and his family, devastated at what Jimmy had done, were sitting in their shack watching the sun falls between the cracks in the wall. With blood shot eyes, Jimmy asked quietly if he could go to the bathroom. "Yes," his father replied mellowly.
Jimmy picked himself up off of the floor and headed out the door to the outhouse. About 10 seconds later, there was a loud bang followed by a thud. The family then heard the screeching of tires on the partially paved road. They ran out of their shack to see their little boy lying in a pool of blood next to the outhouse. They looked down the street and saw two taillights slowly growing dimmer. Their lives had just gotten worse.
Throughout the rest of the year, the Washington's were known as bad people in their neighborhood. In 1963, they moved. Thinking it would help their lives by moving to a new town, they went on to a place called Mifflin. This was a small black town in Mississippi. It was very small and only a few families lived there. With farms and good locations for work, Jarome figured it would be perfect for them to get over this hectic situation of Jimmy's death.
For three weeks, Jarome and his family lived in their stolen car. He was unable to find a job right away and had no food or money. Digging through garbage and dumpsters behind restaurants, Bruce and his father were able to find enough things to compensate them for the mean time. By the second week though, Kiki started to get sick. They did not know what was wrong with her, but her eyes were all blood shot and puffy and her face looked as if she was beaten. Jarome knew he had to find something quick.
Finally, after looking for food in a dumpster, Bruce saw a piece of a ripped up newspaper that read: Blacks-for farm work. It was in the "wanted" ads. Jarome took the piece of paper and started off for the location it said on the bottom of it. He told Bruce to go back to the car and watch over his mother and sister while he went for the job. Two days later Jarome came back and told his family some very good news. He had gotten the job.
When they pulled up to the farmhouse, Margaret asked Jarome where they were going to live. "They told me we could live in the garage behind their house," Jarome replied. "It's a small, one car garage that the folks never used anyway. I signed an agreement for five years. We work for them, and they give a place to live and $20. 00 a week for food." The family could hardly contain their excitement.
Within a few days, Kiki started getting better. Rest and nutrition was all she needed. Bruce was now a working man also. He and his father worked the fields and animals, while Margaret and eventually Kiki cleaned the house every day and did other odd jobs around the yard. For three years the Washington's were at the peak of their lives. They managed to survive even though they were still very poor.
Kiki was now 14 and Bruce was 19. They had grown up and matured. They also began to realize what had happened throughout their lives. They had come a long way and learned to live with the certain circumstances. With only two more years on their contract, they knew it was soon time to look for another job, but there was something wrong. Kiki was pregnant.
She had become good friends with on e of the other workers on the farm and obviously become intimate with him. When the family found out they immediately told the Mitchells, the family that they were working for. They then asked the Washington's if they would like to work for an additional two years. They happily accepted. In 1967, the newest member of the Washington family was born.
Kiki named her son Jimmy in memory of her brother. The father of the child soon quit the farm and was never seen again. Raising her child was not easy but she somehow managed it. She could not work, so the Mitchells only gave them $10. 00 a week. This really hurt the family.
The fact that no one cared if she was a new mother was the worst. She was not able to give her child to a good family because they were black. No one cared about blacks. Jimmy was now three years old and it was time for them to leave. The contract was up and the Mitchells decided to only hire single workers and no more families. The only reason they did in the first place was because they desperately needed help.
It was now 1970 and there was only a month or two left until they had to leave. The family of five would soon be in trouble again in the cold hearted, white predominant world. After years of well-documented atrocities and abuse against the black race, the issue of race relations in the United States had been elevated to a global scale. European countries had begun to put trade embargoes on the country, while other nations provided exile from the apartheid that was occurring.
