Photo Credit: Odetta: A powerful woman of the 60s
Dear Elder Odetta,
I need your guidance.
Much like the days when I need James’, Angela’s, Toni’s and my grandmother’s guidance and strength – today, I specifically need you. I need you and your guitar songs. My guitar was my best friend for so long. Now, I need an elder’s acoustic guitar.
Old spirituals and work songs course through my bloodline, my tiny blue veins running through my faint, seemingly thin skin. Right now, to me, my skin looks like paper – paper thin, pale African American skin. No, not that colorism paleness, but tiny blue veins residing under a soft layer of flesh that needs more sun while intertwining with muscles, arteries and small bones, moving my blood to my heart.
My elder, my ancestor, Odetta – I ask for your wisdom and prayers. And if you can spare one song, even just a rhythm and one chorus, you can send it to me and we can write the song together. I’ll add a hook and a chorus, and you can write the bridge and final chorus? Oh, that would be a dream. It would be healing.
Elder Odetta, your wisdom, your prayer and a song is requested because I need your help. I recently asked elder Bearden in my thoughts and in my writing a short time ago for help to learn how to survive through the hard times.
Lately, I can’t seem to dredge together my usual smile. All I can do is give meek grin of sorrow and very little eye contact. I keep my eyes down but I still try to keep my shoulders back.
I still to go to the marketplace and am forced to listen to soap operas of mine or other strangers lives while standing in line waiting to order breakfast. I don’t mind it. That’s the beauty of being crammed with people who have different ideas, who have free speech and some to spend time with their friends and family. I like old market places, I like to walk and I like to talk to people.
I am a simple woman. I’ve done a lot of great things. But feeling at home in neighborhoods where my grandmother used to walk too fast for me to catch up no matter how hard I tried, so we could jump on the Lexington Market subway over 20 years ago… no one understands how blessed that makes me feel.
The peace and joy of getting lost in Mount Vernon, knowing everything inch of Charles Village and not being ashamed of my roots of Edmondson Village, Fulton Avenue and Fayette St…and the sadness that no one remembers me as a little girl.
No one knows this side of me – my connection with my home town. I miss my ancestors, the ones who had to look down and pick me up and hug me when I was small. No bit of books, money, jobs or anything will take away my true and personal reasons of being where I am today – I came to see my family soon after the Uprising to see if they were safe, to see what I could do.
I have to open up…..because I don’t want to get lost in translation. I remember when it was safe to go to the corner store to play Ms. Pac-Man, waiting for my older cousins to buy a pack of Newports from those machines where you could grab a button and pull it straight out to make a soft pack appear for our Unkie, and divvy up the change to buy candy for ourselves.
But that was all in the past. A past I am proud of, but now, in my present as a woman, elder Odetta, I ask you to teach me how to make it through. Teach me how to grow into an elder. Please share a song with me from wherever you are and please send me your prayers of blessings, grace, clarity and resilience.