Orde Coombs

“The Making Of A Black Middle Class Family, Part 1”

aliciapatterson.org: “It was his penchant for education that made him take advantage of what schooling could be found for blacks In Albemarle County, and made him send all of his children to the County school in Albemarle that had been erected after the slaves were freed. In l904, Rosa, now 16 went away to Hampton College. She had been an alert and diligent student in high school, and her father was readily persuaded that she should leave home to try to get an education. She stayed five years at Hampton# because she had to pay her way by working in the laundry, and so she could not complete the course of study in four years. When she is asked if she has fond memories of Hampton in those days, she smiles and mutters to herself. And then says, loudly, ‘The arrival of those colleges in the South saved us. We knew that people cared and we knew that no matter how bad it could get – and remember around the turn of the century it was very bad—we would do better every year.’”

“The Making Of A Black Middle Class Family, Part 2”

aliciapatterson.org: “And a visitor to the Parker home sees that the tradition of good talks of argument, of repartee, of lightening wit is being carried on. Parents are called by their first names out of respect and love and camaraderie, and all opinions are to be challenged. One begins to understand, then, that the Parker who calmly suggests to his older client that be try the oysters Rockefeller and duck for lunch at Oscar’s, or who Insists that his chicken Kiev be just rights did not just spring up. He comes from a black tradition about which very little is known in this country: And that is, quite simply, a tradition of familial academic excellence and achievement; a strong feeling that one must learn as much as one can, about as many subjects as one can reasonably be expected to discourse upon. So even today, in spite of a busy legal schedule and active community work, Parker has taken up bird watching and has made his forays to Vermont and has begun to talk about the relative lengths of the bills of the thrush, the finch, the toucan and the spoonbill.”

“Notes On The Black Middle Class”

aliciapatterson.org: A young, black teacher from Charlottesville, Virginia tells a visitor, ‘I have become absolutely terrified of my own people and in consequence have planned a lifestyle that has taken me as far away from congregations of them as possible. Of this I am not proud.’ And a 36 year old mother of three who lived In Harlem by choice, until her public relations husband, fearing for his family’s safety moved them to Montclair, sits in her spotless kitchen and tells this writer: ‘It got so bad that whenever I saw two or three black boys walking toward me, my heart would begin to beat quickly and I would cross immediately to the other side of the streets As soon as it got dark, I developed X ray eyes. My boys will soon be 14 and 15, and I wondered how many other black women crossed the street when they approached.’”

“The Survivors Of Robert Shelton Jones”

aliciapatterson.org: “Nothing remains on this land to remind one of Robert Shelton Jones. His descendants have long ago sold the land and moved North to success and achievement. Only Edward Brown, a cousin, remains. He is the only link, now, with what the past must have been like for this family. And he is 82. He and Fanny have no children, although she has some cousins in Washington to whom they are close, and to whom they sold some of their land. But these cousins, far removed from the smell of the soil, only want to build a summerhouse here. ‘They say they like the Blue Mountains,’ says Fanny, ‘but the only animals they want to see are dogs and cats. They have no feeling for farming.’”

“A Family Album”

aliciapatterson.org: “To the unobservant, John and Nellie Southall must seem to have been only simple, hard-working people. They were that, but the legacy they left can be found in the tenor of their lives and the character of their children. Gordon, retired from the Air Force is an employee of the Federal Government: his sister Jean also works for the Federal Government while Barbara lives in Philadelphia and works as the only black and only female supervisor of physical education In the Philadelphia school system. All of the Southall children went to Hampton Institute in Virginia; two of the Southall grandchildren are in exclusive private schools, while the other two are going through the after-college process of finding careers. There has been no flamboyant accomplishments no meteoric rise in this family; just the steady and sure accretion of achievement.”

“The End of An Era”

aliciapatterson.org: “I can only suggest that the drive and energy that this family has exhibited in every generation may have something to do with the appearance in every generation of very strong men who were determined to resist the buffeting of racist winds. I know that this vague hypothesis is fodder for the Moynihans [of Daniel P. Moynihan] who see black family life as being in complete disarray and who blame feckless black men for their own victimization.”

Related kinté links…

Buy this Book at Amazon.com! Tayari Jones: “I was on the phone yesterday with a poet-friend who was feeling very demoralized about all of the contests to which she had submitted her manuscript. (For those of you not in the poetry loop: Many poets publish their first books by sending the manuscripts to contests. There is a fee, usually about $20. The winner gets a small cash prize and publication. Winning the ‘right’ contest can launch a career.) My friend was just plain wore out. She had taken on considerable student debt to get her MFA and she has spent hundreds of dollars in fees and postage. She has a love/hate relationship with the mailman. She was hoping for The Letter but she knew that he may be bringing a rejection letter. She said sometimes she wants to give up writing.”

I appreciate that an “officially” accepted writer like Tayari Jones is writing about this issue. The usual Negro tactic is to commune in quiet desperation until the proper (white) third party validation comes in (from the loved/hated mailman). The problem with this is that young people (“at risk”/“of color”) who see you as famous because you won the “right” (white) contest are deliberately misinformed about how mafia-like the real world actually is… This is far from a meritocracy, ladies… In my very particular and “strange” case, I prefer to be respected and recognized by other Black writers (who gives a f’ about a god-damned Grammy)—and there are very few Black poetry contests that launch careers. Am I wrong by saying there are none? The folks over at Cave Canem took over year to send me one t-shirt—they were happy to take my money tho’…

In order for the self-described “average Negro” of our post-modern world to vaguely understand where I am coming from, we have to go back to the days of Mile-Davis-era music—what music-playing contest run by white folks would “launch” Miles’ career? Yes, Miles went to Julliard—but go into his autobiography (with poet Quincy Troupe) to find out about what he thought of that “robot-music” school… Now, of course, my little analogy falls apart very quickly when we recall the Harlem-Renaissance, white-sponsored world Langston Hughes lived in… Some footsteps ain’t made to follow…

“Alan Moore takes Watchmen movie money to sue DC for print rights reversion…”

comicmix.com: “In what may go down as the biggest sucker-punch to hit DC Comics since the Superboy lawsuit, Alan Moore has reversed his position on taking money from the film version of Watchmen. The reason is elegant and ironic; he’s using the money to fund a lawsuit against DC, with the intent of forcing a reversion of rights to the print edition of Watchmen.”

“YouTube Monty Python Videos Boost DVD Sales 23,000%”

Kit Eaton: “And now for something completely fantastic: The trick of making Monty Python videos available for free online has boosted DVD sales of the comedy sketch show. If you compare DVD sales figures on Amazon before and after the creation of the Monty Python YouTube channel, the boost apparently tallies in at around 23,000%.”