Black leaders in the US still could not believe the failed civil rights movement of the seventies, as no leader stepped out to guide them through what could have been their crowning moment in history. Instead, supposedly non-violent protests turned into bloodbaths, with the famous Montgomery massacre in 1963. Pictures of an angry mob surrounding the legendary lawman Bull O Connor were splashed across the headlines, his mouth forming a painful O, blood running down his forehead, and his gun knocked down to his left side, useless against the baseball bat that was soon to end his life. The riots proved counter productive and the segregationists soon won over the hearts of the fear-gripped country. All of this was unimportant to the Washingtons as they looked out onto the dusty road outside of Mifflin, Mississippi. The dirt rose and fell with the wind, finding its way into eyes, ears and nose.
The smell of the hot road filled everyone's nose as sweet southern birds sang their song, as only southern birds do. Jerome twiddled his beard between his two fingers, the hair now salt and pepper after years of worry. " Well, I reckon we best head north. Word is from some of the other workers that it's easy picking up there." The quiet man looked at his family, hoping to get an answer from the brown eyes. " Well, are we going to stand here, or get a move on I suggest we thumb a ride." The tired eyes stared at him weakly, and they soon began to move toward the main road. The walk was long and hard, but the calluses on their feet kept the sharp rocks from digging through.
The family took turns holding Jimmy, a task dreaded because of the young imp's squirminess. The sun rose in the sky to its highest peak, and as the midday heat roared, the Washingtons reached the main road, Jerome's long, gnarled thumb curled up, searching for their ride to the north. It was not long before a red, beat up Chevy truck pulled over. A young black man of slender build was at the helm, dressed in a tie and a cheap white short sleeved dress shirt, his mouth opening wide to show a good load of teeth and a healthy smile. The window rolled down, and he yelled out to the family at the roadside. " Don' have enough room for y'all up here, but you " re welcome to pop a squat in the back!" Jerome nodded at his family as he climbed into the passenger side of the vehicle.
Martha scooted the kids to the back and they soon scaled the back of the truck. Bruce was the last one in as he helped his mother up. Inside the truck, the long angular face of Jerome Washington turned to that of the rounder, younger black man. " Looking to go north and find some work.
Family has had a bit of a rough road with the youngin' and all, and I appreciate the hand." The young face turned and smiled eagerly. " Tis' a pleasure to meet you Mr. Washington. The name is Baxter. Douglas Baxter. I am heading north for the non-violence meeting, and would be happy to give you a ride.
I'm from Sunny Ministries. Here is my card." Baxter reached to a compartment and pulled out a wrinkled card and handed it to Jerome, who mumbled and looked at it with curiosity. :" Tell me son, what is a black boy like you doing in a truck, shirt and tie like you got on, goin' up north to some conference" Well Mr. Washington, we are trying to rekindle the old Civil rights movement once again.
You know, with all the pressure from other countries, and growing worry in the white community, I think that now is our chance for equality and desegregation. May I ask why you are traveling north in such a dreary disposition" Jerome let out a loud laugh, one that rooted deep in his stomach and roared through the truck. Eventually, his body quit rocking, and he regained enough posture to speak. " For years now, I have seen you well dressed young fellers drive around in nice clothes and big grins, speaking about the importance of fighting for equality, rights, and all sorts of other rubbish.
Each one of you goes up there with a fire under his ass, and you all come back with fire in your eyes. Fire of rage son! Fire that comes from dealing with a people that won't listen, that won't respect, and that won't change! These folks come right back with no more progress made than water on a boulder. You mark my words son. " Douglas grinned and shrugged. Jerome let out a gasp of air.
For some reason, Jerome found himself drawn to the boy, his affable ways and easy smile brought an odd peace to the old man. " I have heard that speech from many people, including my father. What can I do but shrug. I have not seen what you have, and right now I feel like the hand of God guides me.
I know. I have heard it all. I am young, foolish, and foolhardy. But I am all I have, and this is all I want." This answer seemed to please the old man, and soon the two generations came together in small talk about fishing, drinking beer, and long ebony legs of lover's past. Meanwhile, the family in the back nestled together in warmth as they hurtled down the highway, and the sun that a few hours soared high above them now dipped into the sky in a blaze of purple, pink and orange. It was in the wee hours of the morning when Baxter dropped the Washingtons off at a small church outside of Boston.
