“I’m giving you some slack. But I want that story by noon sharp,” David said.
“Noon it’ll be. Not a minute later,” I said, mocking Mr. Wilson Jr.’s tone of voice, with sniffles and all.
“Richard Pryor you’re not,” David said, his eyes fixed on me. I hated when he did that. Although he was slightly cock-eyed, he seemed to be trying to look straight through me. I felt like crystal. “I saw the home shots. Nice family.”
“Everything’s nice about it. Nice family, nice job, nice lady. All this niceness puts me in a diabetic coma. Our readers are next.”
“You’re missing the point, Pierce,” David said, leaning over me at my desk, giving me that look again. His generously applied expensive cologne was almost overpowering because he only inches away. I leaned back in my chair. He was a tall, lean man. About my size but a couple of inches taller. Even with the cockeye, women who didn’t know better found him attractive.
“The point is that a very nice, very ordinary Black woman has worked her way to a very important position where she can not only witness corporate power but influence it. If you learn only one thing from working on this story, make it this: ‘Secretaries are the keepers of the gate to power.’ If you’re trying to get in touch with The Man, they can help you or hinder you,” David paused motioning toward Barbara with a slight smile on his face. “Besides, the story is just three lousy double-spaced pages long.”
He was right, of course. I began typing. At that moment, I wanted to leap up and give David a high five. Sometimes he could be so helpful and then at other times he was, as Eddie Redmond described him, “the Wicked Witch of the Rest.” But, as much of a dickhead as Dave could be, he came off as the Black Knight when compared to Sam.
A few years earlier, Raven ran an autobiographical feature on Samuele Girma’s life. He was the mulatto offspring of an Ethiopian warlord who had hopped a steamer up the Suez Canal for Italy where he went to study civil engineering in Rome. His mother, Juliana Principe, was the mistress of one of Mussolini’s most prominent and powerful Representatives of the Confederazione Generale delle Corporazioni until she met Girmaye Teklehaimanot. To the shock of Italian society, the two married. Girmaye and his Italian bride moved back to his native Ethiopia in the Trigray region in the city of Axum.
When Samuele was eight, the Italian army invaded Ethiopia. Two years later, in 1936, one of the sacred, 1000-year-old Axum Obelisks was taken in ruins from Ethiopia to Italy. The 180-ton, 74-foot-tall funerary monument was reassembled and still graces Rome’s Piazza di Porta Capena today. Weeks after the Italian army transported the Obelisk out of Ethiopia, an irate Girmaye sought revenge.
During one of the Italian Army’s frequent military “show of might” parades in Axum, Girmaye charged the review stand, on a suicide mission, shouting a Tigrean war cry. Right after he pulled the pin on the grenade he held in his hand, he grabbed Mussolini’s top general in a bear hug. Both men died on the spot. Girmaye became a martyr in Axum. Juliana took her son back to Rome where they remained throughout War World II. They were about as welcome as a canker sore on the lip of a beauty queen.
Beyond the stigma of being a widow and an only son of an infamous assassin, Samuele had to live with the racism in fascist Italy. The natives had never gotten over being conquered by the Moors in the Middle Ages. Nearly half a century later, they were still outraged at the Italian Army’s defeat in an attempted invasion of Ethiopia in 1890. They carried, what for some, was an understandable hatred for Africans. Sicilians, who routinely denied they had Black blood deeply embedded in their veins, were particularly vehement. So, Samuele had grown up being taunted as “the poor Moor.” In his late teens, he left Italy for the states, settling in Chicago.
After a few years and a lot of hard work, his English was fluent with a barely detectable accent. He studied journalism at Roosevelt University and right out of college landed a job at WIPE. After a brief stint at Hep, he was transferred to Raven where he worked his way up. By natural disposition, Samuele Girma was sour. He seldom smiled or joked. He was generally inflexible. He was good at making sure all deadlines were met. Behind his back, we called him “the Moor Fascist.”