“Black is beautiful! Power to the people!”
Joshua is cowering inside. He doesn’t feel beautiful. He chides himself “get your black ass out there!” Another voice whispers, “You’ll get a whipping and you won’t be better off. The last thing you need is a night in jail. If you lose your job, who will provide?”
Angel and devil battling it out. He is damned either way. The black folks don’t get me, the white folks don’t get me. Internal freedom is what he’s after. He sure as hell can’t wait for external freedom to come to him.
The crowd is massive. The volume is off on the television. It’s black and white with all shades of gray in between. That’s his world. He tunes in on the gray, full of possibilities, where the colours hide, where you can devise layers of meaning beyond the contrasting black and white. He’s had enough of the rhetoric of opposites. You can see the crowd, but he can feel them approaching his neighbourhood, their dignified march, the weight of their presence.
He can feel the deeply satisfying rumble stirring his heart, calling to him. He steels himself against this folly. He has fled important events before, surely he can protect himself again, lie low and survive. His glasses are misting over. He writes down “living in turbulent times is tough, dying is easy.” He needs to expand on his thought but is having trouble focusing. His twin brother Jared is out there, feisty and strong. They disagree on most everything except the fundamentals: look out for family.
He will not march. How that was even a consideration is beyond him. He’s not remarkable in any way, save for being a twin. And that’s not anything of his doing. As far as anybody is concerned, he lives in Jared’s shadow. Except for Jared. Jared sees him and appreciates him. He is relaxed, and tender and funny around Jared. But in the end, this was Jared’s fight. He sits at home and watches the march in front of the telly. He will craft a clever article for the local paper, a mix of his thoughts and Jared’s experience of the march. They make one helluva team. He feels heartened by the thought and goes back to his writing, wondering what Jared is feeling right now.
I am pumped. The chanting is hypnotic. A few blond heads dot the crowd, sympathizers who want to offer what little protection their white skin can afford us, the second of hesitation which could make the difference between a fractured skull and a glancing blow. We lock arms in a long chain of Blacks, inside and out. I am elated – I am part of something bigger than myself, taking a stance against daily humiliation and injustice. I think of Joshua back home. He was right not to come. He hates crowds, for one. And standing out or taking action. I must admit I am relieved as well – I will not have to protect him – he is safer in the house. Still, I miss him. As we near our neighbourhood, our street, our house, I chant louder, more boisterously. “Power to the people!” I feel powerful. I am invincible.
The police have put up barricades. Agents provocateurs taunt the crowd, wasps tormenting the placid beast until he loses patience. The crowd shrugs it off but a small rift has opened and is widening quickly. There is some pushing and shoving. A blond boy moves forward, willing himself a human shield, fellow peaceful combatants at his side. The police groan, the taunting continues. The blond boy is taking pictures. His newspaper accreditation hangs around his neck, protection and target all in one.
The police are armed with batons and bad breath. They stink of fear and injustice – we exude resolve and righteousness. How will all this play out on television?
The first shot pierces the air, sending everybody scrambling to the ground. It is not supposed to be like this, though everyone knows trouble lends credence to such movements. If you are willing to put your life on the line, surely the cause is worth it.
It is a lone shot. A white man is on the ground, cursing, struggling against the weight of the police officer, restraining him and his gun, radioing for help. The crowd has started moving again, grateful for the protection, black and white starting to blur, the incident another wound, strengthening the crowd’s resolve.
Joshua hears a shot, glass shattering, and falls, stricken by the lone bullet.