I can’t find a picture from Christmas 1967 but I think we looked pretty much the same. I bought that pea jacket at the army surplus in Santa Barbara when I was there for a student conference, summer of 1967. I cut my hair that summer too, right after the Detroit riot. Not sure if Pearl had cut hers yet in 1967. I have looked at this photo many times but this was the first time I noticed my grandmother looking out of the window at us. We had moved to the flat with my grandparents that fall, so it’s a different house, but it’s Christmas time and I look the same. I had just graduated from Wayne State University with a major in Drawing and Printmaking and a minor in English. On January 2, I caught the Greyhound to San Fransisco. But that’s not today’s memory. Here is something I wrote in 1967.
It was Christmas and cold. Snow blew wet, sticking to my coat and hair. We went to the shortest corner, down Northfield, past three Junior High girls laughing and cars sliding slow on the ice. The sky was gray behind bare branches. Snow fell quiet, without any wind. My sister and I talked some about…I can’t even remember. We crossed to Pattengill Elementary, went down past the school and stopped outside the empty play field.
I got out my new movie camera and told her to walk away, down toward Colfax, and not to act silly. She started and I turned on the camera, feeling silly myself, taking pictures like a country bumpkin in the city. She started lunging to one side, sort of a half skip with some serious drag to it. I told her to be serious. She did, then walked back. I tried to keep the camera from moving. It stuck and I turned it off twice with a heavy click, jarring, blurring the picture.
We went inside the playground. I shot some more of her walking up and away. A little boy was sledging down a driveway into the street. She said, come on take some behind the trash cans. It’ll be good. I shot some more. Discovered while she was behind the garbage cans I was out of film.
Both of us bent over the camera and tried to shut it off, but we couldn’t. My hands were cold. Red, wet and cold. I put on my gloves and we unscrewed the battery door with her suitcase key to shut it off.
We walked back toward the far corner. I wrote BLACK POWER in the snow, and then PATRIA O MUERTE and VENCEREMOS. Pearl asked what else can we write but I didn’t know. We went on out of the playground and down Epworth talking about how bad somebody can be to you and you still love them. We went on down Allendale. There was a dog sleeping on a porch. Pearl said, loud, keep on sleeping! And he did.
It was getting dark and still snowing. Cold, wet, quiet snow. Grey like the inside of a shell and quiet like when your ears are stuffed up from a cold. Some girls went by across the street, talking loud. We turned back down Ironwood and went home.