Posts Tagged ‘Chantelle’

Here’s Chapter 3 of the book. I hope you are enjoying what you’ve read and will come over and read the rest of the story. I’m up to Chapter 15 and it’s going quite well.

Judge Robert Ulysses James leaned back in his chair behind his desk. His middle name was in honor of Ulysses S. Grant, whom his mother and grandmother considered a saint. This was carved in stone on his mother’s side of the family. Robert had been told the story of his family being former slaves at least a thousand times during his childhood. They would have named his brother Abraham if he had had one. He was the only child and felt that their heritage now rested on his shoulders. He often wished he had a sibling to help share the burden, but he accepted his fate gladly.

He was in his chambers and relaxing after a short lunch and getting ready to go back into his courtroom. His courtroom. Even after all these years on the bench, the thought of having his own courtroom still seemed a tad unreal, as if it was all a joke and soon someone would walk in and tell him so. That was nonsense. He knew that. But he always had that stray thought in the back of his mind. It never left him and never would. It kept him honest and on his toes. Every day was another day that he worked to fulfill his promise to himself to make things right, to better the condition of his fellow African-Americans and everyone else, and to never forget where he came from.

His was not the usual and often used cliche of a poor black child growing up in poverty without a father. That stereotype bothered him more than the “Amos and Andy” or “Super Fly” droll that passed as fact amongst most people, black and white alike, as the usual life of a black man in America.

He was familiar with the “Shuck ‘n Jive” routine of his ancestors and friends growing up in Oakland. To downplay it whilst being hassled by a white police officer was the best way to go. Not necessarily being stupid, but acting it. Keep your mouth shut, nod your head, offer no resistance, and he could usually walk away unscathed. Well, unscathed physically but not emotionally. It did no good to get upset. It was best to agree, be courteous, and offer no information unless asked. The few times he was stopped for being in the wrong part of Oakland, he would politely hand over his ID, mention his father’s name and wait. Always with a smile and always with patience while the officers checked and then double-checked his ID, asking questions and trying to trip him up. He learned to give quick and concise answers and to not elaborate. That lesson served him well as an attorney and later as a judge. “Rule your life with intelligence and not emotion” was his motto.

The officers were always surprised to learn who his father was. Robert did not fit the stereotype “Negro” of most bigots. He came from a good family, his father was a well known and respected attorney in San Francisco for a prestigious law firm, made good money and lived in Piedmont, the nicest area in Oakland. They owned their home, drove nice cars, kept the yard clean and tidy, and ate food other than fried chicken and watermelon.  He spoke proper English and his mother was constantly correcting his grammar. Any type of street or ghetto talk was not allowed. He was taught to speak properly, enunciate his words, and to hold his head up high.

Robert learned of racism not from his family but from simply walking down the streets of Oakland as a young child. He was aware of the different colors of people, but he was born in 1945 when Oakland was a place for hard working people who were harmonious with each other. Racial tension was rare.

Founded in 1852, Oakland quickly expanded due to the railroads. In 1906, the number of refugees and homeless people doubled as they made their way from San Francisco after the devastating earthquake. General Motor’s opened a plant in 1916, followed by Chrysler in 1929. Oakland soon became home of many manufacturing plants, canneries, metal factories, bakeries, manufacturer of the internal combustion engine, cars, and ship building. It was known as the “Detroit of the West.” It was prosperous and expanding. After WWII started, thousands of poor and rural African-Americans migrated from the Deep South to work in the shipyards.

After WWII, the black population began to expand as the shipping and automotive industries disappeared. Harmonious and prosperous before the war, by the 1950’s, the population was becoming poorer and poorer. Between 1950 and 1960, 100,000 property owners left to live further north. It was known as the “White Flight.”

The Oakland police began to heavily recruit white officers from the Deep South in order to respond to the increasing population of the African-Americans. The stage was set for racial tensions and was escalated by the brutality that the blacks were dealt with. False arrests, planted evidence, excessive force, and falsified police documents became the norm rather than the unusual.

In 1966, there were 16 black officers and 661 white officers. “The Black Panther Party for Self-defense” was formed. They followed white officers on their rounds, documenting their actions and openly carrying guns. By 1970, gang controlled dealing of heroin and cocaine caused the murder rate of Oakland to be at least twice that of New York city or San Francisco.

