Please read my great-grandfather’s most important work:
The Future of the American Negro
It is available at the following link:
Please read my great-grandfather’s most important work:
It is available at the following link:
by Marshall S. Cabiness, Jr.
(Also known as Musa Muslim Abuwi)
The poet is not arisen who leaves
The flower not smelled nor the grass not trod
With footsteps that wear down the blades under weary feet.
But I have known the melancholy softness of night breezes
As I lay beneath a billion, no, a trillion points of starlight
Upon the rolling sea that has the power to surmount me
And yet it only beckons me to sleep triumphantly,
Knowing that I have loved fully and been loved fully in return.
What more can one man ask of a mysterious God that only imagination and
revelation through sages and seers can describe
With allegories and metaphors that mean everything to those who know
And nothing to those who fear no death?
Then I must go onward into the vast embodiment of the All-Seeing Star,
That no one escapes and no one can explain.
When I sleep, I will triumph, for sleeping is the last thing I shall recall.
Or is there not a triumph beyond my solitude where I am not one,
But everything that is.
Marshall S. Cabiness, Jr. aka Marshall Washington-Cabiness Abuwi
Born: December 5, 1943 at Tuskegee Army Air Field Hospital, near Franklin, Macon County, Alabama
Parents: First Lieutenant Marshall S. Cabiness, Sr., U. S. Army Air Forces (332nd Fighter Group) and Margaret Ernestine Washington Cabiness (Grand-daughter of Booker T. Washington)
Kindergarten and Elementary School: Saint Joseph Catholic School, Tuskegee, Alabama
Secondary Education: Tuskegee Institute High School, Saint Emma Military Academy, Saint John’s Preparatory School. Graduated with highest honors from Saint Emma Military Academy, June, 1961.
College Education: University of California-Berkley, Tuskegee University, Los Angeles Metropolitan College, Alabama A & M University, Columbia Pacific University, University of Maryland, Augusta State University.
Advanced Education: American InterContinental University, Western Governors University, Strayer University, University of Denver, Norwich University, Capella University.
Academic Degrees: Associate in Arts in Humanities; Bachelors of Arts in Educational Philosophy and African American History; Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative and Professional Writing); Master of Education in Instructional Technology; Master of Arts in Military History.
Current Academic Program: Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Adult Education)
U. S. Military Service: Retired in February, 2001 from the U. S. Armed Forces after serving thirty years (Army and Navy).
Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America – 1957
Distinguished Military Graduate, Saint Emma Military Academy – June, 1961
Lieutenant Colonel (Honorary) Commission, State of Alabama – 1983
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (Three Awards) 1985-2000
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal – 2000
Keys to The Cities of Tuskegee, Alabama, McDonough, Georgia, and Statesville, North Carolina
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.
Alpha Phi Omega Fraternity, Inc.
Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society
Augusta State University, Augusta, GA
Author: Overcoming the Mental Atrophy that Results From the Requirement to Conform to a Suffocating Environment (A Study of African American Education), 1983
Author: “The War Bonnet” and “The Tramp” – Published short stories.
Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, Troop 70, Boy Scouts of America, Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, 1957-1958.
Cadet Captain, Company Commander, Saint Emma Military Academy, 1960-1961.
U. S. Army and U. S. Army Reserve, 1961-1967. Honorably Discharged, December, 1967.
Co-Director, Tuskegee Institute Summer Education Program Special College Admissions Program, 1965-166.
Co-Founder, Sister Clara Mohammed Elementary and Secondary School, Oakland, California, 1971.
Founder, Booker T. Washington Memorial Scholarship Fund – 1975.
Director, Los Angeles Community Colleges Overseas Program, Antigua, British West Indies, 1980-1982.
Imam, U. S. Navy Muslim Congregations, Shipboard and Overseas, 1978-2000.
U. S. Navy Commissioned Officer Recruiter, 1983-1985. Awarded Gold Wreath for Excellence in Recruiting.
U. S. Navy Radioman/Information Systems Technician, 1977-2001.
U. S. Navy Chief Petty Officer 1991-2001.
Regional Readiness Training Officer, U. S. Naval Computer and Telecommunications Command, Europe and Middle East, 1999-2000.
Founder and CEO, Booker T. Washington Heritage Development Center, 2001. (Provides motivational speaking, mentoring and coaching nationwide.)
Resident Imam, Mosque Ibrahim (Abraham) – Fort Gordon, GA (2001 – Present).
Press Note: Imam Marshall Musa Muslim Abuwi (Marshall S. Cabiness, Jr.) is the eldest living male descendant of The Honorable Dr. Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee University, The Phelps Bible School, and The National Business League. At 66 years “young” he is committed to his motto: “No dream is too small, and no challenge is too great; you can accomplish what you will – live your dreams.” He serves as the executor of the estate of the late Mrs. Margaret Ernestine Washington Clifford, grand-daughter of Booker T. Washington, and as the custodian of the Booker T. Washington Heritage Family manuscript Collection.
