Let Me Introduce Myself

Written by on September 5, 2017

 

I’m a soul rebel. Well acquainted with the devil inside, but if I kill all my demons then my angels might die.

This life we live is a cosmic dance between light and dark, pleasure and pain, yin and yang. This dance gave birth to all of the manifestations of the universe. Eventually, this duality evolved into me. I am all that ever was, and all that ever shall be.

First, a brief explanation of how I came into existence. My father was born in 1945, in Jim Crow Mississippi, to a teenage mother (her first-born). My dad migrated up to Milwaukee, WI, with his mother when he was a very young boy. His father was a sharecropper. His dad would arrive later, escaping from master Jim Crow, after beating, who he called “Boss man,” the landowner for refusing to pay him and his mother for their labor. He had to run north because he was going to be lynched (at least that was the story I was told). My dad grew up poor in the Bronzeville neighborhood, the neighborhood in Milwaukee where the black people were sequestered in the 1950s. His dad made a good living working at Pabst Brewery, but the money never made it home because his dad was too busy buying everyone drinks at the bar. He would tell me stories about having to put cardboard in his shoes as insoles because the holes in the soles wore through the insoles, and going to school in the winter in a spring jacket. For grade school, he went to St. John’s Ev. Lutheran. The school was “integrated”, but the black kids were not allowed to go to the church. He delivered the morning newspaper before school each day to earn money. He was a blerd (black nerd), before blerd was a thing. He would escape into his comic books and take school seriously. I heard a story that my grandmother once locked my dad in a closet, when he was young, and told him she wouldn’t let him out until he knew his ABCs, and he better hurry up before the rats started biting him. My dad was known for being ornery. He was the type of kid who would pull his money out of his pocket, throw it on the ground, and dare anyone to touch it. He graduated From Wisconsin Lutheran High School, one of two black kids in his class, and enlisted in the army (he told me that he grew about half of a foot while in the army because he was finally eating well).

My mother was born in 1947, in Waukesha, WI. Her parents grew up on farms and were old school, stoic Germans (not from Germany, but not too far removed). She, her parents, and her older sister, moved to Milwaukee when she was a very young girl. She grew up on 80th and Dixon Street, A few blocks from Pius XI High School, on the working-class side of Bluemound Road. My mom grew up a staunch Catholic and in a very white world. She told me that the only black people she ever saw growing up in her neighborhood were the garbage men. She went to St. Anthony Padua for grade school, and loved Jesus Christ so much that she decided to become a nun after graduating 8th grade. She lasted five days at the Notre Dame convent (thankfully, she found everything about it suffocating, not just the habits), and went to Pius XI for high school. Her dad was a watchmaker (he told me once that if you can’t afford a Rolex, buy a Timex, because they are just as good) and didn’t make very much money. At one point my mom didn’t know if she would be able to continue attending Pius XI because they raised the tuition to $75 (the tuition is now $11,500 per year, plus fees). My mom believed (and still does) wholeheartedly in the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church. She would tutor black kids at St. Boniface, and participated in discussions between black and white teenagers about social justice as part of some young christian group she belonged to at Pius XI. She graduated high school in 1965.

My parents met in 1967, the year the United States finally legalized interracial marriage in all states. My dad was fresh out of the army and had a convertible Fiat, before people had convertible Fiats (he brought it back with him after being stationed in Italy). My mom was a nonviolent, civil rights activist marching with Father Groppi. My dad told me couldn’t march, because if someone hit him with a brick, he wasn’t going to be praying for the person, he was going to be praying to get his hands on the person. He didn’t believe in nonviolence at all. He checked out the Milwaukee chapter of the Black Panthers, but thought they were unorganized and would be ineffective. My parents were caught in the riot of ’67. Noticing my mom in my dad’s convertible Fiat, someone yelled out, “there goes one!” and a mob of people tried to pull my mother out of the car. My dad had to damn near run people over to get away (50 years later they would live through the Sherman Park riot, my mom woken out of her sleep by gunshots and my dad sleeping through the whole thing). Three years later they were married.

The universe brought these two polar opposites together. The poles converged, doing the dance of life, like natives doing the Rain Dance hoping the Creator will bless them with rain. The universe responded, bringing heaven and earth together three times, melding the invisible with the visible, creating the immaterial within the material. I was the second creation.

42 years later (43 this month), I am a collection of experiences; those that preceded me and those that will succeed me. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. That is what I plan to do on this platform, examine life.

 


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