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Category Archives: Griots in The Americas
Watch “America’s Dream – The Boy Who Painted Christ Black”–based on Dr. John Henrik Clarke’s Short Story
Pops, Me & My Sis bout to go catch some fishes out dem dare ponds in da country.
When we comes back, we cleans em real good. Cut da fish headz off & guts em. You know. Throws da fish headz to da catz. Once we gets em cleaned up, we takes da fishes in da house. By den, daddy be done had dat grease real hot. And he gots dem grits cooking with cheese in it. Mustard & ketchup ready. You talkin bout some good eating. Man, you got to take ya shoes off & wiggle ya toes while you eat dat kinda Deep South Cooking.
Peep this…at night when it was hard seeing the fishing rod duck down when fish bit the bait–my father had a master plan for that. You know baby shoe bells. He used them. Tied them to the tip of the fishing rods, where the hole is, where the line go through. He tied the bell on the rod tip wt bread wrappers. We might be down a railroad track, checking lines tied to the tracks, trees, etc. Just lines & hooks wt bait. But we had other rods out too. When a fish hit them, the bells went off.
Sometimes, the fish bit the bait one after another or at the same time. It sounded like Christmas bells going off. DADDY WOULD SAY…”that’s what I’m talking bout….get ready lil fish, y’all getting fried up tonight….yes Sir Son, that’s what I’m talking bout.”
Father: Son, why do you want a treehouse so bad?
Son: Well, daddy I like to read and think a lot, and you know I love to write.
Father: I love your stories and poems.
Son: Thanks daddy. For some reason when I am off to myself, in that quiet spot of the world—a world away from confusion and clutter, I can think.
Father: What about your friends son?
Son: I love being around them—just like any other kid, I love to laugh, joke, and have fun. I know the world is not build around that. I watch you and mama.
Father: Watch us do what, son?
Son: I watch you all provide for us. Now that is serious. Did you have dreams of greatness daddy when you were my age?
Father: Yes son, I did have dreams of greatness. I bet you will never believe what some of them were?
Son: What, I am curious to know.
Father: Well son, I wanted to be the greatest running back since Jim Brown. When I was in Little League Football, I was straight out running jokers over like a semi-truck. Not only that, if I wanted to, I could outrun most defenders.
Son: So, you were the man Pops?
Father: Yep, I was the man. I moved on to Middle School and did the same thing. Even when I got to High School, I was doing it up—serving jokers sometimes two and three touchdowns a game.
Son: So, you wanted to be playing on Sundays in the NFL and all that?
Father: Yep son, the NFL was one of my dreams.
Son: What about School—what was your favorite subject?
Father: Math was my favorite subject and shop.
Father: Yep son—shop. I have always loved math and making things with my hands, and figuring things out, and creating things.
Father: Around the 10th grade a friend of mine named Roscoe asked me if I would help him upholster his old Chevy Impala.
Son: Had you ever done that before?
Father: No, I had never. But let me tell you—we worked on that Impala for a few days. I had to use math and all, and a lot of common sense. He had never done it before either. But we talked with this old guy that had a Upholstery shop named Mr. Johnny James. He was the best in town. He said it was OK to drop by his shop for a few days, and watch him do other people cars. So, before we got started on my friend’s car, we hung out at his shop. He showed us a lot in just a few days. Matter of fact, he enjoyed having us down there with him, and we enjoyed being around his upholstery shop.
After a few days, we got started on that Impala. When we got finished—it was a thing of beauty. Then, other people wanted us to hook up their rides. We told them we had so much more to learn, and it would be better if they take their cars on down to Mr. Johnny James shop. Mr. Johnny James saw how excited everybody was about my friend’s ride. He told us we could become his apprentices at his shop. I did that until I got out of High School, and he paid me too. My friend Roscoe was only interested in fixing up his own car, but not me, I wanted to get better at this craft. So, I stayed working with Mr. James.
Son: What about football, did you still love the game? I have not heard you say anything else after you started talking about Upholstering cars.
Father: Well, to tell you the truth son, sports became almost secondary to me at that time. The funny thing about it—is this—many times I would be at football practice thinking of work Mr Johnny and I would be doing after I got out of football practice.
Son: How did you play football and work on cars?
Father: We would get through with practice about 5:30 pm. I would come home, take a bath, eat, do my homework, and then go to the shop about 8 pm, and stay down there until about 10 or 11 pm. Yea son, I use to be tired, but I loved what I was doing, in fact, my grades got better as I did both—play football and work at the shop.
I used to look at a lot of Lowrider Magazines and other car magazines, and check out the latest styles of upholstery. Many of my friends had certain requests for me and Mr. Johnny. There were no jobs we turned down son, some of them were pretty rough, but the end result was always customer satisfaction. It got to the point, I studied upholstery books just as much as I did my playbook for football. For some reason, Coach Smith was always telling me I am trying to do too much with my life right now, I need to slow down. But, I couldn’t. I didn’t know any Pro Football players that ever came out of our community. But I did know Mr. Johnny James at that shop. He was a role model for me right then. I could talk to him, and ask him questions. He was the man. So I learned way back then—that you got to prepare for your future as an adult right now—in the present. That is how I went right into a mindset of doing for myself way back then. I was not going to let some College Football Scout determine my fate in life. I got control on my life—no matter what they decided. I see you got that in you too son, you are a leader, and I am proud of you son.
Son: Dad, I really enjoy our talks. I want us to always to be able to talk like this.
Father: We will son.