Mr. Marshall Washington-Cabiness Abuwi (Marshall Musa Muslim Abuwi) is available for speaking engagements about the legacy and still-current vision of his great-grandfather, the legendary Honorable Dr. Booker T. Washington, founder of the National Negro Business League and Tuskegee University in Alabama. He can be contacted via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Also, please visit the Booker T. Washington Heritage Development Center website at:
Belonging at Berkeley
Marshall S, Cabiness, Jr.
(aka Marshall Musa Muslim Abuwi)
A ship’s low foghorn could be heard across the Golden Gate bridge. I walked quickly from my black ghetto home in Berkeley. It was a typical, drizzly fall morning. I had decided to cut my morning classes at the University of California. It was my first semester and I was going to the Army recruiter’s office in downtown Berkeley. I raced when I saw the city bus coming to a stop. I nearly tripped with anxiety when I descended from the bus in front of the sign that said “ARMY”.
A weathered, fit-looking Army sergeant was lounging behind his gray desk in the sparsely furnished office. He was waiting for suckers to walk in. When I appeared in his sights, he quickly turned his usual scowl into a charming smile. He studied the opened book logo on my U. C. Berkeley sweatshirt, then looked me up and down before he said,
“Sit down, son. What can I do for you?”
“Japan”, I replied with a wide open grin. “I want to go to Japan.”
“You ever been in jail, or on probation ?” “Don’t lie, it’ll get you five years in Leavenworth.”
“No, Sergeant. I’ve never been in any trouble. Clean record.”
The recruiter then sat me down at a table in the corner of his large office, which was filled with pictures of teenagers having exciting adventures, like standing with beautiful Asian girls in front of an ancient temple, or rafting down white water rapids, or crawling through swamps. He gave me a test to see if I was smart enough to be a soldier in the Army. That was no problem for me, because I had scored in the top ten percent on my Scholastic Aptitude Tests. The recruiter’s test was easy. Simple reading and math exercises. A few geometry puzzles.
The sergeant was elated when he called me the next day, catching me at home just as I was leaving to go on campus for my ROTC class. I had to rush our conversation because I did not want my senior class ROTC captain to ride me for being late. From my very first day at drill, he and his arrogant lieutenants had convinced me that I was persona non grata for being the solitary Negro in my Air Force ROTC unit.
Excitement electrified me during my humiliating drill where I was treated like a peon by the pompous ROTC officers. They obviously did not know that I myself had been a top notch cadet officer, at a military school, the previous year. I stood in ranks, feeling defeated. I had been rejected for admission into the elite Naval ROTC program. The Navy Commander at the ROTC office said, “Mr. Cabiness, you do not have the right background to be a Naval Officer.” I was confused.
“What kind of background do I need to have?” I asked myself.
My family had been one of the leading Negro families in the Nation’s capital after Reconstruction. Grandpa had established a Negro industrial college in Alabama. How could I, a great-grandson of Booker T. Washington, have the “wrong background” for serving in the officer corps. Grandpa’s school provided the first Negro Army officers for America’s Army and Air Forces. I had graduated from a prestigious, though segregated, prep school, at the top of my class. My school, the Saint Emma Military Academy prided itself for having one of the nation’s best Army Junior ROTC programs. It also was one of the few nationally accredited Black high schools in the country.
I had not learned much about African-American history at that point in my life, but I knew one thing for certain. I knew that Black people back home in Alabama were treated like we were a subhuman species that thrived on cruel mistreatment. We were made to live under a rigid code of oppression call racial segregation. Racial segregation in America, particularly in the South, was based on the dehumanization efforts of the white masters of Negro African slaves. By severely controlling the living conditions of the former slaves, after the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments were added to the U. S. Constitution, the white southerners, in effect, nullified those laws. The result of this was that the former slaves, and their descendants, were virtually returned to slavery, not as chattels, but as free slaves. The same rational was presented for this strategy to dehumanize the Negroes that had been presented in the 17th and 18th centuries when the profit potential of the Negro slavery was recognized by the great land lords and empire builders of Europe and America.
As a political science major at Berkeley, I sought out information about Black history, and I learned that a Virginia legislator, Henry Berry, had announced to his colleagues in 1832, “We have as far as possible, closed every avenue by which light may enter the slaves minds. If it were possible, we would extinguish the light (of humanity) from their minds, and reduce them to the level of dumb beasts. We would do his on the plea of necessity” (Embree, Edwin, Brown Americans).
