Niagara Gazette — It’s just too dang cold and nasty to do much more than curl up with a good read; “Try Me”, as James Brown once crooned directly into the heads and hearts of anyone within listening distance:
A lanky, young “high yella colored boy” growing up in the working class, bitter cold winter, and sweltering summer, non-air-conditioned factory neighborhoods that used to ring the world-famous Niagara Falls, I always wondered how we black folks got here and why in the world we stayed.
Why, “In God’s name” would my dad, an intelligent, good natured man who got along with everyone, light enough in skin color, to “pass for white” choose in 1928, on purpose, with nobody forcing him to do so, leave Ray Charles’ moonlit Georgia pines and the warm bathing sunshine of Palm Beach for this bitter, cold-ass, but incredibly beautiful, God blessed and seemingly forsaken Niagara Falls?
I was young, but not too young to notice the difference between Florida’s weather, and THIS!
Why did my family live right on the Canadian border where the skies were permanently dark with factory smoke, where the gray, winter snow painted a dreary, frigid background against the grinding, screeching, pounding, banging belching of those sanctified factories?
Oh, yeah, and by the way, Dad, I wondered; why were there so many black men working in the most dangerous of those most dangerous of dangerous places?
I was old enough to ask questions, but too young to understand the honest answers; my parents did not want their children to know.
Neither did the Polish parents want their children to know, nor did the Irish, the Italians, nor the Jews; clumped together near the railroad tracks want their kids to know the whole, stinking truth; they kept their secrets to themselves, making it my job to unravel their contortions.