Book IV 1970-1980
In high school, Eunice noticed her friends interest was piqued whenever she told her father’s stories. They were awed by events in 1970s New York, even more than she was. So when Eunice got the opportunity, she’d get her father talking.
Curtis showed her an old scrapbook, he kept from his heyday. He pointed at one of his cartoon doodles, with the caption; Dear White Man: A part of the backlash of treating fellow humans as animals and slaves, even years passed slavery is running the risk of violent retaliation.
In their N.W.A., Public Enemy obsessed school hip hop, rap and urban culture were huge. East Coast vs. West Coast rivals Biggie and Tupac reigned long past their respective lifetimes. Anything remotely related to urban New York or L.A. was of interest.
Once her father got talking about social activism, he looked and sounded different, “While the Civil Rights movement disagreed with racial segregation, many thought Malcolm X advocating separation of black people and white people controversial. When you use retaliation and negativity, you face the criticism of, two wrongs don’t make a right. It was name calling, you know pale face, blue-eyed devils, but necessary back in my day. Communication clammed up between white and black. Instead of worrying about being offensive, people turned to I’ll just despise you from here and watch until you fuck up,” Curtis said.
“If you think of ghettos as prisons, the inmates in Harlem were restless in their ghetto prisons. There was only so much one could take before boiling over and looking for revenge or recoiling into a netherworld of drugs.
“Wouldn’t it have been safer, for you and mother to move away? Why didn’t you go as soon as the interracial laws changed?” Eunice asked, so precious and hopeful.
“You’re not wrong about the law changing but that didn’t mean people’s minds changed. It’s a bit like what your Ma thought too but I’d been getting letters, from my brother and sister back home. From Uncle Will and Aunt Louise about bad stuff going on in town. Killings and such. I steered Martha clear of any notion of moving south,” Curtis said, never one to shield his daughter from facts.
“So laws didn’t make a difference? I can believe that. It probably got worse because everything was secret,” Eunice said.
“Malcolm X said something like, ‘The white man will sick the dogs on us whether we’re sucking up or not. It wasn’t safe to mix outside your race until we got along with each other. He said the American Dream had been an American Nightmare.’ Don’t forget this man was a god to many of us. Later there were signs of corruption within the ranks. Power always eclipses morals,” Curtis recounted.
“Then I moved to the big time. I was offered security detail for Malcolm X’s Afro-American Unity organization whose motto was, ‘If we have no rights, we may as well be separate from your status quo society.’ Back then, gangs were recognized for making real and positive change,” Curtis said.
In Eunice’s opinion, black people had been freed on paper only. To this day they were wildly discriminated and resented maybe worse than before.
“If post Jim Crow whites were accepting, you had to be leery not to fall into being their pets. I think they called it being color-blind, where black people were considered half-witted children, who always needed white man advice.
“A color blind society sounds like equality Daddy. I don’t see color,” Eunice said.
“I don’t know about you but as a person of color, I like who I am and I don’t want any aspect of it to be unseen or invisible. The need for colorblindness, implies there is something wrong about me. Nowadays colorblindness has helped make race a taboo topic that people shy away from discussing but if you can’t talk about it, you can’t understand it,” Curtis said.
“It’s whacky to think you were a Black Panther,” Eunice said.
“Well I was never a practicing Panther just hired for security at the Harlem Festival,” Curtis said.