Sammy’s Blues – Part III (Conclusion)

Sunday Morning, Liberty Hall, The Huck – North Side, 10ish

Roy ran into Reverend Tamera backstage. They exchanged a quick hug. He asked why the event was happening at Liberty Hall and not the church. “Church and state, honey,” she said, then added that she understood the concept better than some preacher-folks. Roy laughed. Besides, she added, the old rustic hall has hosted every radical movement from the Wobblies to Black Lives Matter. “Let’s add Charlotte to that list.”

Roy emerged from behind the curtains. He saw Harry, Bingo, Liz, and other familiars setting up chairs in the large space. He hopped down and started arranging chairs with Vera in the front row.

“Using the stage entrance?” she said, then kissed him. “No sign of Sammy?”

“Naw.”

“Hmmm.”

“Did I tell you about the Mix Up?”

“What about it?”

“We got double carded when we went there Friday night.”

She stood upright and placed a hand firmly on her left hip. “You aren’t joking with your Auntie Vera, are you? Are they still doing that crap?”

“I guess. We didn’t let ‘em get away with it, though. We stood there until they let us in.”

She stood for a moment, shaking her head.

“Outrageous. You know what I did when they pulled that crap? I had a special card made, about the size of a driver’s license. It’s a photo of me doing this.” She cocked her head, crossed her eyes, stuck out her long tongue towards her nose, and flipped the bird right next to her cheek. “That was my second ID card.”

“Love it!”

“I can take one of you and your friends for next time.” She arranged chairs as she talked. “Only next time, I think all you should go to Club Copacetic.”

“I didn’t think they did 18 and over anymore.”

“Hmmm,” she grunted.

*   *   *

The Huckleberry Women’s Big Band led Liberty Hall through a rousing, up-tempo version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a soul sister of Linda Tillery’s version. No one sat still in the audience.

When the singing and dancing ended, and after several rounds of spontaneous applause, hoots and hollers, Reverend Tamara took the stage. The curtain closed behind her. She, too, announced the arrests that took place at Eddie’s Grove, but noted, “Not one new light fixture has been installed on that corner or anywhere else in the park. Not one.” Boos sounded long and hard. Then Tamara called those arrested freedom fighters and the room erupted into applause again.

“I was going to talk about the other event happening this morning, and how I was invited, along with the other religious leaders in the Huck; about how they told me to come and bring my flock with me, but with the stipulation that there wasn’t enough time for me to talk; about how I and some of my colleagues, who were also told there’d be no time for them to talk, saw the event as nothing more than a shield – a transparent shield – to cover the umm-hmm of the man who refused to even meet with the freedom fighters in Eddie’s Grove; about how their so-called ‘Unity Rally’ was really an action against those who did not fall into their narrow definition of unity or community.”

She paused.

“I was gonna talk about all that, and then I decided, nah.” Everyone laughed. “Instead, I want to talk about my idea of unity and leadership.”

Then she began listing qualities of leadership she admired: communicator, active listener, activist, organizer. Mrs. Parker, sitting front row center, said “That’s right!” loudly, after each point. Others in the audience made similar responses. Roy sat between Mrs. Parker and Vera, in anticipation.

“I think you know who I’m talking about,” Tamara concluded. “And I have a feeling you’ll agree that this person embodies unity.”

She stepped aside and out came Charlotte, dressed in a fine suit and a bow tie. The crowd exploded. Mrs. Parker stared at her face and beamed, clapping hard despite her arthritic hands. Tamera stood by the podium a while before leaving the stage. Camera flashes flickered. TV lights turned on. Charlotte stood alone, smiling sweetly and nodding her head. Roy studied her expression closely, keeping a smile to himself.

Eventually the room settled down so she could speak.

“Hello, sisters and brothers. I guess I better just say it, before y’all explode.”

The room buzzed with told-you-sos and uh-huhs whispered from the many who had predicted this moment.

“My name is Charlotte Hunter, and I would like to humbly announce my candidacy for the District 9 city council seat.”

People rose to the feet. Mrs. Parker shed tears of joy. Harry whistled between his fingers. Bingo clapped above his head. Vera shouted, “You go, girl!” over and over as she snapped photos.

From behind the closed curtain came a loud drumroll, then cymbals, then a booming bass drum. A frenzied solo took place. As folks got into it, the curtain opened. Sam-boom reborn. His sticks and kicks exploded in a fury that rivaled Max Roach. He brought the house down.

“Gotcha!” Roy said.

“Remind me to slap you later,” Vera said as she snapped photos.

Charlotte held her hands clutched under her trembling chin. She turned to the mic.

“Now we got it going!” she said.

The Huckleberry Women’s Big Band joined Sam-boom on stage. He settled into a steady beat and on the count of three, they began playing “When the Saints Come Marching In,” Liberty Hall’s theme song. Everyone started dancing again.

© 2016, gar. All rights reserved.


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