Jerome thanked him and shook his hand. " Thank you Mr. Baxter. I cannot express my gratitude.
God bless you... and good luck. ." Mr. Washington, if the greatest thing in my life is to prove you wrong, I will be a happy man." Both men chuckled, and soon after an uncomfortable moment of silence wedged between them as one old spent life looked at one other life full of energy and promise. Both stared long and hard at what they saw, until the older man nodded gravely and led his babies into the church for a hot meal and a place to sleep. Jimmy tied his shoes while staring at the TV, watching Sesame Street.
Kiki's yells prompted him to shut off the TV and tie his shoes. The refrigerator clicked on, and a loud hum filled the small apartment. In the bedrooms lay Bruce, sleeping after his midnight shift at the docks, and Martha, sick in bed with a cold only held off by a meager supply of antibiotics. On the dented coffee table was a silver frame with the picture of Jerome Washington in it, and next to it, a silver plated urn. A heart attack had brought him to his grave. Martha, Bruce and Kiki all found work, and also found a church that provided education for families that could not afford it.
Their paychecks covered food, clothing, and their small apartment on the West Side of Boston. Jimmy was now nine years old and looking more and more like his grandfather every day. He ran out the door so he would make it to school on time, his white sneakers squeaking on the tile hall in the apartment building. Kiki sat down and took a long pull off if her cigarette.
The smoke curled out of her large, full lips and she breathed a sigh of exhaustion. Her job as a maid at a local hotel was hard work, and her legs were sore from long hours on the job. Her hands were marked with heavy labor and nicotine stains, and the bags around her eyes that acted as a testament to long hours with little sleep. Keeping a young boy in school and in clothes was hard work, and her body showed it. There was still a strange beauty about her.
Along with the rough, jagged effects of years of work was also a raw beauty. Her slender neck led to a strong jaw, and her fiery brown eyes out shined her fair complexion. Her hair was short and well kept, and her body lean from years in labor. Martha's coughing s roused Kiki from her resting nook.
Sounds of a female fluttering carried through the house as Kiki cared for her sick mother, laying a damp towel on her head and bringing her a glass of orange juice. " The boy got off to school alright, right" Her mother asked, her beady eyes protruding from a mass of wrinkles. Although barley in her fifties, age had come quick to Martha. " Yes mother.
You know I always make sure of that." I know I know. The boy certainly is a smart one, isn't he Jerome certainly would be proud of his little man." Mother, you try to rest. What do you want for lunch We got ham or bologna sandwiches." Ham dear." Kiki tiptoed out of the room so as not to awaken Bruce, whose chest lowered and raised in the steady rhythm of sleep. She made herself breakfast and turned on the morning news to a plate of eggs and toast.
Her routine was practiced as she smeared the yolk on the toast and then bit down, taking sips of coffee in between. The morning news was the usual hodgepodge of events. The oil crisis seemed to be on the down low and gas prices were stabilizing. The United Nations was lifting embargoes on the United States in lieu of their new race relation programs, and the drought in the south was still occurring. A special program soon aired on the race protests held in New York City.
Leading the throng of protestors was a black man in his thirties with a round face and a quick smile. The news anchor introduced him as Douglas Baxter. Kiki grunted and looked down at the paper at the New Year's eve sales. Pretty soon, a new decade was coming, and there were some mighty fine looking shoes on sale. The 1980's became known as the years of change for black Americans'.
At this time the first recognizable leader for racial equality, Douglas Baxter, provided many families with hope. His kindness and compassion shone through in his speeches. Baxter became very admired and respected throughout the black community. Bruce and Kiki were strong individuals. In the early '80's they experienced another great tragedy; the loss of their mother. Her untimely death was difficult to handle at first, but they understood the reason it had happened so early.
Martha was in her early sixties, and to most people that doesn't sound very old. Yet Martha had worked so extremely hard for those sixty years that her body was exhausted. Bruce and Kiki believed their mother was in heaven, where she was happy with their father for eternity. A few years after his mother's death Bruce met a nice young lady named Monica.