I believed that I had escaped from racial prejudice when I enrolled at U. C. Berkeley. Until my father was forced out of our Alabama town for challenging the white business leaders about racial injustice, I thought I might want to live near Grandpa’s college, Tuskegee Institute, in Alabama. I envisioned myself going to school and teaching there. But my Dad’s desertion of my family, in 1957, changed all that. Embarrassed by her divorce from Dad, my mom wanted a new town for us. We made the long drive out to sunny California in the summer of 1960, seeking a chance to have a better life.
After I had finished high school and was enrolled at U. C. Berkeley, I received a shocking surprise! My chilling reception by the Air Force ROTC staff assured me that I was not wanted in their all-white officer training unit. I was stunned! I was only seventeen years old, with a nearly-perfect academic record. I had never been in any trouble with the law. I was an Eagle Scout and I had been selected for admission to Princeton and Yale. If these great universities wanted me, why did my Nordic military leaders reject me?
I had yet to understand that their treatment of me was part of a carefully designed plan to destroy the self-esteem of all African-Americans. The real meaning of this repressive system of the psychic destruction has been the continued dehumanization of an entire race of people. This psychic destruction has continued for three centuries so that American Negroes can be used in whatever way that the power brokers see fit, whether as convict labor to build America’s new cities, or canon fodder to fight America’s wars of global expansion.
The emotional effect of being pushed into a ghetto, with minimal municipal services, and repressive police agencies, is devastating. Even worse, however, is the denial of the natural right of human self-development, which is sought by every people on earth. That is, unless they have been beaten down so low, for so long, that they believe that subjugation is their natural place in the universe.
My psychic destruction began very early. When I was a ten year- old boy, in Alabama, the pain of being called a “nigger” by a truckload of redneck white boys, had seared my soul. It cut deeper than any memory that I have, other than my first sight of my father in the Air Force pilot’s uniform that the white racist generals tried to take away from him after he jettisoned a burning fighter plane that he was flying in 1943. He had angrily accused the Army of trying to kill the Black pilot trainees at Tuskegee by giving them flying crates of junk for training planes. Now the same repression had come home to me.
Is it any wonder that I became black nationalist college dropout? I joined a black separatist movement after hearing a revealing expose about slavery while I was a Berkeley student. I sought Black separatism, because I saw no other choice open to me, except to be a “house negro”, tipping around in corporate America, hoping to be left alone, or racing to break my head on the glass ceiling of the racist ‘good ole boy’ network, that was so evident in the officer training programs at Berkeley?
My poor, highly-educated father fared even worse, under segregation, than I did. Eventually, the racist Air Force generals, or their cousins destroyed my dad, as their children sought to destroy me, killing his spirit to achieve anything in America. They forced him to give up fighting for justice in racist Alabama, even though he had fought for America’s freedom in Europe, against Hitler. But in America, like me, he was just another “coon.”
In despair, my brilliant, poetic father turned to self-destruction, escaping from the emotional pain of segregation in a bottle of cheap gin whiskey. I would often watch him and his rejected Air Force buddies drink themselves into a stupor, as they replayed old indignities that had been heaped upon them by their white Air Force training officers during World War Two.
All this raced through my tormented mind as I stood in ranks one breezy, October afternoon during my first college semester. I looked up into the bigoted, wind-swept face of the stern ROTC officer, whose steel blue eyes were piercing my soul with his venom. He moved to the blond-haired, freshman cadet beside me, to offer him some encouragement. I bitterly started to plot my escape from American racism, far away from the U.S.A. I could not wait to hear the command “Dismissed from drill!
The Army recruiter just couldn’t get me back down to his office fast enough. He had made me promise that I would return there right after my ROTC drill ended, so I had to wear my Air Force Officer Cadet’s uniform into his office. Still in my uniform, I raced to the bus stop at Bancroft and Telegraph Avenue. I had just made it to the bus stop when the Shattuck Avenue bus arrived. The sergeant had a wide smile on his face, and a look of amusement.
This enlisted soldier was supposed to address me as “Sir”, and salute me, since I was a officer trainee. He was a hard, old, warrior and he did not give a damn about college boys. He was not about to call a seventeen year old Black kid, “Sir.” This gruff white sergeant reminded me of an old saying that I had once heard a white Alabama politician say at a rally against the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s. “Black people have no rights that a white man is bound to respect.”
The Army recruiter’s large, Army-ringed hand shoved some papers towards me. He answered my questions impatiently, as I asked him about being able to go to Japan, if I dropped out of college and enlisted in the Army right away.
“You nearly got 100 percent of the questions right on your Army aptitude test”, he mused aloud.
“What do you want to do in the Army? Do you want to go Infantry?”
