Storytime, Krakow Koffeehouse & Cafe, Portland, Oregon, January 30, 2009, Part V

It blows my mind that ten days into this new “historic” Presidency, in liberal progressive Portland, Oregon, when the world is looking at America with new eyes, and the American media are talking “post racial” and the American people are patting themselves on the back for once again dodging that “racist” label, I and my children were caught smack dab in the middle of the hurricane of truth. Racism is not dead (I know this, which is why I do what I do in an attempt to help us all see it for what it is, how it infects us all, how it is perpetuated, sometimes innocently, sometimes not, by human beings who don’t see it for what it is; how it is spread in the air we breath, in the lessons we learn, in the prayers we pray; in the things we see and more often than not, in the things we don’t see. Only when we see it for what it is and own it in ourselves, can we move to change it) it is alive and well and festering in a coffee shop near you.

Dr. Martin Luther King said in 1964, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

While we can, technically, sit anywhere we like on the bus nowadays, and some of the American people did vote for a black President, I am still waiting for that particular dream to come to fruition.

It’s taken me longer than I wanted to be able to write about this experience, purge it from my being, my soul, and I have been frustrated with myself for it, but reading the article (specifically the excerpt copied below) in the February 8th 2009, edition of The Sunday Oregonian, on Oregon’s history with immigrants, I was reassured that everything happens when it needs to.

While Oregon was admitted to the Union as a non-slave state, Oregonians decided the way to avoid racial problems was to bar black residents altogether. Their argument was that by doing so they would abolish the inequalities between the rich and the working class. “I’m going to Oregon, where there’ll be no slaves, and we’ll all start even,” said Capt. R.W. Morrison, a pioneer from Missouri, in 1844, according to historical accounts.

The same argument was later used to bar immigrants of other races: They would bring down wages and establish inequities.

“White Oregonians have associated people of color with hierarchy and disparities,” Peterson del Mar says. “Owning slaves gave you an unfair advantage. Some thought wealthy people would use blacks and immigrants to get wealthier at the expense of regular white men.”

Oregon was the only state admitted to the Union with a black exclusion law in its constitution (Illinois and Indiana had had similar laws, while other states made it difficult for blacks to live there). The state ratified the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed citizenship for all U.S.-born people regardless of race, then rescinded its ratification. Oregon did not ratify the 15th Amendment, which gave African Americans the right to vote, until 1959.

I was aware Oregon was a non-slave state, my mistake had been in believing it was a non-slave state due to fact that the people abhorred slavery. I did not know that it was purely because of competitiveness, insecurity, and ultimately, money. Here again, the root of all universal disharmony. Call it my ignorance if you must, but I have spoken to many who were not aware of this fact. Had I, of course, been truly thinking, I would have known better, look what they did to the Native Americans.

However, the contents of that article confirmed for me the existence of ancestral memory of a place and its people. As the spirit of my ancestors, their memories and their grief, rises unbidden in me, the spirit, of a place lives on, takes up residence unbeknownst, in its people, but bolstered by the institutional racism that is the matrix of our conveniently “Obama-frenzied” town today.

It is, I believe, this ancestral memory, that flowed freely through the veins and hearts of the two rabidly bigoted perpetuators of the racist attack on my children and me (and Sunshine too) that Friday morning, January 30, 2009. It also flowed uninhibited through the hearts of everyone else who sat, inside Krakow Koffeehouse & Café, comfortably, complacently, looking, leering, listening and whom, in their rancorous, smirking, silence, corroborated and condoned the actions.

The experience in Krakow Koffeehouse & Café, January 30, 2009, was so shocking, so unexpected, and so deeply painful to me at the time, yet the pain pales in comparison, when I think about what my children perceived that morning. My two little boys, American boys, born and raised here in Portland, Oregon, considered by society, black (defined by the dominant culture as tainted and inferior, not the true definition – powerful, melanistic, “Womb of the World and its people” black) first, other, and therefore, in some minds, unworthy of the spoils of basic human rights.

My oldest son said to me the next day, “Mum, I can’t believe Friday happened.” And later, “Mum, next time I’ll try to protect you better.” I am weeping as I type this.

Nevertheless, I, strengthened by my, intrinsically more powerful, ancestral memory, shall not bend, and I shall not bow. I shall keep walking head held high, strong in my knowledge of the truth of my heart and my soul, that I am whole. I am human. I am.

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3 Responses to “Storytime, Krakow Koffeehouse & Cafe, Portland, Oregon, January 30, 2009, Part V”

  1. Lady Roots Says:

    Sistren Sharon,

    Peaceful greetings from St Elizabeth, Jamaica. We met at Taino Cove while you were here in January for the inauguration celebration Sistren Winnie held. (You were on your way to Loys’ house in Mandeville.)

    I want to say thank you for the courage you showed; not only to the brain-dead bigots you encountered, or the Sunshine Oreo, or the spineless coffee sippers, but to your sons. Your sons will be molded, not by your words (no matter how eloquent) but by how they see you live your life. Your courage in quietly demanding your human rights in the face of blatent hatred is a powerful lesson to your sons.

    I pray that in your goings out and your comings in that you be annointed and girded in TRUTH and HONOUR! I-tinue to be a Warrioress for Humanity. A LUTA CONTINUA!

    Bless Up,
    Lady Roots

    • mummychatter Says:

      Dear Lady Roots,

      How lovely to hear from you. Thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment. I absolutely agree that it is how I live, not what I say, that will teach my children. I am constantly asked why do I bother, why do I waste my time and energy speaking out my truth (it’s just the way things are,) and that is the reason, for if I do not live truth and speak truth, how can it be modeled for my children; for any children; for humanity.

      I recently (last week in fact,) returned from Jamaica, specifically Mandeville (I had only a brief foray into St. Elizabeth.) I organized (with the assistance of Loys) and performed in (with Loys) the first ever production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues.” We performed at Bloomfield Great House, complete with Dr. Glenda Simms, former Executive Director of The Bureau of Women’s Affairs, and a cast of 12 “Ladies Who Dared!” The performance was part of the V-Day Movement to raise awareness and funds to end abuse against women and girls. Our beneficiary was The Montego Bay Community Home For Girls. Please check in again as I am working on a blog entry all about it.

      Again, it is lovely to hear from you. How is your ankle? Say hello to your mum and hubby.


  2. Lady Roots Says:

    Sistren Sharon,

    It was only the steps at Bloomfield Great House that kept me away. Ingrid called to let me know about the reading, but I knew my crutch abilities weren’t up to that staircase just yet. Any chance of seeing a video of the reading?

    I am happy to say that I am out of the wheelchair and up on to crutches now. Will you return in May for Calabash?

    I will be looking forward to the blog post about TVM.

    Stay well, stay strong and live fully.

    Bless Up,
    Lady Roots

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