Thursday, February 15, 2007

Today In Black History: Black Literature

When I started this I didn't really consider how taxing it would be to come up with a black history post every day. So here's the new plan. Everyday I will bring you a book or author I think you should get to know. One a day for the rest of the month will give you plenty of black literature to keep you busy the rest of the year. Today I bring you one of my favorite contemporary writers.


His stories portray black people in all our beauty and ugliness, in all or greatness and foolishness. Plus they're laugh out loud funny.

Here's an excerpt from "Steviewondermobile," a short story about Huggy Bear Jackson and his car, whose sound system only plays Stevie Wonder music. From the collection Portable Promised Land

So he cruised with Stevie every day. Stevie fit every mood. If he felt upbeat and wanted to groove he pushed button number one and Stevie preached: “Very supa-stish-uuus… write-ings on tha wall…” If he felt sad it was #17: “Lately I have had the strangest feel-ing…” When he had his sweet, late mother on his mind he soothed her memory with #12: “You are the sun-shine of my life… That’s why I’ll always be a-round.” When thinking politics, #73: “A boy is born! In Hardtime, Mississippi! Surrounded by… a world that ain’t so pretty!” Every June first, as the sun sang out and the days got hot, #129: “Ma cher-ee a-mour… love-ly as a summer day!” When he started a new relationship, #97: “Send her your love… with a dozen roses… make sure that she knows it… with a flow-er from your heart.” Yes, he loved Stevie’s entire catalog, even the 80s shlock like Jungle Fever, loved it with the unquestioning devotion the faithful reserve for their God. Huggy Bear was a devout Stevie-ite. To him Stevie was a wise, gifted, mystical being, most definitely from another planet and of another consciousness, part eternal child, part social crusader, part sappy sentimentalist, an unabashed lover of God and women and all things sweet and just. When he cruised down Freedom Ave blasting Stevie he was taking lessons on life. He was meditating. He was praying.

Each Sunday morning Huggy Bear rose with the sun to wash, wax, buff, and pamper his cathedral on wheels. He walked to the gas station to fill his portable can (walking ended up being faster). And then he sat and chose the day’s album, carefully matching it with his mood, spending as much time on this as many women take to get dressed for a big night. When he found the perfect album he laid back, way back, and placed the first finger of his right hand on the bottom of the wheel so that his hand rested between his legs (there was something phallic about it, but he chose not to follow that line of thought). Then he eased away from the curb and cruised into downtown Soul City and onto Freedom Ave, looking for his homeboys Mojo Johnson, Boozoo, and Groovy Lou. They were all Stevie-ites and they all had they own little chapels. Together they would turtle down Freedom Ave, all four rides blasting the same Stevie songs at the same time.

It was essential to ride down Freedom Ave in a pack on a Soul City Sunday afternoon because on a Soul City Sunday afternoon Freedom Ave was awash in music. Everyone in Soul City was devout, but not everyone was a Stevie-ite. At last count there were at least 20 religions in Soul City beside Stevieism: Milesism, Marleyites, Coltranity, the Sly Stonish, the Ellingtonians, Michael Jacksonism, Wu-Tangity, Princian, Rakimism, Mingusity, Nina Simonian, P-Funkist, James Brownism, Billie Holidayites, Monkist, Hendrixity, the Jiggas, the Arethites, Satchmoian, Barry Whiters, and Gayeity. Soul City was a place where God entered through the speakers and love was measured in decibels.


Alison said...

The names are great! Can I be Groovy Lou?

Conseula said...

You can be Groovy Lou. I think it matches your picture.