Tag Archives: Black in America

Try Your Best to Stay Alive!

In the day
Police traffic stop, be ready. Photo courtesy of http://www.jamesdavisdefense.com

First, let me preface this tutorial by informing you that I am, by no means, an expert in survival, legal matters or in law enforcement. I’ve simply been around longer than most people and can impart things that you can do that may help get you to stick around longer too.

Recent events have made it blatantly clear that something has gone wrong in America. Maybe things haven’t gone wrong, perhaps they’ve always been wrong and the things we thought had been addressed and corrected were never really and not even nearly resolved.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that he’d been to the mountain top, looked over and had seen the promised land. Many thought that when a black man became president of the United States, this was a good indication that we’d also reached that same plateau, but no. Every time it seems we reach the top of the mountain and look over, all we ever find is another hill to climb.
Let us hope that this primer can make the trek up the latest hill we see before us, just a little less difficult to scale.

Here are a few things we can do if we look in our rear view mirror and see flashing lights approaching……

1). Pull over immediately. If you can’t pull over immediately because of safety concerns or road obstructions, reduce your speed to a crawl anyway. Use hand signals to let the officer know that you are going to pull over further ahead, then slowly proceed to a safe place to park or curb your vehicle.

2). Stay in your vehicle, don’t run (do not run!) or make any sudden moves as the officer approaches.

3). Keep both hands on the steering wheel.

4). Be especially polite in addressing the officer, smile a lot. Try to find an opening to lighten the mood

5). Don’t ask why you are being pulled over. Let the officer tell you why you are being stopped or let him ask you why you THINK you are being stopped.

This part is important

6). If you know why you were pulled over, say so. Admit that you are aware of whatever the infraction is, honesty might just get you off with a warning. Use phrases like, “Yes officer, I noticed my tail light was out this morning and was just on my way to Wal-Mart to have it replaced”
(But only say that if you aren’t driving in the opposite direction of the nearest Wal-Mart).

7). If you don’t know why you are being pulled over, let the officer know that you are unaware of what the problem is. Do not admit guilt to anything that could get you arrested and especially if you are being arrested, I’m not a lawyer and am not trying to provide you with legal advice, but you’ve watched enough cop shows on TV to know this.

8). Be especially polite in addressing the officer, smile (See #4). Studies show that you are somewhat less likely to be killed at a traffic stop if you don’t give anyone any reason, whatsoever, to kill you.

9).Try to form a bond with the officer as quickly as possible. Studies show that you are more likely to survive a traffic stop if you have had a chance to form a bond with the official standing next to your vehicle. Say little things like, “Nice day isn’t it officer”, “I’m trying to get home to my kids/ grandkids/ family and may have lost track of how fast I was going”. Here’s a few I’ve used over the years that emits harmlessness and creates a bond between you and the officer at hand, “Man, I really like the new cruisers you state troopers /county deputies/ town police are driving this year”, “This state has the best looking uniforms, man I’m glad I don’t live in New Jersey” (Sorry New Jersey, your state trooper uniforms and cruisers are terrible).

10). Don’t argue with the police (this is a tough one and one I’ve not always been able to adhere to). Again, do not argue with the police, be polite, if you can’t smile, always be polite, practice saying things like “sir”, “ma’am”, “officer”, “I’m terribly sorry I wasn’t…(fill in the blank)”, be polite.

11). Don’t run, stay in your car until told to exit. Don’t move yourself or your hands toward the officer or his weapons.

12). I admit that I might have a problem with this one, but if he says “Sir, I’m going to have to cuff you for my own protection” (and even though I see no reason why it would need to be done in a routine traffic stop), comply with the officer. Follow all instructions and commands, be submissive (I can’t believe I’m writing this). Do everything you are instructed to do. It’s not always evident, but the way it’s supposed to work is the good guys are the ones with the badges.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you just may live to see another day. Stay safe out there.

This blog post is designed for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice of any kind, good luck!

How I Found Out

Photo/Coutesy Culpeper Historical Society
Old Town Culpeper, Virginia, where I attended my first ‘walk-in’ movie, “The Parent Trap” – starring my childhood idol, Hayley Mills.