“Oh no, Sergeant”, I replied. “I want to go to Japan!”
“No problem”, he said, typing something on one of his many forms. “That’s where we’ll be sending you, right after Basic Training.”
My mind became flooded with pictures of the soft, brown Japanese coeds on CAL’s campus. My dream was about to come true!
I sat across from the recruiting sergeant and wondered how I could convince my mother to sign the enlistment papers that he pushed before me, permitting me to sign up for the Army. My poor Negro mother was very proud of me for getting into Berkeley. Only the world’s top high school graduates were considered for a place there.
I was unhappy living in the small apartment that Mom was renting as she began her life as a divorcee with three children. She was upset and depressed most of the time. She did not have a California teaching certificate yet, so she only got minimum wages as a teacher. She was trying to feed her kids with no help from my father. He was back at a far away graduate school, hoping that another college degree would erase his label of “subhuman”. But, in his quest for his own self-esteem, he had left us to fend alone.
If my Dad had made something out of his life besides being a drunk poet, I could have lived in the freshman dormitory. Then I could have made some friends to compensate for my sense of rejection on the huge campus. Instead, rejected everywhere I went, I felt like a nobody. I wanted desperately to believe that this encouraging old soldier was going to help me change all that.
When I was finished filling out the papers, the old soldier typed up an Enlistment Agreement. He said, “Sign it and press hard enough to imprint all six copies.” Meekly I signed his papers, while daydreaming about the Japanese delights that were soon to come into my sensuous, segregated Negro life. I left his office and ambled towards the campus.
The juke box inside the Berkeley student union blared out, “Those were the days my friend. We thought they’d never end.” and “The lion sleeps tonight.” Chatter about President John F. Kennedy’s new Peace Corps program was overheard at several of the heavy, dark wood tables. An inverted Eskimo canoe, attached to the ceiling in the campus hangout, kept watch over the noisy students. Bear-hunting trophies looked hungrily at tables piled with burgers and fries. Their huge brown eyes issued ferocious challenges. Here, the best and the brightest relaxed.
It was Friday evening on America’s “Oxford by the Bay”. A motley-looking quartet tuned up their music on a low stage in the back of the Bears’ Lair cafe. The customers were warmed by the serene twilight, exotic coffee smells, and a funky Jimmy Hendrix song. I’d never fit in here. I descended into the gloom of my lonely soul.
The red golden glow of sunset on the campanile had signaled the end of the day. The campus was now wrapped in long shadows. Evening chimes peeled out CALIFORNIA’s school song. I got off the city bus and walked a few yards to my financial aid job in the Bears’ cafe. When I arrived, I smelled the broiling steaks on the busy grills. Cooked onions drifted out to the street to pull me inside. The perspiring Negro chefs joked as they shouted orders over the laughter around them.
I moved to the locker room. As I put on my fresh, white busboy apron, my mind lingered on the Army recruiter’s promise. Outside, the twilight spread over the Berkeley hills above the university. A slight chill pushed drifters inside candlelit espresso bars. I would soon be leaving all of this. I would soon be free! Free from Negro-haters!
Although my mother refused to sign the enlistment papers which would have permitted me to join the Army at 17, a week after my 18th birthday I was inducted into the U. S. Army and on my way to basic training at Fort Ord, California. As a former cadet commissioned officer, I performed superbly as an Army basic trainee and was made an Acting Sergeant.
I quickly learned that the Army recruiter had lied to me about going to Japan, where I had eagerly anticipated an end to racial segregation, in a rich land of brown people, like me. anxious to see my orders to my Asian Dream Land posted on the trainees’ bulletin board, I was excited when someone shouted, “The orders are up.” I saw my name and assignment. The assignment read, “Eighth Army, Infantry Unassigned. When I asked my drill sergeant if Eighth Army meant Japan, he laughed at me. The rough-cut veteran informed me that I was going to The Land of the Morning Sun, a stink-hole called Korea.
I went to Korea, determined to make the most out of a bad situation. The Army denied me admission into their officer training program until they needed canon fodder lieutenants for Viet Nam. Only then did they approve my Officer Candidate School application. But I had seen enough stinking rice paddies for awhile, so I took my discharge.
Later, three years after my October encounter with the racist ROTC officers at U. C. Berkeley, I was a disenchanted Black college student again. I found myself, in Montgomery, Alabama, standing in front of another Army recruiter. He was telling me that I was crazy for trying to rejoin the Army, to once again escape from the self-destructive effects of segregation. Self-destructive because the pervasive anti-Black racial hatred everywhere in America made me hate being a Negro, hate being me. Running from the “frying pan to the fire, I returned to my alma mater, U. C. Berkeley. Not very much had changed. I still hated my Black self. Segregation still existed and it had destroyed my soul.
