Family

CoVID19 and War Stories

grandp
This is not meant to minimize any pain or isolation anxiety you may be experiencing

 

This is day eleven of my self imposed “Stay at Home,” routine and day five of the California Governor’s decree.

How are you all doing?

Amid the humorous and not so funny memes and photos, I came across the above message, which gave me pause to reflect.

My mother is in her 90’s. Practicing self-isolation, I don’t visit, but I phone and ask her how she’s doing.

“Oh, fine.” She then goes on to talk about her “normal for her” ailments of age.

I talk to my sister, who lives with Mom, and ask, “How’s Mom doing?”

“She’s like nothing’s different, no big deal.”

I realize Mom is in a different situation than most elderly. She has a family member living with her who takes care of cooking, cleaning, and her medication. The other family members live within the county and take care of appointments, excursions, and visiting.

Many other elderly are not as fortunate.

Mom and I got to talking about her experiences with difficult times. She was born during the depression and was a pre-teen during World War II, which she remembers clearly.

Orphaned a year before war broke out, Mom was one of five children, second to the last. The youngest nine and the oldest seventeen.

This is one of the stories Mom related:

In the post office, there were giant posters of an Army woman, with a finger to her lips, with the caption “Shhh, be careful what you say because it may cost a life,” and “Loose lips sink ships.” 

Newspaper headlines reported that a Japanese submarine fired on a boat off the coast of Santa Barbara.  Another paper headline said “LA Area Raided!” There were rumors that Los Angeles had come under Japanese attack with airplane fire and bombs.

Your Uncle Cata enlisted in the Army. He had quit school when he was in the 9th grade, so he could work to support us when our parents died.

Lute was fifteen, but he worked at two jobs, which kept him out at night. He tried to enlist, but he wasn’t accepted.  He had injuries from playing football and was called a 4-F.  He was so disappointed; he moped around the house for days, but I was glad he wasn’t going, because then who would take care of us?

Sometimes I was frightened, mostly in the evenings when Lute was gone to work. I had nightmares about the Japanese bombing Pomona, especially when the practice air-raid siren would blast its earsplitting alarm. 

Walking up and down the street, the neighborhood air raid warden moved his flashlight around our dark yard, the light darting across our rickety wood fence and up and down our fruit trees, like ghosts running back and forth.

Della and I would turn off the radio, the lights and cover the windows with blankets. We’d run through the darkness and hide under our bedcovers, hugging each other,  sweating in the summer heat, when the warning siren blasted into the night.

How I wanted to have my mother and father, to wrap their arms around us and tell us that everything would be okay; that we weren’t going to be bombed and that they would protect us and we would be safe, like before the war. 

But I knew that wouldn’t happen. They were dead. My dad for four years, my mom for one. 

So I held my tears in and tried to be brave for my little sister.  I told her everything was going to be okay, even though I didn’t feel like it was the truth. It was a very lonely and scary time.

This saddened me, because I know life can be so much worse. I thought about the kids in the same situation, those in detention centers, those without caring parents or siblings to protect them, and sad for any person who is isolated without anyone to help.

I think about what others are doing, the medical staff, first responders, educators, my son who stocks groceries and prepares food at a Brooklyn natural foods store, my daughter who works in a doctor’s office, and my other son whose factory is now making hand sanitizer.

I worry that they could catch the COVID19 virus by taking the subway to work, although it’s desolate now, or coming into contact with others at their worksites.

But Mom’s story also reminded me to continue to record all of her recollections. If you haven’t put your parent’s experiences onto the page, or computer, now’s a good time. Organize those old photos, tell their stories to your children, tell your stories to your kids. Now’s the time.

Thanks for reading. Now, I’ll return to the routine I’ve set up for myself. My “Artist in Residence” schedule.

Writer’s and Creatives

Prayer, meditation, writing, reading, exercise, gardening, meal preparation, phoning others, thirty minutes of news and social media, a couple of hours of T.V (you know I’m lying, it’s sometimes more) and back to prayer.

Be safe. Stay at home. Be Kind. Wash Your Hands.

 

 

 

 

Writing

Social Isolation and Writing Through Anxiety

Are you weeding the garden? On a Sunday?

Church services were canceled by our Pastor due to our Governor’s decree of no more than 250 people in one area. My mom is in the elderly group (and immunocompromised), so I do take this virus seriously and skipped services.

So this weekend (and probably a few more in the immediate future), I find myself with time on my hands.

Due to our self imposed social isolation and no toilet paper to buy in the markets or online, we are now doing non-social activities, at least until the TP runs out.

Update: bartered books for rolls. Surreptitiously, I picked up, with an antiseptic wipe,  the bag of TP my friend left for me on her porch. I left her and her kids several books.

tp
Books for toilet paper. Yes, it has come to that.