Hayley Mills was by far my favorite actress as a child. Talk about having a schoolboy crush, I was barely in school when Disney’s “The Parent Trap” came out. Raymond and Bajean spent hours begging daddy to take them to the walk-in to see it. What’s a walk-in, you ask? Well, it was the opposite of a drive-in. You could actually walk up to the ticket booth, pay for a ticket and go in to the theater, sit down in comfortable seats and watch a movie. I had never been to a walk-in movie theater before. All the other movies I’d seen up until then were shown at the drive-in, we’d back our station wagon toward the huge screen, take out a blanket and lie outside enjoying the movie while watching the comings and goings of all the patrons. I often wondered why no one ever got run over out there, I think folks actually looked out for one another back then. At least until that time when it began pouring down raining and one guy whom we had seen sneak in on foot came up to my mother’s window and asked if he could sit in the car with us and finish the movie. Mom instinctively rolled up her window and turned her back on him, he finally moved on after staring in on us. He dejectedly left the place after going from one car to another and finally realized no one was going to let him in. The last movie we’d seen prior to that was “The Tingler” with Vincent Price and that left me quite terrified for years to come, it gave me plenty to think about on many a sleepless night.

It took some doing but my begging paid off because originally Dad had felt I was too young to go, but then he decided to let me go along. So once we got there, I was in awe of the place, we walked up to the building and of course, my first inclination was to walk through the front entrance, but dad grabbed my arm and escorted me to a small side entrance with the words “Colored” written over the door. I didn’t pay much attention; I was too excited about seeing Hayley Mills. We got our tickets and walked up a single flight of stairs and onto a balcony. The entire balcony was filled with loud boisterous kids,throwing popcorn, leaning over the rail and yelling at the people down below. I glanced over the edge and realized what a great view I had up there. I was glad we weren’t sitting where those other poor saps were, who didn’t have such a great view and were being pelted with popcorn by the people who were seated upstairs with us. The movie was great, Hayley Mills was cute as a button and it felt good to be in that elite club called ”Colored”, if it meant always getting perks like this seating arrangement we had. But, of course, the feeling didn’t last.

On most summer morning’s mom would send us outside to get some fresh air, “Y’all don’t need to be cooped up in the house all day”. And then off we’d go straight outside to the well. We got our drinking water from an electrical well that dad had dug by hand using picks, shovels and dynamite. He tells the story of how one day when the charge hadn’t gone off after he’d set the stick in the well and he’d gone back above ground. He turned the knob on the ignition switch and when it didn’t go off, he waited for what he felt was an appropriate amount of time, then climbed back down the ladder to reattach the wires, he climbed back up, hit the switch again and the blast went off this time. (I wonder if I was born by then).

The area around that well was our official playground. We had a young elm tree that we bent just right, so we could use it as our hobbyhorse. There were plenty of trees to climb and you could usually find us hanging upside down from a limb or the swing set bar. But we derived most of our pleasure from building roads in the dirt. We were experts at it and whenever a new toy car or garage was purchased with our nickel-a-week allowance, we were out the next morning in the dirt making roads by placing the palms of our hands on the ground and moving through the dust until we’d had a complete miniature highway built.

We were on our hands and knees right in the middle of one of our great interstate constructions when one of us looked up and yelled, “Oh no, here comes Timmy Albino!” Barbara Jean made a quick dash to the house. First of all, if we had any male friends stop by, Bajean wouldn’t be allowed to stay outside and play with them unless they were our cousins Dewey and David R. who would come across the field on a daily basis to play with us and end up chasing us around the house trying to pee on us. They seemed to get a great thrill out of trying to urinate of us, we got to the point where we hated to see them coming across the field as well. (Excuse me, I had to stop and laugh remembering what our mother taught us to call our privates, I was probably married before I found out it wasn’t really called a ‘Ding-Dong’)

After an hour or so of us screaming from one end of the yard to the other, our mother would finally catch wind of what they were attempting to accomplish and send them back across the field.

