It has been three weeks since the men in black suits laid siege to our fortress. Today we found a lawn marker reading “Home of the Organic Witch.” Yeye had me take her picture in front of it so she could place the polaroid in her album next to the photo of her and Jackie Roosevelt Robinson. ”Look at us great grand-daughter of mine all snuggled together in an uncomfortable pose. We hoping and praying we ain’t found to be snotty nosed and starry-eyed. Yeye ran her aloe-vera oiled fingers across a still-life picture taken long before Jackie Robinson was a baseball great. It was back when they were almost sweethearts in Cairo, Georgia; it was a time, according to Yeye, where sharecropping was the job to be had if you were black with long arms and strong legs. Yeye poured herself a cup of coffee and in between sips and dips of flour bread into an ocean of chicory ripples, she went into the story of how she knew Roosevelt Robinson the man not yet an icon. “Well littles ones Roosevelt and me go back to a time when all he was stealing was hearts. If we coulda afforded to love each other, we woulda but when you poor and don’t even own the pot you pissing in nor the window you throwing it out-then love is the sorta viral infection you shun. Love will lead down the narrow road of babies and that wasn’t the kinda slap in the face neither of our kin needed. Chilun require more than love-all the swaddling and kisses in the world won’t feed em and It won’t clothe em or shorten their fever in the middle of winter.
And besides that, Jackie was rebelling fore rebelling was in; Shoot he was the rebel James Dean wish he was. My mama and daddy was afraid for me, tangling up with a boy man didn’t know how to rebel under the cover of night. My daddy said, he let his tongue talk when he should walked way from words like nigger, coon, monkey. My daddy made me promise to lose him in the dark recesses of my memories. Daddy said he wasn’t gon never be nothing worth talking about outside of Cairo. I cried like a baby cause my gut told me he was mine, not my heart. Hearts known to lie, they betray you when you ain’t looking-they made that way all soft and full of mush.
Back to Roosevelt, he more than a colored silhouette in a Brooklyn Dodger uniform. My picture is going next to my friend Jackie Roosevelt Robinson who the United States Army discharged in 1944 because he refused to move to the back of a segregated military bus. See Ayo, my beautiful great-granddaughter, that’s the company I continue to keep even after all these years.”
The neighbors keep vigilant watch over Yeye’s house.Yeye calls them the world’s worst paid informants. Every other day a board from our privacy fence runs down the trail yards away from its kin. Yeye pretends not to notice, the handprints, the missing clumps of soil- holes in the ground where once grew Elder and Eucalyptus.
Yeye has taken a liking to planting cactus plants, poison oak and ivy ; they have become as Yeye says, “our bush knives in the wild during these trying times.”
Brother and I laugh; as we have noticed the growing number of scratching neighbors cussing and fussing past our stoop. Yeye grins while drinking her homemade Elderberry wine, “Finally chiluns we have put an end to runaway boards-gallivanting like wildlings through the cul-de-sac, with no regard for the home training I tried to instill in em.”
Yeye likes to use gallivanting it sounds so grown up she says and yet still so unrefined.
In response to my statement, yesterday, that we are prisoners in a concentration camp that looks like home but feels to much like jail and every person who use to smile and hug the goodness out of Yeye’s community garden has sided with the men in black suits.
Yeye began reading to brother and me Winne Mandela’s Part of My Soul Went with Him. We sat for two hours listening and then with a quote by Mrs. Mandela, Yeye ended the session. “You have been in the township. You have seen how bleak it still is. Well, it was here where we flung the first stone. It was here where we shed so much blood. Nothing could have been achieved without the sacrifice of the people. Black people.”
Then Yeye closed the book and asked, “Is our newly formed jail any kinda kin to Mrs.Mandela’s-from what we’ve heard thus far? Where is our sacrifice? How much blood shed have we witnessed at the hands of Monsanto agents? We three, are a little uncomfortable compliments of our government but jail is a figment of your grandiose imagination. If we behave like prisoners, gal, we will suffer discomfort like prisoners-no doubt. I was born with fire on the brain, little ones, so I ain’t never met a war I didn’t want to gallop my horse headfirst into.”
Neighbors are always trying to seduce brother and me with double stuffed Oreo cookies and chocolate milk or pralines and huckubucks smothered in domino sugar.
Mrs. Rhonda Stevens, from two doors away, likes to grin and whispers to brother, who is five years younger than me, “Go on drink it, it came from a chocolate cow-so it’s better than good. Now tell me child what your Yeye doing behind that privacy fence? What she growing these days?”
Mrs. Rhonda Stevens knows that we won’t talk against Yeye. No amount of sugary snacks will deprive Yeye of our solidarity.
Yeye taught me that word-solidarity. And I am proudest of myself for finding just cause to use it.
Today Diary, the angry Mrs. Stevens spit snuff at us, from her porch swing.
“You gal,” she signals me out. ” You too smart for your britches. Wonder what your mama and daddy gon say when they come back from that foreign land. All that doctoring they got going to them Afro-Cubans-shit we got sick here. I got high blood pressure, diabetes, and the gout .I’m in need of free medicine. I can barely tiptoe less on walk right and I’m right here in America. But I guess I’m just a regular ole negro, not seasoned in no accented speech-turn coats your parents is. How your parents gon chew on the mess your Yeye in? How they gon swallow this Al-Qaeda treason. Wait till they find out how little homeschooling she got going. What if the government take you way from your precious Yeye and put you and your thumb sucking six-year-old brother in a group home long fore your mama and daddy make it back to the states.”
Today Yeye taught me something she likes to call food warfare.
For every camouflaging stink bush or spider plant we grow, we grow four oleander bushels. Once the oleander grows nice and mature Yeye says we will pulverize its leaves into cornmeal and yam flour and keep it in a mason jar high up in the darkest top corner of the pantry. Let it settle in for the next time the men in black suits come calling. We will welcome them with hot oleander cornbread and a tall glass apple cider compliments Of Yeye Lumumba