Black Faces

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My eyes rolled back in delight when I walked through my front door.

Thank GOD! My power was back on!

~dancing~ A/C! Get on up!!!

After two disgusting nights of sleeping in the heat, making peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches and trying to come up with creative games to entertain my sons, I almost cried when I felt the cool breeze of the central airconditioning.

“YAY!” My sons squealed. “We have power Mama?”
“We sure do.”

Yeah, Hurricane Katrina had gotten us. She smacked us something nice. Most people in Miami were NOT prepared. I mean, sad to say but we’re so USED to hurricanes coming through. Unless it’s a category 5, we really don’t pay much attention.

So when my little sister called me at work on Wednesday, August 24th, and said “Girl, my boss just came in and told us to go home and get ready for the hurricane.” I responded quickly, “What hurricane?” It was very confusing because outside we would find perfect Miami weather, clear skies and low humidity.

On Thursday night we watched the weather change. Dark clouds and gloom replaced the picturesque skies. The thunder and lightening scared my boys and knocked me offline so we all decided to camp out in their room. I took the TV from the kitchen, (The kitchen TV is the only one with a VHS player) and we all snuggled up on the floor to watch Forrest Gump.

Just minutes into the movie, the TV went black. I would not have power again until Saturday evening when my sons and I returned from spending the day cooling off at my cousin’s house.

My power was finally on and the FIRST thing I did was log on. Ahhh…I exhaled as my fingertips caressed my keyboard. I needed that fix. I didn’t chat. I didn’t write. I immediately got back up and packed my boys in the car to go see my Mama. I wanted to bring her to my house. Her phone and power was out so there was no way to contact her. The street lights were all out. The traffic was crazy, but we made it to her neighborhood safely, but she didn’t want to leave her dog in the hot house alone so she stayed there.

The next day we went for a drive in search of food. Most of the stores were still closed. The traffic lights were still out and we were HUNGRY. More peanut butter and jelly for us, I guess.

But even though we had lost power, even though we were kinda hungry, at least we were returning to some sense of normalcy.

On Sunday night I was so excited to watch the VMA’s. I called up my girl Tamara in Tallahassee and she called Tonya and the three of us watched the show over the phone. While we laughed at R. Kelly and made fun of TI lil midget self, Tamara suddenly stopped us and made a request.

“Hey ya’ll,” she said. “We need to pray for New Orleans.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Cuz Katrina is about to hit there and we don’t want that to happen.”
I shrugged.
“OK Prince.”
“No, pray right now.”
I paused. I didn’t understand why she was so adamant about it. I mean, Katrina had just come through Miami and we were okay. I prayed anyway. I prayed for the safety of the people in New Orleans.

And then we hung up.

I had no idea that while I slept America would be jarred to life by a resounding wake up call. I had no idea, that just a few hours later, all across the globe men and women would MOAN for the people of Mississippi and Louisiana. I didn’t know.

On Monday evening I took my boys to my Mama’s house after work. She was in the room watching the news. As I always do, I sat on the bed, grabbed a Black from the dresser and lit up. I only smoke when I visit my Mama. We puff and chat together.

But this time, my Black went out much faster than usual. I had not heard anything about what had happened in New Orleans, but the television broadcast images that I was not ready to see. Wait…Wait a minute. Why is there so much water? Why are there people on rooftops? What’s happening? I was confused.

My little sister explained that New Orleans was like a bowl, and that the hurricane had broken one of the barriers that kept the ocean from pouring water into the city. WHOA! For real? I didn’t know that. I didn’t know.

There they were. Black faces. Brown faces. Expressionless. Sitting on floating furnitire. On roof tops. Sardined on the expressways. They were crying. They were dieing. They were scared. They were mad. They were waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

Now I don’t know about ya’ll but I am a woman with a great deal of compassion and I could FEEL their pain so much that my eyes leaked. The thing that hurts me the most is the fact that I can not do anything to save them. I feel so powerless.

Imagine not having the means to leave a city about to be hit by a hurricane. Imagine coming out alive but having everything you ever owned destroyed. Imagine finally finding a dry spot to rest and waiting for someone, somewhere to help. “They’re coming,” you tell yourself. “They’ll help.”
Whoever “they” is, never show up.

Imagine as the night breaks and then daylight and then night again. Where are “they”? When will “they” get here?

Silence.

Only the whir of helicopters as television crews document your tears and frustration.

GET THAT MICROPHONE OUT OF MY FACE! GIVE ME A DAMN SANDWHICH! WE NEED HELP!

It would be easy to sit back and criticize and play the blame game but what will prove to be more difficult would be having the courage to start over.

Lookin back, we came here with nothing. We were stripped of our language, our culture, our self respect. We were conditioned to believe that we were sub human, that our lives didn’t even matter. But we survived. We were forced to depend on “them” to take care of our needs and “they” did, in THEIR timing and WHEN it benefitted THEM. And we act shocked when history repeats itself.

Yes, that was a noticeable time in the history books but it wasn’t the final chapter.

Through the whipping and the lynchings
Through the degrading conditioning of our minds
Through the consistent rape of hope and faith
We always managed to survive
Someone flinched when they removed the shackles
Someone trembled in the night
Someone loaded up their napsack
Someone followed a shining light
Though the road may be unstable
Though we fumble, fuss and fight
Though the elements seek to overcome us
We have faith it’ll be alright
Who else can take this madness
Who can fall and rise again
Who can be the mother of all the earth
Yet spit upon by men
As we mold our lives from nothing
Apologizing for our skin
My Black friend
It’s deep within
This thing within
Does not allow us to STOP
We
Will
Not
Die

We will survive

PS- God Bless.

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