But the dread of seeing my cousins David and Dewey coming across the field was nothing compared to seeing Timmy A. walk up the road dressed in his full Roy Rogers regalia; cowboy hat, bandanna, checked shirt, holstered six guns, blue jeans, chaps and cowboy boots. David and Dewey only tried to pee on us in fun and were great to play with when that wasn’t on the list of things to do, Timmy was another story. I guess I don’t have to mention that Timmy was white, he was coming to play Cowboys and Indians or good guys and bad guys and I also don’t have to mention that we never got to be the cowboys or the good guys. Raymond and I were his designated Indians and Mom would send us outside to play with him after he stood in the front yard yelling for us to come out for over 15 minutes and it was obvious he wasn’t going to leave. And why should he, he knew we never went anywhere. So off we went to play. Here’s how the dialogue of our play went:

Timmy – “BANG, BANG!! You’re Dead!!”

Either Raymond or I would fall to the ground.

Raymond – “BANG, BANG!! You’re dead, Timmy!”

Timmy –“No, you missed me”.

Raymond –“No I didn’t, I got you

Timmy –“No you didn’t, Bang! You’re dead again Raymond!” Raymond would fall

Stanley – “Bang, I got you Timmy!”

Timmy –“Nope, you missed me, I was ducking behind the tree

Timmy –“BANG! Stanley I got you

Stanley -“Na-uh! You missed me Timmy

Timmy –“No I didn’t, I got you in the arm” – then I’d fall obediently to the ground.

Repeat dialogue fifty times, with Timmy climbing on the chicken shed, jumping from tree limbs, ducking behind the wood pile and him never once getting hit by a bullet, much less getting killed. We’d be falling and dying every time he pointed his gun in our direction. We were the most frustrated gunfighters in the West, but we did our part, we just didn’t enjoy it as much as he did.

Then Timmy would head back home, only to play again tomorrow. Timmy lived on the blacktop (the paved road) most blacks that I knew lived on dirt roads. And the only time we ever saw paved road was during the mile long trip to town. All of “our” roads were dirt and gravel and they were always the last to have snow cleared in winter or the last to be plowed and graveled in the summer. Once or twice we were blessed to have the chain gang go up our road clearing out the ditches and picking up debris. Mom would make us stay inside when that gray bus would drive up, armed guards would have the convicts file off the bus. As they went to work on our roads, we stayed glued to the window and watched in awe while they were out there.

Photo/Coutesy Brown Family Collection
Earlene Brown allows her children to relax between playing Cowboys and Indians with lifelong friend and neighbor, Timmy A.

Timmy was the only kid in the neighborhood who could get away with anything he wanted at our house. If we were caught on top of our shed we knew we’d get skinned alive. Timmy would hide up there and we’d say, “Timmy, we aren’t allowed to play up there” and it was as though no words had come from our mouths. He completely ignored our warnings and our father ignored his complete disregard for the rules that we were bound by. At first I thought it was because he was white and maybe that did have something to do with it. But I also know that my father and his mother were really close friends when they were growing up. My dad would say that Rita would always have her goats following along behind her everywhere she went and you never saw her without them”. So, just maybe his loyalty to his friend Rita was the real reason Timmy could get away with anything he wanted and that’s why we were obligated to be Indians or bad guys to his perpetual good guy/ cowboy. This went on almost everyday during the summer. Timmy was at least six or seven years older than us and we had nothing in common other than our little western gunfights. So when it came time for the annual Fireman’s Carnival and Raymond and I were walking through town to get to the carnival grounds. It was natural that when I saw Timmy walking towards us with a few of his friends that I, being a naive six year old, would ring out with, “Hi Timmy!”. But he didn’t say anything; he just walked right passed us as though we weren’t even there. So, I tried again after he passed by. “Hi Timmy!” still no answer. I turned to my older brother and asked, “Why won’t Timmy speak to us Bay Ray? Didn’t he hear me?”

Raymond just kept walking and looking straight ahead and said, “Because we’re Colored Stanley, that’s all, just because we’re Colored.” As we continued on down the street, I overheard one of the boys ask Timmy, “Do you know them boys?” To that he quickly replied, “Nope, I don’t know who they are.”

And that’s when I first learned what it really meant to be Colored, we were different. I still didn’t know exactly what all it entailed, but one thing I did know is that it didn’t feel good.

