From The Integrator, 1968.
I picture Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles, through the stories my mom’s told me. Wealthy and multiracial, with black and white and Chinese families living together. An uneasy harmony in 1968. My mom took me to the home she lived in, the backyard perched high above the LA landscape, where you can see the San Gabriel mountains to the Pacific coast. She showed me her bedroom and the long hallway that led to her parents’ room. There’s a black and gold marbled bathroom, and an old fire stove in the kitchen where my mom turned to me and said, “this is where my mother tried to stab me.”
How do I collect all the pieces of my grandmother?
She was the editor of a magazine called The Integrator. She was ahead of her time. She was beautiful and crazy. People say I look like her.
The magazine is the closest I’ll ever get to hearing her speak. But over her voice is the laughter of those she is speaking to. The snarks and chuckles as one by one, they all leave their homes for whiter communities. As school integration disintegrates, leaving us back to where we first started. As the threat of black separatists loom large in the American consciousness until the leaders are assassinated and we are told to move on.
We are always told to move on. To start over, again and again.
I look at my grandmother’s words and I see that we are always at the turning point of something.
But we are just turning in circles.
“Looping” as my mother calls it, over the same pain.
Hoping that this time,
this time they may just get it.
It’s enough to make anyone crazy, I think.