by Patricia Spears Jones, January/February 2007
On the last day of 2006, I bought a Cesaria Evora CD because I stopped by Calabar to say Happy New Year to Atim and Heloise. Before that I’d said my prayers in the Botanic Garden where the Ever Blooming cherry tree in the Japanese Garden was in bloom. I saw the crowds crowd into the Annie Liebowitz exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, but I was keen to see Ron Mueck sculptures which are both gargantuan and intimate. I bought my favorite Chinese take-out on Washington and it stayed warm all the way back to Bed-Stuy. Later at the huge Foodtown on Fulton, I found myself calming lady who was still mad that checkout line she had been in was closed. “Life is too short” said I.
Life is too short as we now know for the 3,000 American military personnel in Iraq who have died in Iraq along with thousands of Iraqis. And in New York City’s police are suddenly trigger happy again killing a young Black man, Sean Bell just before his wedding day a few weeks before Christmas. I was not here, but I would have joined the protest march down Fifth Avenue.
January is named for the God Janus who looks to the past and to the future. And on this first day of 2007, I look back at an extraordinary year—from doing this column to the publication and praise for my poetry collection, Femme du Monde, which was listed one of Top Ten poetry collections at www.about.com. My “book” tour took me to Chicago, Washington, DC; Kingston, RI, and Milwaukee, where I saw the Milwaukee Art Museum—the Calitrova design is extraordinary. But all that traveling left me exhausted and home sick. So I was grateful to return to my little section of Brooklyn where the folk at Shakoor’s Sweet Tooth (now closed) ; Brook Valley, Bread-Stuy and Food 4 the Soul make this a community where good food can be found. And the lovely ladies who run Ibo Landing (now, closed) and the Little Red Boutique sell beautiful items for the home; the body.
And I deeply appreciate my neighbors’ holiday decorations—the lights blossom at night and the ribbons glisten in daylight. Bed-Stuy is a community where many generations live with and near each other—a rarity in this nation. For all the terrors of urban poverty, gang banging and environmental ills oft reported about Central Brooklyn, we should know that the Sean Bells of this world are cherished and their loss does not go un-remarked. Justice is slow in this society, but I hope that justice will be done in his name. And in the names of men, women and children who have been gunned down in this city’s streets by whoever did the shooting.
Janus looks ahead and what he sees he keeps to himself. I have my wish list, but I will keep that too myself. Raise a glass of whatever you like to drink and toast the opportunity to be alive in a time of enormous contradictions. Just remember, WE ARE NOT BORED.