The 9 Lives of Oliver 6: HE GOTTA HAVE IT

As a child of Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne, Bill Cosby, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stephanie Mills, Prince, The Hawkins Family, Teddy Pendergrass, The Clark Sisters, James Ingram, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Trent D’Arby, Janet Jackson and Gene Anthony Ray, I decided I wanted to be a star.

By the time I graduated high school I’d lived in two apartments of just us, the various homes of family and friends, attended four elementary schools, two high schools, worked six p/t jobs, and lived with two foster families by the time I was 18. I’d moved away from Moms, lost my virginity, explored sexuality, sang solos in youth choir, left the church, attended Upward Bound, traveled to Canada, began paying for my own food and rent, and was on my way to college.

Going off to college was my idea, although Ms. Eunice and her kids heavily encouraged me. My birth family never talked about college; only the rapture. I guess they had their own reasons for rushing to leave this Earth. Sista Moms thought the idea of me going to college was not of God. I knew there must be more to life than waiting for the world to end. My visions were focused on an evolving new world.

In the late 80’s, Spike Lee was an up-and-coming filmmaker who’d graduated from Morehouse College. Bill Cosby’s only son went to Morehouse. Martin Luther King, Jr., too. At the time, no one filmed people of color as beautifully and honestly as Spike Lee. He was my filmmaker idol. He was making a name for himself in film. His shot perspectives, and his social commentary had my generation of young higher consciousness seekers lining up for goo-gabs of more. I just didn’t know how to get to where he’d been.

By the time ‘School Daze’ was released, I knew I was headed to Atlanta, Ga. for college. My father was native to Savannah. Although I’d attended a college prep summer program, I was not prepared to enter school without real family or friends for support. Anxiety kept me in my room for the first three days, with no cafeteria visits, or showering. Freshman arrived with their shiny new clothes, and bags. Grandparents, parents, and siblings laughed-giggled-and-cried, as they dropped students off for their college adventure. There were too many people and voices – my mind swirled with empathetic excitement. What had I gotten myself into? Maybe, Moms was right. The ridiculing voices in my head said I would never succeed. 

Most of my high school friends traveled to Virginia, or Washington for college. The legacy of Blacks from the South; the growing expression of a Black consciousness or ‘Self-Destruction’ movement; and the desire to see myself grow beyond the critical gaze of my small hometown – opened me to the A-T-L.

I didn’t grow up with dreams of Ivy League schools, although I knew I would be great. Sista Moms felt the best education was a spiritual one. She taught me to spell my name way before the other kids. She helped me up until about third grade. She, herself, dropped out in high school. Moms valued the “coming back of Christ” over career concerns, or “Man’s Science.” Matters of the prophet’s soul are priority over profit sold.

Two years prior, I moved back to my hometown and switched to HackenSaturn HS for 10th grade. It was supposed to be wonderful. My sister Vonetta extended an invitation for me to live with her, if ever I needed it. I could get a job and live more independently. We’d agreed during times when I was frustrated with always moving around with Moms. Moms joked about us being God’s vagabonds, ministering to the needy. Strangely, it felt like we’re the ones always in need.

I knew my mother cared for me. I respected her. My 15 year-old self just had a voice that she kept implying was not of God. There was a disconnect around practical needs. To be fair, single parenting is a Samsonian feat for anyone working part-time as a domestic worker. She got the lion share of the responsibility because she stayed. She was always there for prayer and spiritual guidance. For healthy meals. For loving hugs. With wise counsel, she usually had the sweetest way of comforting me with scripture, when she was in the right mood. Then, at times, she was just someone else. Unavailable and unwilling. We couldn’t just talk about life w/o her reciting a Bible verse, or invoking the name of the Lord.

Moms just didn’t get that I was a growing young man, attending high school, and I needed more material things for that. Clothes that fit. An adult to pay attention, and a stable place to live. Friends, even? Surprisingly, she let me go roller-skating more often on weekends, and was less strict on a nightly curfew. Perhaps, she DID get it, and was playing the long game. Over time, all her guidance has been LIFESAVING.

Divina did her best as an abandoned, single Black mom with a GED in the 1970’s and 80’s. She supported me through domestic work and the kindness of our community. I probably was not kind enough to her in my teenage angst. I love her deeply. Based on the stories I’d heard all my childhood, she had already ‘lost’ my half-sisters to their dad. I always knew that I had to be prepared and strong enough to take care of myself early, just in case. Nevertheless, the few short foundational years of care, love and wisdom given from Sista Davina Moms Sixx covers me for a lifetime.

Intellectual property of ML. King, House of Aleijuan, all rights reserved, 2019


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