Third Floor Chronicles
December 25th, 2012
Everything changes. This is a truth we will all come to know. How they change concerns me. Time is an ally or a foe-whichever we choose. Preservation is up to the spectator. If you are watching changes and don’t like the way things are going, you better make a move to improve. If not, failure belongs to you.
Everyday the sun rises and the moon glows. While this regularity persists change is still happening. Nearly a decade ago, I visited a local church on a Sunday morning. During the service a member of the clergy was delivering a speech. As she spoke her hair piece dangled, her clothing seemed a bit awkward, even the look in her eye seemed strange. It was unsettling.
As I peered up at the pulpit, she began to talk about changes.
“You’re probably thinking, why she is looking like that. Why is she dressed that way?
You don’t know but. YOU WILL. Why is she talking like that? You don’t know but. YOU WILL.”
She could have very well been talking about the person, behind me, in front of me, or beside me. Somehow, I knew she was speaking to me. I was transfixed by the dangling hairpiece and was really asking myself each of those questions.
Beyond the confines of the church, she was a stranger. But as they say, “She ain’t never lied.”
I have seen a number of physical changes of my own since then. My cousin and I talked about going to the gym, and even signed up. We both went once. My pouch has began to blossom. If I don’t want to become an official kangaroo, the gym membership had better become active quickly. Inaction is just as much a choice as taking care of business.
My hair isn’t as thick as it was a decade ago. The mass of tight coils that once resembled a dark bush as dense as broccoli is becoming a memory. I see subtle strands of grey they stand out like lint against my dark hair and chestnut skin. My skin dries on a cold day, far quicker than it ever had. As Otis Redding would say, “Change is gonna come. Oh yes it is.”
I remember in the late eighties walking up 125th Street in Harlem, NY basking in the multitude of vendors from various African countries. I could get a bracelet from Mali, amber from another country, fabric from Nigeria, earrings from Senegal-wherever. Seeing streets with names like Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard (born in New Haven, CT where I too was born), Malcolm X Boulevard, and Langston Hughes Place, fortified me in way that Connecticut had not.
I would walk past Lenox Lounge with a quiet knowing of how the greatest performers shared their gifts in that space and imagined the electricity flowing within every square foot. It was beautiful. Harlem was my cup of cocoa- it warmed me with each sip on hot or cold day. It had been no more cliché than water. To me it was vital. And still is.
The Lenox Lounge is closing December 31, 2012, according to The Grio and The New Yorkd Times . I never thought it would happen. But I do now. I never imagined that what was built on the labor some of the most gifted Black Americans and added to depth of America itself, would come to an end. But I do now.
Every time I get off the train, coming in from New Haven, I am acutely aware of the change that is taking place in Harlem. Like it or not Gentrification is stepping in like a giant dinosaur, in many cases closing small business and in others simply crushing history.
I can’t help thinking that somewhere there is a group of Native Americans going, “We could have told you it was going to happen.”
The questions are: how do we prepare to protect ourselves from those who plan to live not along with us, but instead of us? How do we establish solid ground in a shaky economy? How do we trust ourselves and truly band together economically? When will these questions become cliché and not ideas tossed about for way too long?
I do not own a home or any substantial property. I will. The one thing I will always have regardless of America’s fluctuating economic chart is my dignity. My hair has thinned. But it is mine.