AS THE SUN pierced thru the cracks of the closed blinds, Elijah was awakened by the sweet smell of hickory smoked bacon. With excitement he jumped out his bed as this only meant one thing—Jamma and Paw-Paw were visiting. He stumbled over the cords to his video game as he dashed past his wall which was decorated with his favorite players from the National Basketball Association. As he approached his bedroom door he grabbed a pair of rolled up socks from the laundry basket that sat atop his dresser. He proceeded to toss them towards the plastic hoop that was wedged between the door frame and bedroom door. With a cracking voice produced by puberty he whispered, “Elijah for three…”
The subtlest of pastel and creams was within view as Elijah entered the kitchen. With the corners of his mouth showing the aftermath of a good night’s sleep, Elijah was about to mutter his arrival. A small woman in stature with skin as dark and smooth as the night’s sky had a face of delight as she said, “One day mong all. Mawnin chil’.”
“Good Morning Jamma. Good Morning Ma.” Elijah replied.
“Rest you mouth. Come’yuh an gi me hug,” Jamma replied in her strong Geechee accent. While slightly shaking her head with the giggles she continued, “Milk ain’t dry off e mouf yet.” Jamma shared a laugh with Elijah’s mother as they began to set the table. Elijah was always amused when his grandmother spoke in her native tongue. With a hand quicker than the speed of sound he was able to grab a piece of that sweet smelling bacon before the brown side of his hand was met with a wooden spoon. “Where is Paw-Paw?” Elijah asked as he scarfed down the last remnants of his favorite breakfast delight. The brown sugar that Jamma lightly coated the bacon with always caused his taste buds to dance. Dance taste buds—dance.
Shooing Elijah away from the bacon, his mother replied, “He’s in the den with his eyes glued to the television with your father.” As she began to pour some warm grits in a bowl she said, “Tell both of them it’s time to eat their breakfast.” Elijah nodded as he tried to make another move for some bacon, but this time he was met with double resistance by the two strong women preparing the meal. At that point he knew he was defeated.
“What’s up Paw-Paw,” Elijah stated as he entered the den. He noticed that the room was more somber than it had been in the kitchen. “Hey there Rocket,” his grandfather replied.
Elijah looked towards his dad and saw that he was deeply immersed with the television. He had barely known Elijah had made his presence. Elijah whispered to his grandfather, “What are y’all watching?” His grandfather slightly shook his head and replied, “We’re watching a story I never thought we would still be seeing after all these years later.”
Now in tune with the conversation, Elijah’s father signaled for his son to sit next to him. His face was glowering as he said, “Son we’re watching the aftermath of terrorism at its finest.”
Elijah sat on the arm of the couch as he noticed that the act of terrorism happened in the hometown of his grandparents—Charleston, South Carolina.
Elijah’s face had become grave. “What happened?” Elijah asked. “How did he do that in a church?”
His father replied, “Hatred has no limits.”
“What does that mean?” Elijah asked.
With sadden eyes, Paw-Paw looked in the direction of Elijah and said, “Rocket, what your father is telling you is that—there are certain people in this here world who has a hatred so deep within them…that they are willing to go to all lengths to justify it.”
Elijah sat and tried to decode that message within his 13-year-old brain. Elijah understood that there were issues beyond his dreams of becoming the next Steph Curry. His father had always instilled within him a sense of awareness as it related to his culture and community.
“The world is like a spinning record…it’s all coming full circle. I was no more than your age when I heard about those 4 little girls in Alabama,” Paw-Paw said.
Remembering the documentary he watched with his father about those 4 little girls, Elijah asked, “That was in a church too—right?”
Elijah’s grandfather nodded. “And I can tell ya. That burned something inside of me that took me years to get over. That’s when I became active.”
A look of curiosity graced Elijah’s face as he replied, “Active?”
“Yes, that’s when I—to the disapproval of my parents—decided I was going to begin protesting and such. There was a case going on round that time in South Carolina. I think it was…uhm…I think it was Briggs—Briggs versus Elliot. You had people like Thurmond—Strom Thurmond that wanted to keep people of color in a certain place. But I wasn’t gonna stand for it—not no more. I began participating in the Charleston Movement. People called it the emergence of the Charleston Negro. We stood for building and sustaining our own.” Paw-Paw became sullen as he continued, “Have mercy Father.”
Elijah’s father’s strong black hands gently griped Paw-Paw’s shoulder as he sighed. “It’s okay Pop. Don’t let it get you all worked up. I’m worked up enough for the both of us. It’s not your fight no more.”
“You’re wrong son.” Paw-Paw replied. “It’s my fight until I have no more fight left—and that’s the day I shall be buried. I would be doing a disservice to those who marched and fought with me. The beatings and disrespect towards people of color plays like the song that never ends. So…when you say it’s not my fight no more, you’re right. It’s not my fight—it’s our fight.”
Elijah sat expressionless.
Elijah’s father sighed again as he began to pace the den. He began to think about his life. He began to think about its purpose. One word continued to cloud his mind. That word was—active. When his father said he got active, at that moment he realized that he could do more. He realized that it wasn’t enough to just tell his son what to do and how to do it…he had to be active.
A voice that sounded like it can from miles away can be heard yelling, “Come and eat.”
Elijah remained with a fixed look upon his face. He began to think about all of the young black boys that lost their lives due to both police and neighborhood violence. That sweet smell of hickory smoked bacon wasn’t so sweet anymore. He no longer was in a mood to make his taste buds dance. Dance no more taste buds. Dance no more. There was a new taste bud arising within him and that taste was—justice.