One summer night, driving a few blocks from the U. C. campus, I put my drunken head down on my chest. Then I pushed my car’s accelerator pedal all the way to the floor, and I quit giving a damn about trying to belong at Berkeley. My subsequent terrible auto wreck was the subject of a feature article in the Berkeley Gazaette the next day. Fortunately, the only person that I hurt on that sobering night was myself. But, from that point on I no longer needed the smiles of my enemies to sustain me. I knew that I had survived my death attempt for a reason, and it was not to be petted or repressed by white society. I went back to U. C. Berkeley that school year with my mind made up to “keep my eyes on the prize,” regarding of whether I was invited to belong at Berkeley.
© 2005. All rights reserved.
Santee stretched out the last wailing blues note on his saxophone. He nodded his curly head to the BuckWilde Lounge’s audience. The place was packed, wall to wall, with college students. The lounge’s spicy East Indian food smells contrasted sharply with the large African paintings on the walls. The pungent aroma of barbeque from the old Negro’s cafe wafted in from next door. The BBQ sauce and charred beef blended in with delicious fragrance of the mocha coffee that was steaming behind the bar. A siren blared in the next block, where a young Negro was being busted for selling crack.
Santee was a handsome brown-skinned twenty-four year old. He was studying Art History and Music at Oakland’s Merritt Community College. Playing for the college crowds at night was earning him a good reputation in the music world. He closed his eyes tightly when he played his tenor saxaphone. He dreamed of hitting it big and bringing his dear mother to America. His left baby-finger sported a diamond ring, a keepsake from his mother. Santee Esperanza had been searching for a woman to love who was a saint, like his mother down in Rio, Brazil. Somebody beautiful and pure.
Eighteen year-old Natalie, who was Santee’s new girlfriend, sat on a oversized orange pillow in the front row. The exquisitely beautiful co-ed had a large, fresh rose stuck in the v-neck of her sweater. The rose’s yellow petals separated her heavy cocoa-colored breasts. She was wearing an expensive burgundy cashmere sweater. Her tan Gucci sandals lay near her bared feet. Natalie dressed richly for a Black college girl. A stranger would have guessed her to be a prominent doctor’s daughter.
Natalie was massaging her left leg. When Santee opened his eyes at the end of his song and looked over at her, Natalie quietly said, “Santee, come over here, Baby.” He eased onto the huge pillow, beside her. Natalie handed Santee the cup of hot chocolate that she had ordered for him and watched him take a sip of it. When he finished sipping the hot chocolate, Natalie reached inside her purse. She took out a crumpled piece of paper. The bold letters at the top spelled out PHYSICIAN’S REPORT. The voluptuous student handed the paper to Santee and waited for him to read it carefully. When he finished, she said, “Well?”
Santee calmly replied, “Let’s get married Natalie. I want you to keep our baby. I’m glad that I got you pregnant. College can wait. I’ll take care of you.”
Natalie looked away, out through the open side door of the off-campus juke-joint. Out to the street where hookers walked by, flaunting their stuff.
Natalie took the paper back from Santee’s hand. She said, “I’ve got to go to work now. She slid her sandals onto her beautiful brown feet and said “See you in the morning, Santee. Call me at seven. I love you.” She got up and smoothed out her tight mini-skirt. Santee’s eyes followed her as she limped outside.
A girl singer, who was working at the BuckWilde to pay for college, belted out Lover Man, trying to sound like a drugged Billlie Holiday. She was soulful, but weak in her effort. She just didn’t know the pain, yet. It would come eventually, as it had come to Natalie. Her father had shot her beautiful, young, unfaithful mother between the eyes. That was when she was in the third grade. It had happened at the dining room table. Her mother’s adulterous blood had covered Natalie. She had run from the house, screaming wildly until the police made her stop. She went to a foster home. She never saw her father, a once-prominent physician, again. She heard he had died in prison. Raped, and then stabbed to death by a jealous prison lover.
Santee called Natalie on the telephone at seven o’clock in the morning, but there was no answer. He darted from one thing to another, rushing to get dressed. His bus to the courthouse would be leaving in an hour. Quickly, he tried to tidy up the small studio apartment, hoping that Natalie would stop in while he was at work. He enjoyed the surprise of coming home and finding her in the kitchen, or soaking in the tub. “Where was she?” “Damn, Natalie, where are you?” It was too early for her not to be home. He nicked himself as he shaved, Then he tried to call her again. Still, no answer.
Natalie was supposed to meet him at the Berkeley Free Clinic at lunch time. She had promised him that she’d allow the clinic to x-ray her injured leg. He was shocked on their first night of love-making when he saw the dark bruises on her shapely left leg. When he had asked her about the large marks, Natalie had told him that her jealous ex-boyfriend had stomped her. She had been limping on the leg for two weeks. Santee wished he knew who the guy was. He would teach the chump how it felt to get knocked around and stomped.