They were married soon after their first meeting. They said it was love at first sight. Bruce and Monica had a simple wedding, but afterwards everyone in attendance went to Monica's parents' home. The Baxter's house looked huge to Bruce, Kiki, and Jimmy, but to others, especially whites, their home looked simple and practical. They were a poor family, and they had grown so accustomed to their apartment that they thought only white people owned houses. The blacks that had houses at this time were only the wealthiest of blacks.
Monica's family was very involved in the civil rights movement, and they were proud of their son's involvement with the organization. Douglas Baxter was the most prominent speaker for the movement. He helped civil rights by taking large peaceful strides toward equality. With his help blacks were gaining higher wages at jobs, and receiving more skilled jobs which were not available to them before. After being introduced to Douglas Baxter, Bruce and Kiki soon realized who this man really was. He was the man who had helped them travel to Boston.
Douglas also remembered the Washington's. Kiki and Douglas talked all evening about the movement. Kiki was very impressed with Mr. Baxter, and the work he was doing. Douglas asked Kiki what she did for a living, at this she hung her head low and said, "I'm just a maid." How could she compare to such a great man with so many accomplishments She felt inferior to Douglas, but he soon made her feel at ease again. His personality was so warm that the more they talked the better she felt.
Later that evening Douglas asked Kiki if she would be interested in helping him with the movement. Of course she said yes with much enthusiasm. This would be a job she could be proud of. At first Kiki just did simple jobs like running errands and answering phones, but year after year Kiki gained more responsibilities. She developed successful communication skills, and became the full time personal secretary for Douglas Baxter. Kiki was happy with her job, but she missed spending time with her son.
Kiki was at the office for long, exhausting hours every day, but at least she was doing something she believed in. She was away from home for most of the day, so in order to spend more time with Jimmy she had him come to the office after school. This arrangement seemed to work well to help bring them closer together. Jimmy was in his first year of high school and enjoyed going to visit his mother. He would stay there doing homework until his mom was ready to go home.
Jimmy was around the office so much that Douglas became a mentor for him. Jimmy was an intelligent young man, and Douglas recognized this right away. The next year Jimmy began working with Douglas. Jimmy went with him to all his speeches and rallies. Jimmy became Douglas's shadow.
Douglas was impressed with Jimmy's dedication to the movement at such a young age. He encouraged him to think about pursuing a career in which he could impact civil rights. In the years to come Jimmy had to make a life changing decision. He had to decide if he wanted to continue his education and go to college, or if he wanted to keep doing the job he had now. This was a tough decision, and of course Jimmy turned to his mentor for the answers.
Since Jimmy never had a father, Douglas had become like a father figure to Jimmy. Douglas informed Jimmy that the best way he could help the movement was by going to college. The movement had strong speakers and dedicated followers, but it lacked a higher degree of knowledge. Colleges were still very new to blacks. There was only a handful of black colleges in the United States, and all of them were small private schools.
The whites had many larger schools with better programs to choose from. This situation was one that Douglas was trying to improve. Jimmy took Douglas's advice. It sounded like a good reason. Anyway, Jimmy had always liked school and was good at it, or at least his grandma used to think so. Jimmy had always loved his grandma, and if she thought he was smart enough then he believed her.
He wanted to become someone that she would have been proud of. Jimmy was willing to do almost anything for the movement. He wanted to be just like Douglas. With Jimmy leaving for school, Kiki grew lonely. She was almost 40 and still not married.
She was losing all hope of having any type of meaningful relationship. She had Jimmy at such a young age that she never was able to experience dating or even love. All she had left now was work, but she did not have any social life at all. Jimmy was her life, and now that he was leaving she had nothing left. Douglas started to see that Kiki was becoming depressed. The more depressed she became the more he tried to do for her.
