Thursday, June 12, 2014
I remember it was not quite Winter. I had tumbled into a car with Kenny Carroll and Brian Gilmore to trek to Philly, to the Painted Bride Arts Center. We were there to remember, to honor the life of Toni Cade Bambara. I remember so many famous writers in the room, on the program. Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, I think Alice Walker was there. Amiri Baraka, Eugene Redmond, Askia Toure, Gaston Neal and so many others. The room was packed with writers, poets, people young and old. I was sitting down front and I remember an older, very beautiful black woman sitting just behind and to the side of me. I remember because she was thumbing through a book of poems as though searching for something. A book of poems I did not recognize. She thumbed through it with a familiarity that one only has when one has written the book. I remember that I couldn't see the cover of the book, couldn't see the name of the poet. She looked vaguely familiar, some Philly poet I thought. She was wearing a simple skirt, a simple many colored blouse, her hair wrapped in a long, very pretty scarf. She could have been anyone's mother or grandmother sifting through a book of poems. I remember the program was long, so many writers rose to testify about Sister Toni and her impact on their lives. And after several hours of testifying, all the famous writers had finished. I remember that they opened up a mic on the side for people from the audience to speak. The woman who was sitting behind me got into line and waited her turn to share. And I remember that it was not until she reached the mic and opened her mouth to speak that I recognized her, reading softly from her own book of poems. I'm not often stunned, but so much grace, class, and humility would stun anyone. Goodnight Ms Dee, I'll hum a little Monk for you.
And until next we meet, may all your potatoes be sweet (and dusted with cinnamon.)