Santee finally gave up trying to reach Natalie. He had to rush now to catch his bus. He jerked up his jacket. He looked back at the telephone, once, before he ran out to the bus stop. He was angry that his woman was not home. He glared at the other riders when he got on the bus. He pushed his token into the meter, then he crashed into a back seat. At every stop, foxy young women got on the bus, going to school and to work. Santee looked for Natalie in the crowd. He saw her when he got off the bus downtown at the courthouse.
“What the hell is she doing down here?”
Natalie was thirty feet in front of him, with her arm wrapped around the waist of a tall blond sailor. She was still limping very slightly, as if she was trying hard to hide her discomfort. She never saw Santee, but he watched Natalie and the sailor go into the City Marriage License Office.
Santee knew he was not mistaken. It was Natalie. But she was in the Marriage License Office, acting very romantic with this stranger, this white sailor. From a far corner in the large court-house lobby, Santee watched Natalie leave the Marriage Office. She was smiling up at the sailor.
“Can I can you ‘Vanilla Cookie’, Herbert, cause you’re so white and sweet?”
“Natalie, you’re going to make me one happy dude, when we get married. Did you call the preacher yet?” The sailor named “Herbert” patted her softly on her curvaceous butt.
Santee watched Natalie wiggle beneath his wide hand. She adjusted his sailor cap on his head and giggled. Her youthful dark fingers held the burly, blond sailor’s hand.
“Herbert, give me $200.00. I’ll go rent the chapel and get my wedding dress.”
Santee got off work at noon. He was still in shock from what he had seen. He had always trusted this young Negro college co-ed. Or at least that’s what she’d told him she was. A freshman in Art History at Merritt College. She had quickly become the love of his life, after the’d made love the very first time. He had even helped pay for her school books for the fall semester. She seemed so dependent on him. Now she was pregnant, with his baby. He planned to do the right thing and marry her. “But what was she doing with the sailor. Who was he?”
He kept leaving his work in the courthouse basement mailroom to see if she was still hanging around the courthouse. He went through the heavy wide, glass doors and peered up and down the street. She was gone.
Santee had to pass by the Buck Wilde on his way to the Free Clinic. “She better be at the clinic. She’s got some explaining to do.” He was stunned to see Natalie sitting at one of the small tables on the lounge’s patio. It was too early for the usual crowd. The juke-box inside the bar blasted a hit song, Baby, I’m Yours.
Natalie was drinking from a coffee cup and sobbing softly. The muscular, blond sailor was nowhere in sight. Natalie’s bushy head was bowed. She was staring at the coffee-stained, crumbled pregnancy report. Her hands were shaking nervously.
Santee strode up to her. He accidentally knocked over one of the plastic chairs before he reached her. It toppled, noisily over on its side. Natalie looked up at him and brushed the tears from her eyes with her cheap paper coffee napkin. Her dark brown skin contrasted sharply with the gold and red and orange leaves on her African-print blouse. Her large hoop earrings made her wide nostrils seem smaller. She softly said “Hi, Baby.”
“Flashy Richard” Thigpen, a notorious twenty-two year old Black pimp relaxed in a brand new yellow Cadillac across the street. He kept looking at his watch and then back at Natalie. Santee sat down across from Natalie and touched her hand. “Natalie, what’s the matter, girl? Who made you cry? You know I’ll kick his sorry ass.”
Santee’s seething, hot Brazilian temper made him to want to see blood, after seeing his Natalie with the big sailor. “Don’t worry, Sugar Daddy”, Natalie replied. “Your sweet thing’s gonna be all right. And we can get married in the morning. But I’ve gotta go now.” She was always leaving him. But her eyes were so sad and saintly, just like his mother’s. Her tearful look said that she needed him.
Natalie’s wide brass ear-rings jangled as she gave Santee a good-bye kiss. Then she rose and limped across the wide street to the pimp’s fancy Cadillac. Santee followed her with a curious stare. He watched her as she took a wad of folded bills out of her oversized bra cup. She reached over and gave the money to the flashy pimp.
“Here, Richard.” She was seething. “That’s all Blondie gave me. I hope you won’t hurt me any more. I don’t know why I stay with you anyway. You’re so mean to me, Richard.” The pimp stared at his tearful teenage hooker coldly.
Natalie got in the Cadillac, beside her flashy pimp. The car pulled off. Santee looked down at the table. Then he saw the dead rose that his woman had left behind.
Santee called out to her. “Natalie!” “Or whoever the hell you are.”