Prologue – I saw “Timmy” for the first time in over forty years in August 2003 at my father’s wake. He stopped by to pay his respects, we laughed and talked about old times and he unexpectedly apologized for some of the torment and unfair treatment that he put us through when we were kids. It wasn’t something we needed or felt was necessary, because unfortunately, we are all guilty of childhood pranks and snubs that we feel are required if we are to be accepted by our peers, we do things just to go along with the group. There was never any ill will between us and him and I most sincerely appreciate his gesture of kindness, like they use to say, “that’s just the way things were back then.”– Stan

Country Living

Photo/Courtesy of The Brown Collection
The Brown Home Place – Built in 1952 by Ellsworth Brown.

I think by today’s standards, we may have grown up on a farm. It wasn’t really a farm and we certainly would not have admitted it back then, but the only thing we lacked was a barn and a herd of cows. And all we had to do to find those was cross the road, go between the barbed wire fence that separated our property from our grandparent’s and we would be standing in our grandfather’s cow pasture. It never seemed like a cow pasture like Mr. Penn’s property because there didn’t seem to be the volume of manure everywhere like it was on his land. Grandma and Granddad had a beautiful place, especially in the spring, cool green grass that you could lie down on in the shade and immediately fall asleep. And then there were the orchards, apples, pears, peaches, by the time we came up, most of the trees no longer existed, but there were at least 3 or 4 of each still there and we took advantage of them. I had found a place I kept all to myself up in their woods that had grass surrounded by thickets and once you crawled under those, it opened up into a cool meadow. I had gotten mad at my mother one day, announced I was running away from home, packed a knapsack and spent the better part of a day up in my secluded meadow. Finally, around dinnertime I got hungry and decided that I had punished my parents enough and traipsed back home expecting them to come rushing out of the house glad to see me still alive and well, but no one seemed to notice I’d ever been gone, at least someone learned a lesson that day…

Just up at the top of the hill a bit off from my grandparent’s house was a large barn that we, and the neighborhood kids spent many a summer’s day jumping out of, we jumped out of the hayloft. Well, honestly, I was the only one too small and scared to make the more than ten-foot jump. There was an art to making that leap (the “land with your knees bent, fall forward and roll” technique), but I couldn’t muster up enough nerve to try it. While the older boys (including Baby Ray) were going through the cycle of jumping, falling and rolling, springing to their feet, proclaiming that they hadn’t been hurt, running back into the barn, climbing back up to the loft, then standing around the next jumper, egging him on and expecting that he wouldn’t have the nerve to do it and then starting all over again. Well, while all this was going on, I was usually busy with other more important things like running about, waving my hands and arms frantically in the air trying to keep the barn swallows from attacking me. If you have any experience in barns at all, you’ll know that the swallows are very protective of their young and will attack whenever anything gets within 50 feet on their nest. My grandpa paid absolutely no attention to their mock dive bomb attacks, because he knew it was just for show, very seldom did one swoop down and actually make contact, but for some reason they seemed especially attracted to me and well, “Doink!” right on the noggin… Now my cousin Anna Ruth couldn’t go up to my grandparent’s house, because every time she attempted to make the trip up the hill, she’d get right in the yard and then we’d see her scampering back down the hill as fast as lightening, she’d zing right by our house, not bothering to seek shelter behind us, as we stood outside watching all this transpire and then we found out why she was running so fast, right on her heels came “Shep”, Grandma’s white German Shepard. For some unknown reason, Annie Ruth was not welcomed up there by Shep. The dog loved us, but hated her. We’d end up going to get her and walk her up the hill to keep the dog off her, so she could visit Miss Lula as Anna Ruth called her.

We’d get our butter and milk from the man who lives up at the end of our road, Mr. Bowen. For about 50 cents a week, he’d bring whole milk, butter, buttermilk and even sometimes eggs. Momma would look over the presentation with an experienced eye, deciding what was acceptable and what she wanted to turn down. And then the “Fish Man” came on Fridays, some days the fish was fresher than others, but then there were the times when someone in the neighborhood would buy up a big batch and have a “Fish Fry”. The fish fry was a lot like the “Lawn Parties” we used to have from time to time in our front yard. Music would be blaring, there was food for everyone. Lawn parties were free; usually fish fries meant someone was trying to raise money, because you had to pay for the fish sandwiches. They don’t have those kinds of neighborhood parties around here anymore, I don’t know if they have then anywhere anymore.