At first he just got her coffee for the morning and left it on her desk. Then he started to leave her notes, bring her flowers, and giving her flowers. Everyone in the office saw that Kiki and Douglas were falling in love. The other employees liked Kiki so they were happy for the couple. Kiki and Douglas were married the following year. Kiki could not believe the wonderful way her life had turned out.
Born into a poor family who knew about hard work all too well, and having a child out of wed lock, she couldn't have imagined finding love now. It was like a dream come true to marry a rich and successful man. She could only wonder at this point if things could ever get any better than they were at this time. It was now 1990, the decade Douglas Baxter deemed "The Decade of the African." Jimmy was on his final year of college and Kiki was so proud of him. Douglas had achieved international fame for his successful call for a boycott of Disney because of a recent cancellation of "Black Pride Day" due to pressure from white Southern Baptists. The day of Jimmy's commencement had finally arrived and because of his ties to Douglas, Jimmy had gotten him to come speak.
During his speech, Douglas called for an awakening of the black spirit that had been dormant for so long in America. He sighted examples of how their African brothers were throwing off the oppressive yolk of apartheid and European imposed colonies. He then told the story of a black family who had gone from the oppressive South of the 1960's and made it in the world despite the deaths of several family members and other trials and strifes along the way. Jimmy realized that Douglas was telling the story of his family and he began to weep openly. At the conclusion of his speech, Douglas was greeted with a standing ovation. The president of the college was moved to tears as he came up and called for the first of the graduating seniors.
Jimmy received a special surprise when he went up to take his diploma, Douglas himself gave him it. As Jimmy took the diploma in one shaking, sweaty hand, he reached over and hugged his stepfather and knew at that moment what he was going to do with his degree. Douglas became a mentor to Jimmy and Jimmy became a voice of Douglas. For the first few months after Jimmy's graduation he spent his days with Douglas on the family farm in upstate New York. Jimmy listened to Douglas as he explained all he knew about black people, their heritage and his philosophy. Douglas had Jimmy read the works of such influential leaders as Gah ndi, W.
B. DuBois and of course the teachings of Jesus Christ. Douglas explained to Jimmy the importance of non-violent revolutions. He told Jimmy that if the non-violent revolution occurred as he planned, the black man and the white man would be able to walk together hand in hand into the 20 th century. Jimmy was amazed at all Douglas had to say. He had heard most of these things said to him as a child, but he only understood them as a child.
Now that he was an educated man, he began to see the deeper meaning of Douglas's words. On the final day before Douglas was to leave to go back on the lecture circuit, he pulled Jimmy aside and had a heart to heart with him. "Jimmy, when I go out this time, you can't come with me," Douglas said. "What Why What do you mean I have been your faithful follower from the beginning!" Jimmy pleaded with his mentor.
"Jimmy, it's time you came to your full potential. It's time for you to follow in my footsteps. I have been leader of the civil rights movement for two decades and I have done it alone. Now is the time for you to stand at my side and help me expand my views across the whole nation. I want you to go West to California. I feel the time is right for them to hear my message brought to them with a fresh voice.
You are that voice Jimmy." These words pierced deep into Jimmy's soul. He had thought his whole time in college that once he graduated, he would spend every waking moment with Douglas. He thought it would go back to him being Douglas's shadow, but Douglas had shattered that dream and put forth a new one. A dream that Jimmy had dared not think of. He was going to take the helm as second in command of the ship of the black civil rights movement.
Jimmy asked Douglas if he could have the night to think on the proposal and Douglas agreed. That night Jimmy had a dream that he was standing in front of a crowd of people waiting to hear him speak. Jimmy was scared and confused and unable to make any clear sentences. The crowd was growing unruly and Jimmy was only getting worse at getting his point across. Suddenly, Jimmy saw them. Faces back from the grave.
His grandmother and grandfather and the uncle he never knew. They were all standing beside him encouraging him to help make a difference and make their deaths count for something in the world. Jimmy took this as a sign from God and the next day agreed to go on the Californian lecture circuit on his own. Jimmy was apportioned a small staff consisting of a secretary, Michelle, an agent, Duane and several bodyguards just in case.