As he ran towards the moving Cadillac, it sped around a corner. Suddenly, his dream lover was no longer anywhere in sight. Gone. The soiled, discarded pregnancy report, soaking wet with her tears, lay beneath her dead yellow rose.
Dogs were howling because they heard the cries of the Negro who was being brutally beaten by the five Ku Klux Klansmen in Boss Ray Pickens’ barn. Lying on the dirt and hay floor of the barn, Steele’s arms and feet were tied to stakes in the ground. Blood from a fresh cut made by a blackjack blow to Reverend Steel’s head flowed into the dirt near Boss Ray Pickens’ boots. The harvest moon outside revealed the grey U. S. Navy surplus Dodge pick-up truck Pickens had used to kidnap Reverend Steele as he walked towards his home on that cool October night. Now the preacher was stripped naked and stretched out in agony, like he was Jesus nailed to the cross.
Tears rolled down Reverend Steele’s face and into his blood-filled mouth which had been smashed by one of the Ku Klux Klansmen.
“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” muttered Steele, as he tried to fend off the fear of another kick to his exposed groin. “Father, please make these devils stop killing your servant.”
“Shut your damn mouth, nigger! I got a mind to break your jaw with my boot, except I want you to preach about how to stay away from white folks’ fun places. How many times did I warn you last summer about y’all black coons going to the city pool? We white Alabama citizens are sick and tired of y’all niggers trying to mix with us here in Huntsville and every-damn-where else.”
One of the other Klansmen, a weak-looking, bow-legged ex-convict named Empty Ledtop chimed in, “Say yas-sir, Boss to Mr. Pickens, boy,” as he flicked his rawhide bullwhip across Steele chest, making the big Negro preacher writhe in pain.
Steele replied softly, “Go to hell, white devils.” After that he lost consciousness as Boss Ray Pickens black jack popped him hard on his wooly head.
When Steele regained consciousness just before dawn, his head lay in a pool of blood, but the dirt on the ground had clogged the wound and the bleeding had stopped. He was covered from his chest to his feet with welts from being bull-whipped. His genitals were swollen from being kicked. He had two upper teeth knocked out on the right side of his mouth. One of his eyes was black and purple and swollen shut. A scrawled note lay on his chest, which read. “Obama my ass! Stay in your place, dirty black niggers!
“Jesus, Oh Jesus, help me,” cried Steele, as he tried to raise his right wrist upward to pull the wooden stake to which it was tied out of the ground. By rolling towards his left side he was able to get more power in his upward pull. It took him two hours of agony to do it, since two of his left ribs were broken from being kicked, but he managed to get his right hand free. With his free hand, Steele untied his left hand, and then his feet. He looked for something to cover his nakedness, but all he could see was a large piece of tar paper that had been tacked on one of the barn’s windows to replace its broken-out panes. He crawled over to the window and reeling from pain with every movement, he raised himself up and ripped the tar paper out of the window with his right hand. He wrapped the tar paper around his manhood with the rope that had bound him.
The sun had not risen and Steele was nearly freezing in the mid-October early morning cold. He tried to walk down the country road leading from Boss Ray Pickens’ farm, but he kept falling down. When he looked over toward the farmhouse, he noticed that Pickens’ pickup truck was gone. Steele, naked except for the tar paper wrapped around his midsection with a rope, crawled to the main road and passed out.
As the sun rose on the lonely country highway which led into the city of Huntsville, Alabama, a county van that took rural seniors to doctors’ appointments came barreling down the two-lane road. Steele was lying across the driver’s lane. The driver swerved to miss hitting Steele’s stretched-out body. Over-reacting, he lost control of the vehicle. Boss Ray Pickens’ mother, who was the only passenger, was thrown out of the vehicle as it flipped over into a gulley. The driver of the van was not wearing his seatbelt either and was killed instantly when his head crashed into the van’s windshield. 75 year-old Missus Lula Ann Pickens lay on the opposite side of the road from Steele. She was unconscious from her head hitting the hard tar and gravel road. Steele came to when he heard the old white woman screaming for Jesus. When Steele reached her after crawling painfully inch by inch, she had stopped breathing.
A police cruiser passing down the road came to a screeching stop when the white deputy sheriff saw Steele bending over the white woman on the ground, pumping her chest. Thinking that the big Negro was indecently assaulting poor old Missus Lula Ann Pickens, the white cop pulled out his pistol and shot Steel twice in his head. Reverend Steele died instantly. He toppled over on Lula Ann, who moaned from the shock of his weight. Bathed in his blood, old lady Pickens joined Reverend Steele in the loving arms of Jesus.
The War Bonnet
Marshall M. Abuwi
(c) 2006. All rights reserved.
