Saturday, April 05, 2008



At present I am slowly reading ‘How to write your own Life Story’ by Lois Daniel. In the past she taught creative writing in Missouri and yesterday I turned the page and read the following. I can’t scan it satisfactorily so I’m typing it.

“The next story, which was written by a young black man in a community college in Chicago, is a civil rights story. It had nothing to do with party politics, bur it is a political story nonetheless, and a tragic one.

On a hot summer afternoon in 1968, when I was nine years old, Dr Martin Luther King was shot and killed. After the news had gotten on the streets that King was dead, both blacks and whites went wild and started acting with mass rage. Riots broke out all over the United States; people went crazy in cities, suburbs and even in the country.

In Chicago people shot and killed other people and started acting like a bunch of fools. Some were killed while trying to rob others and some were killed for just walking down the streets’

The governor of the state called in the National Guard and the guardsmen were told that anyone on the street was to be put in jail. I got the picture and ran home, but before I made it to my house, I saw a guard turn and fire a couple of rounds at people running down the street. After I saw that, I ran faster toward home.

When I got up to the door, I tried to open it but it was locked. I began to beat on the green wooden door and to cry because I was scared now. When the door finally opened, I saw my mother. She was on her knees and she quickly yanked me to the floor. After she pulled me down, she slammed the door and told me to be quiet.

I could hear all kinds of guns going off with loud booms and bangs and they seemed to grow louder as time went on, but my mother didn’t worry, she just said quietly and kept saying, “It will be all right when your father gets home.”

But this was not to be, because my father was shot in the head as he was coming home from work. It happened right outside our door.

We heard a very loud boom and then a scream. We heard moaning and groaning and then my mother’s name. At first she thought the call was for someone else and she didn’t move, but then she heard the voice again and it was calling her name. The next thing I knew she was up on her feet and heading for the door. She flung it open as if it were a little toy and ran out onto the porch and disappeared around the corner. I heard a scream, but was too afraid to see what had happened. My little brother ran out the door right behind me.

Then my mother started dragging my father into our house. At this time a neighbour lady named Miss Jones started to scream. She had seen what was going on. Without another word, she too was on her knees pulling my father toward the door. When they pulled him inside we were told to get some towels. When I looked up, I could see my little brother; he was bleeding from the chest. My sister grabbed him and held a towel over the blood.

Next came getting towels for my father. I couldn’t see where he was shot, but I knew it was bad because I could see all the blood.

Then Miss Jones ran out of the apartment to call an ambulance, but she came back and said they would not come into our neighbourhood, so my mother got on the phone and called a couple of my relatives. They were there within minutes, and they rushed my father and brother to hospital. My father was dead on arrival and my brother had a bullet wound in his chest. They got the bullet out of his chest, but kept him in the hospital for a while. When I heard the news, I started to cry and so did everyone in the house.

Later, after the news had spread and the shouting had died down, we received a letter from a man saying he was sorry about what had happened. He sent flowers to the funeral.

The more I think of what happened and how my father was taken away from me and almost my little brother too, it makes me feel so sad, and I just want to take a gun and kill the first white face I see, but that would only get me into trouble. I now have learned how to hide my feelings and not show my anger even though sometimes I feel like I could blow up the world.”


gautami.tripathy said...

I need to read more about Luther King! I am fascinated by him.

Good to see you again!

Got here from Michele...

R. Sherman said...

Pat, I was about the same age and watched rioting on T.V. It is difficult to explain how that effected everyone.


PI said...

gautami: now is a good time; there is a lot of information about him just now.

Randall: I remember great waves of emotion.

craziequeen said...

I think Jung Chang is an excellent exponent of writing life stories - she wrote about her grandmother, her mother and her own life in her magnificent book Wild Swans, covering 100 years of Chinese history.......

I'm just about to start in on her biography of Mao.

Michele sent me tonight, Pat :-)


PI said...

cq: does she write about the actual doing of it I wonder?

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Very very powerful! And people wonder about the effects of Racism. When you realize that THAT was only 40 years ago...It is shocking and frightening. Yes, we've come a long way...BUT, not long enough by any means.
I remember where I was when I heard this horrific news about Martin Luther King, and I was about to go to a meeting of Artists--both Blavk & White, at The Ankrum Gallery, here in Los Angeles, about a specific show to be done there.....The sadness in that room was palable and the hopelessness---More on the part of whites, like me. Black people in this country had already lived through so much at that point....Oh it was a terrible terrible time--Don't misunderstand what I am saying--it was just a different reaction from those of us who had NOT lived life being a person of color in America. Those were hard hard days, and one felt the weight of the world on people's shoulders.

That memoir was very very moving. What a lesson, Pat.

Michele sent me, my dear....

PI said...

Naomi: it does bring it all back; it's very easy to forget the real horror of it. Even though one wasn't being personally oppressed one felt the rage and hopelessness of it. Thank God we have moved on somewhat.

Mr. Althouse said...

That is extremely compelling, and very well written. I only vaguely remember when Dr. King was assassinated, I was just five at the time. I have studied him and the era extensively since and recently. I agree with Naomi that we have come so very far yet we still have a long ways to go. The controversy du jur in the Obama campaign is evidence of that.

Michele sent me,


kenju said...

How horribly sad that is.

rashbre said...

All well within a lifetime too, and there's still so many parts of the world where equivalent things happen right now. Scary to think about how many people walk around with these kinds of stories in their heads.


ps another good author who writes well about how to write is Stephen King - and its not all about horror genre either.

Bob-kat said...

That was very powerful and sad. It just goes to show that racism begats racism and who can blame anyone when tragedy visits in such a profound way.

Michele sent me back to hope you are having a good weekend.

PI said...

Mike and Judy: I remember the sixties as a time of despair; in 1963 JFK was assassinated, in April 1968 Martin Luther King was assassinated and just two months later Robert Kennedy was assassinated. I have just been watching Robert Kennedy's speech after King's death on You tube and it is very inspirational and comforting.

PI said...

Rashbre: very true. I read the book you mention and enjoyed it.

Bob-kat: as I said above, the speech Robert Kennedy made just after he got the news of King's death hopefully pointed the way to another solution.

dena said...

That writing was so frightening. I was around the same as the writer during the time of MLK Jrs murder. Sad to think of how people used his death to ruin what he stood for.

Hello, Michele sent me.

Sam, Problemchildbride said...

What a terrible thing for a young boy to witness and suffer through. To keep his rage about that in check must be a daily struggle.

There is so much still to be done to erase these scars on history.

PI said...

Sam: it was a terrible time and one's heart went out to them.

Guyana-Gyal said...

The sad thing is, Martin Luther King was all about peace.

PI said...

GG: thwt''s true, but his murder had an incendiary effect.