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The City That Her Conversation Is

The City That Her Conversation Is


Breaking news:

Unable to participate in the planning of the physical world that they lived in for a long time, Blacks tasked themselves with building their own worlds using concepts and the culture of the civilizations to which they once belonged. They sang and danced and expressed sorrow, all in order for life to be life.

Today, Blacks are left with the achievements of a very creative yesterday with one of the many achievements of Black culture being the art of conversation, compartmentalized — or urbanized — as much as any city is.

It is the conversation of alleys, broadways, shaded areas for sitting, architectural marvels, and the breeze of large bodies of water, like most cities, rich or poor. As with any anthropological finding, it would be wise to consider this city’s heritage and to preserve its alleys, streets, sights, waits.

Kerry James Marshall   The Garden Party   (2003)

Kerry James Marshall The Garden Party (2003)

Tales inform the imaginations of Black children most before they begin to have long conversations.

These tales are told by parents and television. For a long time these first tales were those that writers like Zora Neale Hurston collected as black folklore.

One hot summer night Mr. Grant couldn’t sleep, so he sat on the upper balcony in his underwear chewing tobacco. Mrs. Grant was in bed.

A tall Black woman lived two blocks down the street. She and Mrs. Grant had had some words a few days past and the Black woman had been to a hoodoo doctor and bought a powder to throw at Mrs. Grant’s door. She had waited till the hour of two in the morning to do it. Just as she was “dusting” the door, Mr. Grant on the balcony’s tobacco juice struck the woman.

The old tales that Blacks of past generations told are not told anymore, but they certainly set the tone for Black parenting.

Don’t run girl! because …

Sit tight, child! because …

Your aunt is who she is, because …

Kerry James Marshall   This Could Be Love    ( 1992)

Kerry James Marshall This Could Be Love (1992)

Sooner or later, the child begins to express the complexity of his or her thoughts. The point of view that was cultured makes itself known.

Hell no, because …

Never, because …

With time the child becomes confident enough to tell actual stories through conversation. These stories are for the most part presented as true and experience. It is then that the person begins to have conversations. The content of her conversations are complex. Like the other arts at which Blacks excel, there is no need to study the art of it to do it well. These stories become a part of life, and are especially told to those with whom she is intimate.

Kerry James Marshall  Our Town  (1995)

Kerry James Marshall Our Town (1995)

The city is presented to the listener as is.

It is often a pastoral city that her conversation is. It is a city that predates the modern city, the city that the motor has so shaped with its population and its factories. It is a city where joy and sorrow coexist as one. It is a city that is for the most part moral. It is a city made for strolling. It is not a city of indoors — all happens outside. It is the city of a parent’s point of view. It feels more traditional than the music listened to, than the parties attended. There isn’t a single way to be a city.

There are cities with populations that speak aloud. There are cities with populations that are quiet. There are cities with populations that are possessed by spirits or the holy spirit together, and there are cities that are anti-spirit, that believe in eternal sobriety and supposed levelheadedness. It is the same case for real cities.

In some African cities, despite commercial radio, women and men sing songs that are thousands of years old. It is not the case in New York. Despite their differences, all of these cities are guarded by at least a door. Such is the case for the City That Her Conversation Is.

The door in question is massive. It is not forgotten when offered passage through. This door offers doors to another world, sometimes a world of softer tones, much softer than impressionist painting for example — sometimes a world of infinite pain. It is a world that offers kept secrets, things that one would never imagine a human being would hold in. It is a world that socializes the person listening. It is a magnificent city that feels eternal.

My Mother Was An Undertaker

My Mother Was An Undertaker