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The Literary Corner: Renegade Writer’s Guild

“Whispering Spirit”

By Stephanie Williams Dean

I’ve had no complaints.  For me, the unwelcome visitor that’s plagued our lives has been more like a divine Spirit quietly whispering in my ear. The carrier of death is a decision-maker of who departs and who remains, demanding respect, commanding compliance and subservience.

I had no problem obeying. There were far too many insults to be carelessly flippant with lack of regard for those so passionately stripped from life. How dare I ignorantly ignore those whose loved ones were snatched away in the blink of my eye.

I embraced the Spirit. Tamed by the unyielding presence, I turned toward Him, and with bowed head, dropped to a knee. The time was a gift, and I recognized it as such.

The unwelcome visitor changed many lives. The Spirit changed mine.

“The Other Side of Town”

By Linda H. Barnette

When I was growing up in Mocksville, the town was divided into two sections almost totally by race. Keep in mind that I was a child in the 1940s before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Whites and blacks went to different schools and used separate public facilities.  If a black person wanted to order food at a restaurant, he had to do so at the back door and wait to pick it up. This was just the way it was, and I had no reason to think it strange.

When I was 5 years old, I heard children playing in the woods behind my grandfather’s house and ran over to join them as they played “Ring around the Rosie.” After a few minutes, my mother appeared, took me by the hand, and escorted me back to my grandfather’s house. She did not say a word, and I was clueless.

When I was perhaps 9 years old or so, my aunt took me to the Princess Theatre uptown as she did almost every Saturday afternoon to the 25 cent movie.  One particular week the movie was called “Stars in my Crown,” in which there was a vivid scene in which KKK members rode up and dragged an old black man out into his yard and were going to hang him because he couldn’t pay his rent. However, the preacher intervened, and the hanging did not ever happen.

Luckily, my parents were good Christian people and progressive thinkers; therefore, race was never discussed negatively in our home. So it never occurred to me that things were unfair. It was, again, just the way things were, and we had no idea that everybody in town was not ok with the status quo.

Later, I graduated from Davie High School and then went on to Catawba College in Salisbury and then to grad school at the University of Tennessee. At UT I encountered a few people of different races and from other parts of the world for the first time. The men who lived in the house beside of us were all from the Middle East, and were perfect gentlemen at all times, even helping us shovel snow and escorting us girls home from the library at night. They often proposed to us in jest because they wanted to become American citizens.

Life went on, and although I kept up with the news and was a fan of both John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., we were busy with other things.

It was not until I taught in high school in Fayetteville and at Fayetteville State University that I had students of color, young and old, and in a military setting, from all over the world. It was wonderful experience for me and one that opened my eyes to the “All men are created equal” phrase in a whole different light.

Last month one of the people that I loved most in the world passed away at the age of 94.  She was a lady of color who ironed my clothes for many years not because she needed the money but because that was her dearly loved hobby.  When her husband died, I was invited into the room where her children were making plans for his funeral, and I always felt like her seventh child. Even though I told her many times to call me Linda, she continued to refer to me as “Miss Linda,” as I imagine she was taught as a child.  I know that she knew in her heart that she was always and will be forever in my heart as “Miss Rebecca.”

As it happened and as a great gift, I happened merely by chance to see “Stars in my Crown” listed in the tv guide last week, and after more than sixty years understand why I was so moved by it as a child.  It was a great example of social injustice, which I abhor on all levels.

So you can see that my journey to the other side of town has been a wonderful adventure.