Wed | Jun 28, 2017

Labor Day Heat

Published:Sunday | September 7, 2014 | 9:00 AM

Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn, Contributor

September 1, 2014

Dear Mama:

Is Labour Day weekend up here in America an' is nuff excitement 'bout di place. Me sidung pon me stoop an' watch di people dem go by - one by one an' two by two like high-stepping hen let out ah coop - dem clothes an' hair powder up like dem did get stuck inna Jamaica Flour Mills weh Auntie Bridgette used to work an' come home looking like Santa Claus. People from all ovah di West Indies ah represent dem country big, big wid dem flag. Everyweh yuh look is a flag. Yuh know Jamaica inna di mix too. Our black, green, an' gold ah run di place.

Even people weh nuh Jamaicans ah hol' up Jamaican flag. Me did see two white man - (even if dem was white Jamaicans, wouldn't mek ah difference) - wid we flag ah wave like seh dem was 'dere before dem grand-daddy, Columbus came. Or dem great-great-gran' uncle dem weh used to ovah-see di sugar plantation dem, like dem ovah-see di black 'ooman slaves, impregnate dem, give us hoity-toity concubines, then lef' us in di heat. Kiss me neck, Mama! Me neva know seh we so big abroad.

Then dere's di masqueraders. Mama, yuh shoulda see how some ah di 'ooman dem big an' fat an' have di audacity fi mek dem gut an' bottom hang out. Have mercy! Might as well dem did walk di street naked. Yuh woulda t'ink seh ah yaad dem deh - wid dem short shorts, cut-out blouse, an' whole heap ah feather-feather dat mek dem look like parrot. An' mama yuh shoulda see how dem dance pon Eastern Parkway as if dem nuh 'fraid white people tek dem fi ragamuffin or poppyshow - as if di pride dem show fi dem country was in dem groin an' waist-line, an' was always dere before dem touch America.

We all know seh we is like runaway slaves weh jump ship fi escape di fire - di boiling heat weh mek it feel like we skin done melt. 'cause you an' I both know, Mama, seh we skin was nuttin' but fuel fi di ruling class fire, an' dat we always had a place in di oven as black people. As long as when di puddin' done bake, an' di icing done cover it, dem can tek credit an' eat we alive.

Suh now when me see di joy inna di people black faces when dem hear dem island music, smell dem island food, see one another from dem island hometown, an' feel di hot, hot sun weh remind dem ah dem island oven, me know dat dem heart really heavy; but di base ah di music mek dem foot light.

Me nuh carry me self suh Ma'tall, a'tall, Mama. Me heart heavy too, especially since me can't get fi see Trudy grow unless dem deport me back to dat place wid no opportunity fah people like we. But no amount ah jumpin' up, glittery costume, an' music pon Eastern Parkway can mek me let go suh. Me know how fi walk good inna white people country suh dat dem can't say me nuh have home training. Me haffi remembah seh me is jus' a guest here. Ah illegal guest. A good guest 'ave manners an' stick to di rules of di master's house. Dat way dem wouldn't 'ave reason fi kick me out. Me neva mention earlier how much police was at di parade ah watch like john crow inna coconut tree, awaiting death. Though is not like seh we did free in our own land fi gallang like wild beast. Di blacker we skin, di harder we haffi work fi respec'.

Me did only break one rule, Mama. Me did stop pon di side ah di road an' buy jerk chicken. Me couldn't resist di smell. Everyweh yuh look, yuh see an' smell jerk. What ah t'ing eeh, mama. Even our food dem have pon display. Ah five dolla me pay fi one likkle piece ah chicken cut up inna parts. If me did know how expensive it was, me woulda cook me own. An' dat way, dese big an' fat half-naked people wouldn't be suh big wid di American food dem nyam. Next year, ah gwan come out here fi sell an' mek money. Time fi dem taste real Jamaican jerk chicken. Your recipe, Mama.

Yuh only dawta,

Patsy.