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Joseph Cox holds a degree in Intellectual History from Univ. of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Financial Analysis.

He is the author of a number of books on related to policy. The City on the ... more

The Tapestry of Michael Jr.

Date: Monday, June 1, 2020 3:34 AM EDT

There’s a small crowd gathered in the church. They’re all black people, like me.

The place is a run-down corner kinda outfit. The bricks are weathered, but they were never particularly nice. It’s like they were recycled from some other building that got burned down. There’s a cement cross plastered onto the side of the building and a few square windows have been knocked out and replaced with arched ones. But the job is iffy, at best. It didn’t make the place look any nicer. But it did succeed in making it look loved.

Whatever else its faults, people care about this place and that’s got to count for somethin’.

The crowd is gathered inside the church. Men, woman and children. Families. Every one there is part of family. I don’t need to tell you the statistics for you to know how rare that is. I don’t want to tell you the statistics. They take people and they make them into numbers, and they rob them of their humanity. But families are rare. They were rare generations ago, and now they’re incredibly rare. Neighborhoods like this have mothers and daughters and sons. But husbands and fathers? There ain’t so many of those around.

But not in this church. In this church, it’s all families. And it’s the genesis of something better.

There’s a huge piece of fabric covering the back of the church. Like a giant black drop cloth. And behind it is something I’ve been working on for fifteen years now. Fifteen years since I got the Call and set to work on a singular piece of art. I’m no artist though. I don’t have years of training or experience. I just got the Call and I knew what I needed to do.

It’s strange. All these folks are here to see what I’ve done. But I’ve never seen it myself. I’ve never looked at it, not as a whole. It just kinda flowed out of me. And I’m about to see it too, with eyes just as fresh as theirs. And I don’t truly know what it’s going to look like. I know the Lord G-d has seen it, but I don’t know whether the church is gonna let it stay here. It might be too ugly even for this beat-up old place.

But I got the Call and so I did what I had to do and now, it is waiting to be revealed.

My name is Emily Jackson. I’m 58 years old and this is the second time in my life that I’ve been Called into the service of the Lord.

--
I was sixteen when I got pregnant for the first time. I wish I could tell you who the father was, but I was a busy girl in those days. I often didn’t even know the men’s names. It was 1976, everybody was busy. It was the very early days of hip-hop and DJs spinning records. I remember there was a movie that was popular in my neighborhood; it was called Velvet Smooth. It wasn’t a good movie, but it had a black woman who was a Private Eye and who didn’t take anythin’ from anybody. And that’s why I liked it.

And a lot of men liked me.

Whoever the father was, I’m sure he called it love. And can tell you his type. He was strong, he was tall, he talked tough. He was tough. And he had a face like it was cut out of solid ebony. And he had a proud afro. Those were the kind of men I liked. And I loved the power and pride they made me feel. They made me feel like I was the Private Eye in Velvet Smooth and I could make the world around me dance to my tune.

But my whole world was just a fantasy. I gave birth to a daughter, that first time I got pregnant. I named her Clarice. And while I tried to pretend her arrival hadn’t changed anything, it had. I had responsibilities. I didn’t live up to them, not right away. But they began to gnaw at me, slowly eating away at what I thought was power and freedom.

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