In a guest post for MLK Day, the brilliant blog Library of Maternal Nagging, takes on the troubling time period in Alabama around the time of Dr. King’s life and death. The post is written by the blog’s founder and editor Shanteka Sigers’ mother, referred to as “Hey Lady.” Check out an excerpt of a spirited and touching blog post written by a grandmother who makes the reality of oppression and segregation simple and plain for a little boy who will benefit from knowing the truth, even if it is painful.
My Dear Amsden,
When I was your age in 1960, in Birmingham, Alabama, it was a treat for my brother and I to accompany our mother when she went into town.
We looked forward to going to Egg-A-Day which was a kind of indoor farmer’s market but more structured. It looked like a grocery store in the front but there were lots of fresh fruit and vegetables in the back. Kenny and I rarely went to the back. We were far more interested in the cheap toys or the delicious pulled pork barbeque sandwiches.
We loved those sandwiches! The soft, white bread buns were so fresh and the sauce was so good. Best of all, we could afford them. They were five for a dollar!
My brother and I always got two each and there was one for my mother – and we were looking greedily at hers! Not because we were hungry, but because we were always competing for my mother’s affection. She was a wonderful momma.
Sometimes she let the greedy horrible two eat her sandwich, but she had to make sure the halves were equal…
Being the baby of the family — at that time —my mother and brother held each one of my hands on these little trips. I was in the middle (a coveted spot in my mind) and I was close to my mother. Life was grand … for a few blocks.
Just before we entered the first store, my brother and I had to change places. Now he was in the middle and I was on the outside. Proof positive that HE was her favorite. I was too sad for tears, so I didn’t say anything about it. Ever.
I was an adult before I understood. Slavery was long abolished but there were other ways to enslave. Chain gangs. Convict leasing. Black men (and sometimes women) were arrested and imprisoned for minor crimes, like crossing the street improperly.
One day I overheard the grown folks talking about an incident at the local department store. A black woman stood outside the men’s restroom where her very young son went in to use the restroom. After some time, she began to worry that perhaps he was ill and decided to ask the next man to check on her son.
The adults began to cry and moan as they attempted to convey the events after. Lots of broken sentences and sobs.
What are they saying? I was so confused … I don’t know what it means that “they cut out his jewels.”
My mother had an awful choice to make each time we went into a store…
Read the entire post on Library of Maternal Nagging.