Bobbie Wayne's Blog
BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND
I read recently that certain right-wing groups refer to the kidnapping and enslavement of Africans from the 1600’s-1800’s as “black immigration.” If this degree of stupidity and insensitivity weren’t so tragic, it would be laughable. These groups are trying to alter the historical record by covering over the brutality and rape that existed. You might say they wish to white-wash black Americans’ history. When we cover over things and try to obfuscate them, the wrapping eventually will fall off and the truth will be revealed.
Back in the Olden Days of the early 1950’s, Chrissy Woodman, aged four, and I, five years old, sat on the Woodman’s front steps on a windy day. My home was just three houses away; and identical ranch house, like all the new homes in East Meadow, Long Island. Each consisted of a tiny kitchen, a small bathroom, a living room and three bedrooms. The largest space was the un-finished basement, which, during hurricane season, flooded in most houses.
The Woodman’s basement was drier than ours; a good thing, too, because a quarter of its space was filled with stacks of newspapers. Mrs. Woodman was from England, having met her American husband when he was stationed there during WWII. She never adjusted to America’s multi-culture, especially having Irish neighbors. Kay, Chrissy’s big sister was a year older than I and attended school. Her mortal enemy, Carol Parry, lived directly across the street from her. The Irish/English animosity expressed by both Carol and Kay’s parents towards each other resulted in spectacular fights between the two girls; fights unfathomable to me at that age, where hair was pulled, clothing was ripped and parents exchanged harsh words.
On this particular day, Chrissy and I seemed to be the only ones on the block. Even our parents were off somewhere. Left on our own, sitting on the cement stoop we squinted our blue eyes against the sand and dirt being stirred up by the gusts of wind. Our blonde hair whipped across our faces while we considered how to occupy ourselves.
“I know,” I announced. “Let’s go down in your basement and get some newspapers.” (I had asked my mother why the Woodmans were storing stacks of old newspapers. “It’s an English thing,” she had replied). Chrissy and I carried as many papers as our small arms could hold to the front steps and sat on them to hold them down. “Watch this,” I said, dramatically, as I pulled a sheet from the paper and held it high above my head by it’s corner, like a flag. The wind seized it; I let go. Chrissy and I watched it soar, kite-like against the scudding clouds of the grey September sky. High across the street it sailed, coming to rest on a neighbor’s rose bush as delicately as any butterfly. Chrissy flew the next two sheets; I followed with two more.
“Whee!” we shouted, dancing with joy. Sooner than we anticipated, we ran through our piles and had to traipse downstairs to replenish our supply. After several more trips and nearly an hour of playing with the wind, we took stock of our morning’s work with great satisfaction. Newspaper covered bushes, lawns, walls, roofs and windows of all the homes on both sides of the street. It was as though we had made it snow in September! There was a powerful beauty in what we had created; a beauty recognized and duplicated in the 1960’s by the artist, Cristo and his collaborator wife, Jean Claude. Like these and other conceptual artists that followed, Chrissy and I had changed the way one perceived physical forms and their location; everything looked different. But we were just little kids, so we grew bored and went inside to look for cookies and milk. When our parents returned home, no one suspected that Chrissy Woodman and Bobbie Wayne were responsible for trashing the neighborhood. We were never questioned about it.
Perhaps if those responsible for banning the history of slavery from their children’s textbooks were asked why they were doing it, they might reply with the same words Chrissie and I would have used to explain why we did what we did, had we been asked: “Everything looked prettier when it was covered up.” However, the people wrapping American history in lies are neither artists nor innocent pre-schoolers.
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