Jimmy Scout, who had risen up on his elbows on the thick pallet, motioned to his mother to go out of the teepee with Fancy Rainbow, while he got dressed.
When Jimmy Scout came outside, his he saw that Fancy Rainbow was gone. Her horse’s tracks showed him that she had left the camp in a hurry. He mounted the young black stallion the he had tied to a tree outside and bent over so that Feather Love could hold his arm as she swung up on the horse behind him.
“Where now, Momma?” he said.
“You know where, Jimmy Scout. To the Purple Eagle’s rock on the ridge. It’s time to deliver the gift.”
Lucky Strike smiled, his cigarette’s embers glowing in the twilight.
“Ya see. It was de gif dat Feather Love wanted to keep taking to de eagles up on de ridge. ‘Dat’s where de white man done tole her she had to bring it. He say one day he was gone be der to get it, but iff’n he won’t der, to take it home ‘til de next time. Feather Love been bringin de gif for eighteen years, but de white man still ain’t took it yet. Funny thang, Jimmy Scout always wondered where his ma kep de gif hid. He ain’t see no gif nowhere, but she keep saying she got one for de white man, and why don’t he be quiet?”
Rising behind a shallow forest of tall green pines and red-orange oaks, the Purple Eagle rock was reflected in the lazy Corn Dance Creek. The red, brown, and yellow bursts of color announced that Dancing Squaw Valley was enjoying her final pleasures before the steel gray days of winter came to stay.
Bass hungrily sucked the insects from the rippling surface of Corn Dance Creek. The clomp, clomp, clomp of Brave Warrior’s hooves echoed across the small valley as Jimmy Scout trotted him out of the woods into the path that circled the creek. When Jimmy Scout and Feather Love reached the far side, she told him to stop. She eased herself down from the sweaty black stallion and examined the fresh tracks on the moist bushy path. The bushes and the path were still wet from the early morning drizzle.
Lucky Strike had a twinkle in his eyes as he blew out the last smoke from his Veterans Administration cigarette.
“You know, Billie, lots a people say you look like Fancy Rainbow, ‘specially ‘round yo’ eyes, all fiery and excited like hers was. But you know, I see’d dat African in you dat came from Jimmy Scout. ‘Course he didn’t know when Fancy Rainbow was run off dat morning by yo’ gramma dat he done gone and got her pregnant wif you. He went on wif his momma and dey met up wif the de white, bushyhead priest.
Lots o’ people still talk about dat ole priest. Some say his granpapa was one o’ dem calvary soldiers what come ridin’ down from Firginny. His gramama was one of dem chillen from Black Knife, the slave, and Tinakita, the chief’s girl. ‘Cept for his bushy hair, couldn’t see no black in him, jes white man, and Cherokee.
Dat warm, September day in ’50. dey all met on dat dere Purple Eagle rock over yonder. See, ober dem tall oak and pine trees? Yeah, das it, Billie. Das where de priest and Feather Love had always planned to meet when she deliver de gif to de priest. Den yo’ pa went away wif de priest to join de Army and Fancy Rainbow neber seed him again.
When Fancy Rainbow heard dat Jimmy Scout went and got shot in de war wif de China mens she went lookin’ fo’ his spirit on de Purple Eagle rock. She stayed up dere, eating dem berries and nuts fo’ ‘bout six months. Den when it was ‘bout time to have you, she learnt I was his friend, so she asked me to tell you ‘bout ‘im iffen she somehow didn’t make it.
“Seems so strange how yo’ granma ain’t neber liked yo’ ma and den she started bringing her dat root tea ‘for she had you. ‘Seems strange she couldn’t stop wid loosing blood and died when you was born, Billie.”
“Anyway, here’s de war bonnet from yo’ great, great grandpa what he took to de Trail O’ Tears. Dis de gif what Jimmy’s ma done saved fo’ him. Had hid it up on the Purple Eagle rock and waited fo’ de white bushy head priest to take him fo’ she give it to him.”
“Dat ole bushyhead white priest say he was Jimmy Scout’s pa. Said he kept de war bonnet when Jimmy went ober dere to Korea, den give it back to yo’ gramama, Feather Love. She say to tell you it yo’s now. Now you de chief. See dat red on de feather tips? De story goes dat it’s Jimmy’s blood, from off his finger. Dat blood what Jimmy done put dere ta keep his spirit alive. Now de war bonnet’s yours, Billie. Dey all woulda been proud fo’ you to wear it. ‘specially yo’ gramama. Too bad she and de priest couldn’t neber marry fo’ she had her stroke and died dis morning.”
From the edge of the woods where we sat, looking at the reflection of the trees and the Purple Eagle rock, the old veteran ended his story while the bass quietly sucked insects from the Corn Dance Creek.