Photo/Courtesy of The Brown Collection
We had pigs and chickens… we had a farm.

Except for a barn and cattle we had all the trappings of a working farm. Of course there were chickens, pigs, one or two vegetable gardens and most times there was a dog somewhere under foot. Our father would buy about 50 chicks in the spring along with several piglets and we’d raise them. We kept the pigs through the summer and fall months until “hog killin’ time”. The chickens roosted in one half of the shed and in the mornings we’d go out and collect the eggs that had been laid over night, clean them and place them in the refrigerator for breakfast the next day. The other half of the shed was where we stored our canned vegetables and cured meats, anything from the garden that didn’t get canned would end up in the freezer on the back porch. The pigs had to be fattened up for the fall slaughter so we took turns slopping the hogs. This was a task that we all dreaded, but it had to be done. We kept a big five gallon bucket on the porch and whatever did not get eaten from the dinner table was scraped into this bucket and saved for the hogs to eat (we kept this bucket covered). The pigs were fed twice or three times a day. We gave them corn and grain feed for breakfast and “ze feast de resistance”, a good slopping in the evening. That full 5 gallon bucket was no treat to carry and deciding whose turn it was to slop the hogs was a big sticking point each day. But we took our turn because we knew we’d be rewarded later in the fall for all our hard work. Unfortunately for us (me and Raymond), at some point in their lives the male pigs came of age and something not unlike a bar mitzvah was held for them, only without the pomp and circumstance. There was something about the testicles, which if allowed to remain with the pig, would make the meat taste pungent and (for lack of a better word) “pissy”. So, we had to hold the hog while my father removed his testicles. As little piggy was busy chomping away at the trough (for this he got the best meal having no money could buy), and while his mind was a million miles away, I grabbed hold of him around the neck and then dad went behind him, sprayed some disinfectant on his privates, took out the razor he’d probably used that morning to shave with and sliced and diced until the sack was devoid of any notables. The pig jumped and squealed for about 5 seconds, my father sprayed something either to numb or to keep the infection out and before you knew it the pig seemed to have forgotten that he was now somewhat less of a male than when he began his day. I really can’t tell you what happened to his “family jewels”, but let’s just say it was snack time for his little brothers and sisters who eagerly watched the ceremony from the confines of the main pen.

Now feeding the chickens was no easy task either, there was always at least one ‘Banty’ (Bantam) Rooster that was just as mean as could be and the moment one of us stepped out into the backyard we’d get chased around in circles, yelling and screaming at the top of our lungs. Once or twice we had some that were so bad that they would jump up on your back and commence to pecking you on the back of your head and wouldn’t get off until someone came out to the rescue. Oh, but we got even, whenever mom decided to have chicken for dinner, we were the ones who helped her pick out which one would be served up. And as soon as mom said he was big enough, we would choose the one that gave us the most trouble out in the yard. The rooster didn’t often get the blade, but if one got too tough to handle because of the constant attacks on the kids, then it was ‘bye-bye birdie’ for him. But picking him out was the easy part, someone had to chase him down and hold him. Usually it was mom who finally caught up with it and it was mom with the axe. We had a chopping block always at the ready whenever an execution had to be performed. We anxiously stood waiting for what we knew would be the grand finale. With the disapproving chicken in one hand and the axe in the other, momma would lay the chicken across the chopping block and with one good WHACK! “Off with his head!” and then she’d let him go because he wasn’t dead yet. That chicken would take off running around the yard, bumping into things and the three or four of us would take off trying to run away from the headless chicken to get the thrill of being chased by him one last time. Then Mom would grab a foot tub (not the same tub we took our Saturday night baths in, mind you) and put on some scolding hot water for the de-feathering and cleaning that was about to take place. As time went on and our household continued to grow, we would have to kill two chickens for a single dinner setting. Somebody once said, “Colonel Sanders might kill more chickens in a day, but Earlene Brown can catch’em quicker” …Okay nobody said that, but she was fast out there, chasing after them yard bird. They don’t raise anymore chicks at the house, now when I go visit there is only a yard full of cats. Mom doesn’t cook as often as she used to, so I don’t question where the meat comes from when she does decide to cook a meal, but you know what they say: “M-m-m-m, taste just like chicken”.