 

Our pantry is now organized and clean. I found out we have oatmeal for the next decade. We found most of the Tupperware lids. I don’t know why we have three picnic baskets.

Our cat, Heidi Ho, is mystified that I’m home and pulling weeds in the backyard on a Sunday. The ground is still damp from the rain, but I need some outside activity.

Here’s the latest decree in California:

California Governor Newsome

 

So much for Happy Hours. We have a burgeoning brewpub industry here. I heard the local pizza place delivers wine and beer.

Last week I returned from the AWP (Association of Writing Professionals) Conference in San Antonio and scored a few books. That and NetGalley will keep me in reading material for a month, plus I’m two books behind on my self-imposed book challenge. (You can find my reviews on GoodReads if you’re looking for a book).

Writing in this time of anxiety has turned out to be a good thing. Writing helps me turn away from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, which some people are using to post pics of empty store shelves, stoking rumors, and generally acting out their anxieties-which creates fear.

Understandable, but I need to self-restrict from all things panicky. I do like the memes, though. Humor is a good salve and coping mechanism.

Driver: You can’t give me a ticket. Officer: Of course, I can. It’ll be in the mail.

If you’re working from home:

May I offer meditation for those who feel stressed. Hop over to my friend, Mikko’s page at Elemental Energy Healing, for grounding exercises.

 

My favorite reminder:

 

 

What are you doing during this time of social isolation?

 

 

Travel, Writing

A Morning By the San Antonio River

A walk along the San Antonio River.

San Antonio, Texas, the land of ma’am, terrific tacos, Chicana literature, and Nora Jones.

I’m here for a writing conference, which ended yesterday.

The place where I’m staying called me back to the neighborhood of my childhood.

Wood houses with peeling paint, chain link fences, front yards of abundant flowers, blossoming succulents. Stucco homes of bright green, azure, yellow and old white guarded by courageous dogs, barking their heads off, but tails wagging. The sleeping cat lifted her head when the man selling paletas jingled by.

 

After a few days of workshops, I needed alone time, so I spent the morning walking the San Antonio River (the non-restaurant row part). There are 15 miles of RiverWalk, from downtown through Hemisphere Park, and through several neighborhoods, should you care to take on the whole adventure.

Gentrification is around the block, across the train tracks, where the ten-story apartment buildings begin and Airstream trailers sell bar-b-que, tacos, and cold beer under a rainbow of stringed light bulbs. Breweries take up full blocks buffered by outdoor cafes.

The walking path along the San Antonio River is rimmed with Cypress trees, duck marshes, leased dogs, stately homes, and from time to time, the sight of an older man fishing off the ledge.

“There’s still catfish, bass, and gizzard shad,” the man tells me when I stop to see where his fishing line landed. I nod, wish him good luck, and good eating.

Cool wind pushes along marshmallow clouds, giving a respite from a warming sun. A passel of joggers run by me. “Run the Alamo Marathon” began twenty-three miles back.

Two men, one in front of the other, sing out a call and response in cadence, encouraging one another for the last mile. Two women in their fifties, who look like sisters, hold hands, one slightly in front of the other who is flushed red, but wears a face of granite determination and trust. They jog almost shoulder to shoulder. Their whispered cadence call is for them alone.

A “Do not feed the ducks” sign is posted by a toddler throwing bits of saltines in the water. Soon there is a duck fight among the reeds, where the mallards flap, circle, and honk until one dives underwater and upends his opponent.

Sugar aromas of Belgian waffles drift by. A large Art Nouveau house, turned restaurant, looms into view. The library now houses a museum of Dresden china, gas-lit chandeliers, and original 1920’s memorabilia.

 

Hunger won out after mile three. I bypassed the colossal restaurant and explored a much smaller venue where I had more coffee, veggie scramble, homemade bread, and jam.

Music from nearby DJ’s played, the sun broke through the clouds again, and I rested.

Black History Month, Massacre

History We Need to Remember: The Elaine, Arkansas Massacre

The other day I perused my Instagram feed. In addition to spectacular scenic photos, cute cats, and tantalizing food items I found sepia photographs posted by Cee6466.
Arkansas Historical Archives, 1919

She is posting significant events in African American History for the month of February. After I read about the Arkansas Massacre I wanted to amplify the post. Cee Jaye gave me permission to do so.

Although slavery was outlawed, Black people remained at a fiscal deficit. From the beginning of the Jim Crow Era, Blacks had limited options, one was sharecropping. They worked former plantation owners land for a small share of the crop; which once harvested, was purchased by the former plantation owner at far below market value. In return for the “privilege” of employment and receiving a small portion of the crops, the owners provided a store where the Sharecroppers could buy the seed, fertilizer, food, and other life essentials.

This store was the crux of the insidious plot to keep the Sharecroppers indebted and in servitude indefinitely as every item was grossly overpriced and every account was charged exorbitant interest rates.

