Stories from the Hip Hop South
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Table of Contents
- Foreword – Kiese Laymon
- Prologue: Reckoning
- Part One: Reaching Back Around
- Chapter 1: A Visitation from Grace
- Chapter 2: Intentions
- Chapter 3: Between the Hedges
- Chapter 4: Good Bleach
- Part Two: Long Division
- Chapter 5: Beautiful Ones
- Chapter 6: Happy Feelins
- Chapter 7: Splish-Splash
- Chapter 8: Skin Carnival
- Chapter 9: As Above So Below
- Part Three: Stitches in Time
- Chapter 10: The Apothecary
- Chapter 11: Moving Furniture
- Chapter 12: Some Kind of Wonderful (Illustrated by John Jennings and Stacey Robinson)
- Discussion Question Bank
- Series index
The town of Blackshear was small and shoddy, with small thatch and tar roof houses and one major house made of brick that stood firm on the North shore. Lake Blackshear was the first thing that newly enslaved eyes blinked into focus after their long haul across the ocean. The small ripples wept for them because their eyes were too dry to weep. Blackshear wasn’t a “forever” kind of town; it was a brief stop for the beginning of an even longer journey. At the center of Blackshear stood an auction block, a large wooden plank stacked on top of jagged grey and black mismatching stones and rust colored brick. The stones looked like clinched and cracked teeth to complement the tight jaws of the enslaved. One by one, black folks got ate up by winning bids thrown into the world by overly eager and fast talking jaws full of air that acknowledged greedy mouths full of bourbon and no regrets. Black folks got whisked away with white folks’ money.
But the auctioneer and the chopping block didn’t holler on Sundays, and the enslaved sat on the riverbank restless and waiting. They were careful not to let their eyes fall on one another, in fear of letting compassion grow in their thorny reality. They dug their fingers and toes into the bank waiting for the next auction. Lake Blackshear lapped at their legs, trying to persuade them to look out at the water. Those who pulled themselves together and dared ← 3 | 4 → to have enough might looked out at the water and their eyes stopped on a woman who hummed to herself at the farthest bank, past the watchful eyes of white overseers. She was lean and showed no signs of worry. Her joy as she hummed and kicked her feet in the water was seductive and arousing. The small ripples forced themselves to grow into small waves that rushed up her sides with each kick. The woman’s humming crept through the water into the ears of those who dared to listen. Nobody knew if she was free by paper or her own will.
Rise Up. Tell them. Tell them to stop choosing us.
The hum beat loud and heavy through the water until one Sunday all the boats rocked in the port. The woman danced and hummed, one foot in the water and the other planted firmly in the sandy brown bank. She didn’t sink.
Tell them to stop choosing us.
The enslaved tried to fight it, shaking their heads and shoulders. Hope was a burden. But some black folks hummed and swayed, still not bold or well enough to kick their feet in the water but ready to be free.
As the Sunday woman danced, the lake gurgled and coughed up its bottoms. The water heaved and sucked itself upwards to the wooden limbs of each ship in the port. The water grabbed and snapped the wood while a growing wind shredded its sails. Embarrassed, the ships began to sink. The woman whispered down the front of her blouse into herself. She was named by the black folks “Amazin’ Grace” and deemed God’s woman. She was the type of Grace black folks needed, not the one the old white man in a robe sung to them about before auction. Grace was a redeemer to some and labeled troublesome by horrified white folks. Blackshear shut down as a slave port after Grace sunk those ships. White folks didn’t want to confront no haint of misfortune. They moved further North to Cornflower and Moot Counties, where black folks didn’t have a backbone.
But that was way back when.
Shackles fell off and black folks got comfortable.
Now, no one in Blackshear knew much about Grace. Most of the young folks in Blackshear just shrugged her off.
“She’s just some old lady,” they said.
Grace lived on the banks of Lake Blackshear in a house never wind whipped or eroded by the water. Blackshear elders said she stood out on the bank every morning communing with the dead. Grace couldn’t kick her feet in the water anymore without pain, but she made herself available to the whispers. She knew better than the young folks that morning was for the ← 4 | 5 → ancestors. They would sweep through the town as a soft mist, curious about the newer world and if they still had a place in it. After their journey, the ancestors collected at Grace’s feet as she stood on the shore, hugged her legs, and seeped back into the lake to rest. But some wistful mornings, Grace knew they were agitated, nipping at her heels and demanding extra attention. It was hard work to follow their beckoning. Her body wanted to pass the fight on to someone with younger bone marrow and redder blood, but in the quietest corner of Grace’s spirit she knew she still had work to do. Her work weighed on her joints and bones more than time itself.
On those anxious mornings, Grace then hobbled through the leftover mist into the middle of town now called called Gomorrah Square. A man named Mr. Earnest met her at the old auction block. Mr. Earnest was the color of ripe corn silk. He was Grace’s fetcher and looked considerably younger than Grace but stretched his shoulders apart to make him fill up more of the world. Mr. Earnest lifted her up past the first step and kept a steady gaze on her to make sure she didn’t fall as she made her way to the top of the platform.
Grace huffed and climbed each rickety stair to the top of the wooden platform and steadied herself on the worn podium. Mr. Earnest moved to the right side of Grace at the bottom of the block. Only Grace touched the dented and rusting black box under her arm. Flecks of red jumped from each scratch and dent. Folks called it the speakerbox. With each turn of the crank the veins in Grace’s hand pop through her papery thin skin. The speakerbox never spoke on the first crank. But on the third turn, it cackled and wheezed to life. A faint sound of a man’s voice pushes through the static. The man’s voice, a quiet vibrato, snakes through the square and around Blackshear.
“Freddie’s dead.” The sounds of guitars and violin strings wrap around the town. A flute as sweet as a chirping bird breaks free through the cackling and pops of noise.
- ISBN (PDF)
- ISBN (ePUB)
- ISBN (MOBI)
- ISBN (Hardcover)
- ISBN (Softcover)
- Publication date
- 2017 (May)
- New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XXII, 140 pp.