From You Carry the Heavy Stuff, Esther Bradley-Detally – on Lulu.com., Amazon, and Author’s possession
Children of the Stolen Ones
(for Gloria Haithman—December 2, 2004)
“Greens” makes me think of Ola Mae’s Greens, down in my belly, in Olean,New York, as crowds of us burst into Ola Mae’s Restaurant on a regular basis to shoot the breeze, eat her famous Greens, and just to feel all’s well with the world. Here in Pasadena,California, the subject of greens and chitlins came up. I thought of Ola Mae, the camaraderie, her corn bread too, and just feeling part of the woodwork welcomed by her open heart and Best-Greens-Cook-In-The-World self.
In Pasadena, on a Wednesday night, Gloria talked about the same thing, but went a step further. She spoke of soul food on another level, the spiritual teachings of love, hope, and faith. She spoke to our insides where there are no colors. Gloria said, “We were not colored when we were born. Yeah, I thought, we came in that way, and no one crayoned some in, or bleached others out.
What if, instead of calling the dark ones, the Negroes, the People of Color, names given by history book scribes, say, “Black or African-Americans?” Then a phrase measured out, by Gloria, entered our gathering, all the while she was telling of a story of friends who called themselves The Sisters. These Sisters went to South Africa, honoring their roots, and seeking answers to their identities. On the trip they were constantly greeted by groups of women who would sing to them. One day they met some African women who had the “Who are You? Where are you from?” look in their eyes, all the while staring at The Sisters.
One of the South African women said, “They are Children of the Stolen Ones.” Back in Pasadena, sitting on the orange velvet couch, those small noble words, “The Stolen Ones,” bombarded my heart as I felt my soul sink into a place of utter knowingness, of a reverence and majesty revealed.
As a white lady, an older one, who learned of our essential oneness some forty years before and humbly stayed on the thorny and pitted path of discovery and unity, I sat there stunned. I repeated the phrase over and over to myself. “Children… Children of the… Children of the Stolen Ones….”
Yes, and for me it was a rightful and merciful appellation.
Finally, dignity and solace packed into five words. Measure it out on the tongue, slowly: “The Stolen Ones… Children of the Stolen Ones.” Feel your heart melt as if a great and timeless grief has finally been acknowledged.
My heart bowed a humble bow to the true nature of an incredible people, their majestic endurance, their ancestors. I’m no artist and don’t know my colors, and I live in a world that thinks it knows its colors, and colors inside the lines, not outside—the “lines” being the operative word.
Well, I’d say in this year of 2004, “Maybe we should hear The Sisters, our sisters’, call from South Africa,” and use lines to wrap around: Majesty, Dimension, Endurance, Courage. Name every quality our sisters and brothers of African heritage carry with fortitude, and you come up with, in my book, “The Chosen Ones.” And, what if God and his Messengers and Prophets saw that these Chosen Ones endured trials similar to the Minor Prophets? And what if Bahá’u’lláh knew His love for His Chosen Ones, knew they suffered the banishment, the chains, the whippings, as He, in the Path of God?
So here’s the final what if—what if this planet really was a testing ground to see who could show courage under fire, love of God, love of people despite that the Stolen Ones and their kin were also robbed? But wait, here’s another view. I think the Children of the Stolen Ones are the Morning Glories of our age! Their children; their children’s children. It’s the story Morning Glory.
Let’s proclaim, let’s shout, and let us bow in reverence to our ancestors, ransomed so we might reframe our hearts and join each other in history’s future where lines are a thing of the past and colors are loved-filled stripes of every hue.
At the Black History Parade, put on by the Jackie RobinsonCenter, one cold, but sun-emerging day, paralytic agony stops my nouns, verbs and adverbs describing skin color or lack thereof. Pain fills my heart as my eyes Braille the sadness of a man’s face, deep rivets line his cheeks, highlighting generational discounts and the pitter patter of white voices.
Numbness clots my throat at this morning’s Parade, while those in other parts of the city, those from White gulags, tuff lawns, buff cars, and spread glossy interracial magazines, photo ops on tables, never viewed by the living.
Brown vs. Board, wasn’t that inTopeka?
In Idaho, Bill and I share a table with a Nigerian psychiatrist. It’s lunch time in a hospital cafeteria, and Bill asks a question which floats over our salads:
“Do you have to emphasize your African heritage”?
An acknowledged “Yes.”
A rueful, half-stated reply, “My children will not have that advantage.”
On the broad palettes of television’s life experts on society, are noticeable by their absence of color. Hey, what about The News Hour with Gwen Ifill? Yeah, and Colin Powell, and… Yeah? Hey guys, take the tour of Any City, USA, where two separate neighborhoods exist—bookends of ideological contrast. One is spacious, forgiving, and tolerant, with wide streets, large houses and gracious plants, suggesting it’s easy to feel benevolent. The other part contains narrow streets, boards on windows, hunger at night, restless poverty, and shootings. Skin color privilege cuts its wide swath.
I can say no more.