Sharecropping was the New Slavery.

One place where this was glaringly apparent was Elaine, Arkansas, where Black people had zero to severely limited options for employment and basic resources for survival. When WWI began and the majority of the men left to serve; remaining citizens migrated up North for better jobs leaving a shortage of workers for the cotton fields and lumberyards. The labor deficit resulted in the former plantation owners having to pay higher wages for the harvesting of cotton crops and the milling of lumber. 

When the Black soldiers returned home from WW I, they wanted their full rights, e.g. their citizenship acknowledged; the right to vote; and, to receive a fair wage. The soldiers and sharecroppers came together to discuss becoming members of the Progressive Farmers and Household Union and obtaining legal counsel to help the workers to acquire fair market value for their crops.

The former plantation owners did not agree with this collaboration as they did not want their way of life disrupted and generational wealth disbanded by invasive unions and ungrateful negroes.

 On September 30, 1919, with guards in place, many Black veterans and sharecropping families gathered at Hoop Spur Church to discuss the union. At approximately 11pm, the Church was riddled with gunfire and to the surprise of the attacking white men, Black guards fired back; resulting in the death of a white Railroad Agent.

Early the next day, whites had spread the word of a Negro insurrection. The city’s phone lines were cut; the sheriff called the white American Legion to Elaine; the Governor sent 583 soldiers as well as a machine gun battalion. All of the white women and children were sent to the neighboring town via train and there was an order for the immediate disarming of Negroes and if the Negroes refused to disarm; the order included the authorization to kill any Negro insurgent(s) that failed to disarm.

 The vigilante posse was close to 1,000 strong and came from Arkansas and Mississippi to assist the former plantation owners/managers, sheriff’s/deputies and WW1 veterans to protect the honor of their women, children, and land from the alleged murderous and enraged Negroes.

For five days, Black men, women, and children were hunted, machine-gunned down, axed, tortured, hanged, dismembered (for souvenirs), dragged, and burned alive. 

Heartbreakingly for the Black people who hid in the woods, when the troops arrived, the survivors thought they were safe and as they exited the woods they were either murdered or arrested. 

Nationwide newspapers reported and military leadership cosigned the slavery-esque rhetoric purported by the white community contending that due to outside union agitators the ignorant Negro Sharecroppers conspired and planned the insurrection to murder the former plantation owners and steal their land. 

On October  7th, the “insurrection” was declared over and through torture, confessions were obtained allowing the imprisonment of Blacks accused of inciting their own massacre.

As a result, ONE HUNDRED TWENTY surviving “insurrectionists” were indicted by the grand jury and detained until their alleged union participation could be verified; many union members were charged with crimes ranging from assault to night riding to murder.

Twelve Black sharecroppers, who became known as the Elaine 12, were convicted of murdering three white men (two of which accidentally shot each other). The Elaine 12: Albert Giles, Alfred Bands, Ed Coleman, Joe Fox, Paul Hall, Ed Hicks, Frank Hicks, Joe Knox, John Martin, Frank Moore, Ed Ware, and William Worldlaw.

From one of the twelve convicted Black men, anti-lynching activist and journalist, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, received a letter requesting assistance. Dressing as a sharecropper, Ms. Ida went and found a way to interview the twelve prisoners; their wives, and eye-witnesses. In a 1920 pamphlet, she chronicled the atrocities and the unbelievable cruelties suffered by the Black residents of Elaine.*

The Wells-Barnett document described countless heinous acts perpetrated against the Black sharecroppers; their families; and neighbors. Those in power were able to block the press from reporting and even attempted to declare that the massacre never occurred. Fortunately, Ms. Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s expose was filled with irrefutable proof as well as the eye-witness accounts from survivors and the familial stories passed down over time. 

However, even with these large amounts of proof, the nation did not receive the truth about the massacre until the 1923 Supreme Court ruling overturning six of the convictions citing the confessions were obtained through torture, and the mob-fueled trial violated the prisoners right to due process.

While no one knows how many hundreds of Blacks were massacred, a military mission report praised the restraint exhibited by the troops; and declared only three lives were lost: two negroes and one white soldier. 

The N.A.A.C.P. estimated that more than 200 men, women, and children died during the Elaine massacre; however, historians believe that the total number of lives lost greatly exceeds two hundred souls.

On November 5, 2019, ONE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER the Elaine massacre, each of the Exonerated 12 received a marker of commemoration and induction into the Arkansas Civil Rights Heritage Trail.


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:
Ida B. Wells-Barnett Archive:

 The Elaine Massacre Video: (Graphic images, please be aware before you watch).
 
*The Elaine Massacre and Arkansas: A Century of Atrocity and Resistance 1819-1919″ by Guy Lancaster.
Thank you, Cee Jaye,  for posting the story on Instagram and educating us. For more Black History events, follow Cee Jaye .