I Am Married to An Old Black Log

Anna Douglass

Bantering with a friend the other day about  Michelle Obama’s appearance at the DNC something crazy just popped out of my mouth. We were discussing how everyone and his/her mama were buzzing about how beautiful the first lady looked. There was even talk about the nail polish she wore. And that speech left nary a dry eye in the house. Especially when Mom-in-chief revealed she loves her hubby now more than ever. Michelle’s approval rating is soaring. These days she’s even considered Obama’s ‘secret’ weapon. Oh what a difference four years make.

Then: “Oh pleeze,” I jokingly chided. “Soon as Malia and Sasha graduate high school just like Frederick Douglass, Obama will be saying, ‘I am married to an old black log.’” For some reason the asinine quote supposedly from a letter Douglass wrote his daughter spilled out of me. Ol’ Frederick didn’t think an uneducated dark-skinned young man was good enough for his baby girl. The novel begins with the old black log line that Jewell Parker Rhodes said inspired her to write Douglass’ Women, one of my all-time favorite books.

I read the novel years ago and it put Douglass on the map for me. Prior to it he was simply the black abolitionist instrumental in freeing the slaves. Shoot I didn’t even know he was mixed race. All I ever saw were pictures of a suited up brother with a huge afro. But not only was Frederick Douglass the greatest African American orator of his time, he was also an author, businessman, and statesman, who also championed women’s rights or suffrage as it was called in those days.

So I guess President Obama and FD are intertwined in my head since they share a commonality in oratorical skills, writing ability, and alignment with women’s rights. There are the differences too: FD’s sperm donor was white, possibly the plantation owner. His mother was a black slave and was sent off to a different plantation so FD saw very little of her. His mother died when he was around seven or so. So basically FD was raised by his black grandmother.

Some things are best left unsaid.

Obama’s parentage was just the opposite. Not much similarity in wives either, except skin color. FD’s wife Anna was dark-skinned, short, stout and illiterate. In the novel and the little history I managed to dig up about Anna, she never learned to read or write. Anna contented herself with running the house and caring for the children, often alone, as FD was rarely around.

Unlike the highly educated ‘Mom-in-chief’, Anna would’ve never been invited to stand before a crowd and give a speech to bolster her husband’s political aspirations. You see FD was considered handsome, intelligent and important. Anna was born free but since she wasn’t literate and didn’t look a certain way wasn’t considered a ‘fitting wife’ for the great FD.

As the story goes, after trying a couple of times to escape from slavery, it was only with Anna’s money and a sailor’s suit she’d made him that FD was finally successful. He supposedly repaid Anna by marrying her. Maybe he didn’t love her but that didn’t stop him from visiting her body. Out of his women it was Anna only who produced his heirs. But when he was all over the world being all debonair and important, FD kept other women by his side. Women that looked nothing like Anna.

Unlike Mitt Romney’s Vice-presidential pick Paul Ryan, I don’t think Obama dated black girls before he met Michelle. “Barry one of those slick Chicago politicians,” I quipped to my friend. “He knew having a chocolate educated sister by his side would open some political doors. Not to mention Michelle’s from the Southside. Go Barry.”

Back to Michelle’s appearance. Several news folks stated she was a lot more polished than four years ago. Unlike other first ladies Michelle’s been called fat, not a great beauty, even Chewbacca. I used to pray she didn’t go out on the Internet and read all the mean-spirited stuff being said about her. They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Michelle is like superwoman these days.

“Well, Bill Clinton said the president had the good sense to marry Michelle,” I joked. “And Jimmy Fallon mentioned a Hillary Clinton/Michelle Obama ticket come 2016. Guess that means Michelle isn’t going to be Obama’s or anybody’s old black log.”

FYI: I am definitely looking forward to 2016 and can hardly wait for Barack to saunter up on stage like a preened rooster and crow Michelle’s praise for the world to hear.

You complete me.

A Voice that Ultimately Laid the Golden Egg

The voice that laid the golden egg

Ted Williams A Golden Voice, How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation should read: the man whose voice laid the golden egg but he cracked it again and again and again. The memoir is simply written but rich in details about a life driven completely off the rails by none other than Ted himself.

In my opinion, unlike many homeless people Ted had a choice. He wasn’t mental. At least he wasn’t born deficient in reasoning skills or ever declared certifiable crazy. Nor was he too old or sick to work a steady job. From what I read, Ted was given many opportunities starting from birth. According to him he never knew his birth mother. I imagine that had to hurt. But Al and Julia Williams gave him a last name and raised him the best they knew how.

He talked about them being color struck. Back in those days a lot of light-skinned African Americans distanced themselves from their darker complexioned brothers and sisters thinking the hue of their skin somehow elevated them. It was mostly an exercise in futility which Ted pointed out. His father didn’t want him to identify as black. He processed his hair hoping to look Samoan or Hawaiian, worked extra hard and yet the man was never promoted.

Ted also claimed his mother rarely came to his defense and that his daddy beat him often. As far as discipline, I feel Ted’s folks were pretty typical of black parents during that time. I’m around his age and back then if you got out of order they didn’t hesitate to get you in line with a belt, cord, hand spanking, or even a switch, if you were from the South. I’m not saying corporal punishment is right, but I don’t feel Ted endured any more than the rest of us.

Maybe when Ted turned his back on the golden life he could’ve had deep down he thought he was sticking it to the flawed folks who had raised him and the selfish woman who couldn’t be bothered. Maybe a worthless crack head was what he felt they deserved. Whatever his reason he turned his back on his children in pursuit of a crack pipe, the convenient crutch he used to excuse his behavior time and time again..

Another thing that struck me was how Ted reveled in being a hustler and seemed in love with the sound of his own voice. That voice set him apart from the other drug addicts and street hustlers because it could quite literally stop a person dead in their track. It opened doors for him and would have taken him places long ago. Instead he used it like a cheap trick. Mesmerizing and winning folks trust with it one moment, then ripping off those same people the next.

Ted says God sent him to the side of the road to humble him. Yet freely admits both he and his girlfriend were at the end of their shelf life far as the streets are concerned. Years of hitting a crack pipe had taken a debilitating physical toll on their bodies. They were out of options with nowhere else to go. Whether sent by the good Lord or not there he stood, holding up a sign touting the only hustle he had left.

Overall I enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it. It definitely attests to this new reality TV and social media age. One minute you could be begging on a street corner and the next you’re being given a chance at a second act in spite of your past transgression(s) or maybe because of them.