“I feel like shit.”
I say to myself as I wake up 8am, Thursday morning, September 20th. The first thing on my mind is how in the hell can I keep my mind on Jena Louisiana when I just went through a painful break up with my girlfriend hours earlier? What should I expect when I go to Jena? I heard of reports that the Ku Klux Klan and the Nazi’s were going to meet the protesters in Jena. Why am I even going? What is the plan? How will it be executed? Am I going to jail? Am I going to die in those southern streets or hung in a jail cell?
Am I going to have to kill someone?
I wash up and don my black, which is redundant to me. Telling FX to wear black on a certain day is like telling Darth Vader to wear black on a certain day.
I pack my jigsaw epidermis severer and my retractable cranial loosener along with my books:
“Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway”,
“The Art of War”,
“The Art of Peace”
and George Jacksons’ “Blood In My Eye”.
I say a prayer and walk out towards history.
I’m traveling under the lead of Rev. Al Samson. Yes I, FX worked with a reverend. Reverend Al Samson is one of 4 pastors/priests/reverends, etc that I allow to talk to me. And I must take this moment for clarity sake for you the reader. In Chicago we have a preacher named Rev. Al Samson who worked with Dr. King. Obviously do not get his name confused with Rev Al Sharpton. As soon as I arrive at Fernwood United Methodist Church, Rev. Al greets me and as usual whenever we meet or talk the good rev is giving me a job to do. I’m the official camera operator for the entire expedition. But hey it’s not such a bad job, I had two cute assistants.
In the church Rev. Al gives a run down of what to expect on the trip. “This is a non-violent protest but I don’t have to tell ya’ll veterans about non-violence.”
“Uhhhh....Rev Al”, I raise my hand. “Uhhhh....you might wanna’, you know....give me a quick introductory crash course cuz’ uhhh.....I don’t do non.....uhhhh I brought weapons.....”.
Damn. I had to leave them in the car.
Everyone introduces themselves until it’s my turn, but Rev Al stops me. “This is FX, responsible for many of the shows you see on access t.v., he also has a deep passion for Africa, particularly the Lost Boys of Sudan....he will be out media operator.”
A elder brother states: “I wanna know what his mama named him.”
“Well FX are initials for an Afrikan name.” I responded.
“What’s the name?” Rev. Al says.
“Fambilikile Xhen Nozakhere.”
“His name is John Smith and he’s from Alabama!” Rev Al snaps back.
The church roars with laughter and we all clap loudly.
“My slave name is [name witheld]”
The bus comes, a luxury liner provided by Gatling, the same people who do dead folks. Before we take off we are made to sign a waiver, waiving any and all responsibility of Al Sharptons’ National Action Network in the event I die or get maimed or something. Al Samson and former alderwoman Dorothy Tillman board their LIMO and we finally take off......for a 16 fuckin’ hour ride to Jena Louisiana.
The bus demographic is what I expected. Mostly elders, but the gender count may be equal. Most of these elders marched with Dr. King, conversed with Malcolm, they’ve been jailed and attacked by police and their dogs as well as the KKK. They’re all activists. They’ve played the background in many of the Black history events we read about in books. I’m one of the few fortunate youngsters on the bus. There’s a younger brother from Chicago State University as well as a couple of late 20's or early 30's folks. There’s the fine vet sista who is in her late 40's but she looks and dresses as if she’s in her late 20's. There’s one of the bus drivers....a brother who has an 80's style jheri curl. Wet and all. Nuff’ said on that. Then I see my homey Africa Hot but at first I didn’t recognize him. It wasn’t until FoxbrownFox text messaged me and told me that he was on my bus. “Yo’ what up Marcus?!?!”, “Ay FX!”.
There are 4 caucasians and for some reason 3 of them sat all around me. The person sitting next to me is an older caucasian gentleman somewhere in his 60's maybe. He’s a reverend, from the south side of Chicago, he’s wearing a Black Panther t-shirt........and an ankh. Usually if I was near a creature like that I would spark immediate conversation, but I just wasn’t in a talkative mood. Maybe next time I see him we shall converse on spirituality, religion and politics. But right now I am consumed with someone else.
As soon as we get to Interstate 57, I stare out the window and think about her. The pain. The anger. Thoughts of the past two highly emotional days playing in my head.
Hey, snap out of it, you may be going to a riot.
And so we ride.
Finally after whatever many hours we stop at a Methodist church in Mississippi to eat breakfast......at 3am!
I’m thinking about how is this going to effect my body’s energy economy. I need sleep but I’m eating eggs, hash browns, chicken strips, fruit and other shit at the time my body isn’t used to processing new food. I’ll just have to deal with it.
I meet up with several comrades at the church as more buses from Chicago arrive. Jokari (Panther), Yoel from the Underground Bookstore, Fred Riley and others. I talk with all of them about the protest until eating time is over....time to get back on the bus and hit the road again.
We finally arrive in Louisiana and it’s beautiful. There is an eerie mist hovering just above the crops....it’s almost supernatural. Has this natural phenomenon always been? How many of my enslaved Ancestors used this mist as cover in their escape in the Underground Railroad? How many Klansmen’s white robes were blended into the pale white mist as they snuck up on my Ancestors? Incredible how such a beautiful sight of nature only conjures up it’s use in one of the most evil events in history.
For the past 15 and a half hours I didn’t sleep at all. I stayed awake the entire time occasionally talking, reading, watching the movies they played on the bus, gazing out the window at lands I’ve never seen and more thoughts of her. I have to hold back the tears now and gather myself. We just crossed into our locale objective......
WE’RE IN JENA LOUISIANA.
Part 2 next.