On one spring morning as Robert played basketball with Jerome, they stopped as the cop car parked and two white officers approached them. They asked them the usual questions of who they were and what they were doing.

“Why are you asking us that?” Jerome asked. He was a foot taller than the two officers and was as lean and strong as Robert. At 16, they were immortal, young, and healthy.

One of the officers sneered at him. “It’s not your place to ask us any questions, boy,” he said. Robert felt Jerome’s hackles rise. He gently put his hand on Jerome’s arm to calm him down. Jerome pushed his hand away and stepped closer to the officer. Robert’s stomach tightened.

For the rest of the story, go here:

My Name Is Chantelle

 

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If you’ve followed this blog for a few years, then you’ve read many of my stories about the battered women and convicted felons I’ve worked with. I am now writing the book I promised them, many years ago. The book is about Chantelle and myself, and how our two opposite lives came together one day and how we helped each other. I hope you will join me and cheer me on and support me as I write this.

She sat on the edge of her bunk, eyes closed and reminding herself to breathe. She breathed through her mouth because her cell smelled of urine and hot dogs. They must have been serving hot dogs and beans again, along with a piece of bread and cold coffee. Her lips were swollen and her head hurt where she had slammed it on the dashboard of the car the night before. She hung her head down and tried to block out the sounds. The constant talking and clanking and yelling of the people in the ward never stopped. Her cell mate was snoring soundly with her back turned towards her. She was huge and her orange jumpsuit barely contained her massive ass and thighs. The fabric was stretched thin against her back and she could see the outline of the woman’s bra.  The cell mate arrived yesterday and immediately wanted to chat with her. She asked her her name.

“Jane. My name is Jane,” she replied. Jane seemed like a good name to use. It was the name first given to her as an infant and her head hurt too much to be clever or witty. Jane was her fallback name. It came out of her mouth effortlessly.

“Hi Jane, nice to meet you. What they got you in here for? Oh, my name’s Clarice,” she said and extended her large and black hand towards her. Jane remained seated as she stuck out her hand and gave it a limp shake. She didn’t like being touched but it seemed easier to shake hands rather than explain it. Clarice looked at her for a moment and then sat down on the bunk across from her.

“Is that your bunk?” she asked Jane. “I hope it’s OK for me to take this one…”

“It’s fine. I’ve been the only one in here today,” she said. Why was it people could never take the hint when you didn’t want to talk? Jane was tired of talking and explaining herself. It seemed like people had an urge to tell you all about themselves, when in fact, no one gave a fuck. Maybe they just liked to hear themselves talk. Maybe it made them feel important or at least alive. Jane didn’t know and didn’t care. She leaned back and stretched out on her bunk and stared at the stained mattress above her.

The place was dingy, but that was to be expected. It’s not like this was a 5 star hotel. It wasn’t even a 1 star hotel. It was the County Jail and she was being housed, fed, and clothed on the taxpayer’s dollar. She knew that because she had been reminded of it her entire life.

“Oh is that right? Well it’s nice to meet you,” Clarice said and sat down. She looked around but there wasn’t much to see. Two bunk beds and a toilet in-between them. Concrete floors and walls and bars across the front, which looked across to another cell. They were in Ward C. The hallway was long with 30 cells built-in. All of them were full. This was where they brought everyone and stored them, to be sorted out later. Jane couldn’t count the number of times she had been placed here. Four? Or maybe five? It didn’t matter, she knew the routine.

She’d go up before a judge, be assigned a public defender, and plead innocent. This would annoy the judge, but a court date would be set. She’d not be able to make bail because no way Razor had the money to bail her out. He hadn’t done that the last time or two. She was getting older but not too old to keep working. Razor had other younger and prettier girls he would take care of before her. If he bailed her out, great. If not, she was prepared to do her sentence again and wait it out. At least this way, she had a place to sleep and food during the day. It was boring as shit, but it was better than being out in the cold. December was a horrible time to be a whore. Trying to look enticing without freezing to death was impossible. She had her regular customers, but they were home with their beautiful wives and adorable children for the holidays in their warm houses with wonderful food on the table. She imagined their homes as she lay there, listening to Clarice prattle on.

For the rest of chapter, and to follow along as the book is published, go to: https://www.patreon.com/SusanLewis?ty=h