There was a silence among the group of 20 for about 10 seconds. “This ain’t about that. This is about power and power only comes from the barrel of a gun,” Steve shouted, waving two of his pieces in the air again. “Power to the People.”
After about 35 minutes more of heated debate, a mandate was hammered out. All the leaders of the Black Student Union were to try to get hold of some firepower. Those able to get arms would lead the rest of the student protesters into the meeting.
“We need a list of 10 non-negotiable demands,” Reginald 23X pointed out.
It took nearly two more hours of impassioned arguments before agreement was reached on the 10 demands. During the entire time, I stayed silent. Listening but not offering any of my opposing opinions. I drifted in and out of the meeting. I called my lady, Allison, at our crib in the Heights, to tell her it’d be a while before I got home because of this meeting that was a drag. I called Penny, this grey chick who had left no doubt that the answer wouldn’t be no, to tell her I might drop by in an hour or so.
I got back just in time to hear the quarrel over whether non-negotiable demand Number Five should be that a statue of Nat Turner be erected in the center of the campus circle. I started writing a couple of poems for the BSU talent show I was performing in the following Saturday night. I thought of my poems then as works that Imamu Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) would have written if he were younger or the Last Poets would have performed if they were a one-man stand. I tuned in long enough to take in a few of the arguments for non-negotiable demand Number Nine--that a “Black House” be set up on campus for Black students who didn’t want to suffer the indignity of living among racist white students. Then my thoughts drifted off again. I daydreamed about becoming a famous writer as the drone of the going-to-be revolution ran on. Finally, the list was done. I reluctantly signed on.
I just wanted to get out of there and into Penny.
Nine days after homecoming weekend, six days after our BSU meeting, the poplar and oak trees were sporting colorful leaves. The mums were in peak bloom. Sparrows and Warblers were chirping while gathering for a Southern migration. Great puffs of cumulus clouds drifted lazily to the northeast, randomly filtering the sun. It was cool in the shade. A warm autumn breeze rolled over the manicured green meadow in the PSU quadrangle. Forty-minutes after the benefactors’ meeting began at William H. McCardle Hall in the Melville W. Fuller Law School building, we marched in to announce we were taking over. No one would be allowed to leave until our list of 10 Non-Negotiable Demands was met. Steve, Sam, Busta and three other brothers came packing pistols and hoisting rifles. Chanting, “Bang. Bang. Beep. Beep. Ngowah. Black powah!” the rest of us four score or so Black students came to back them up.
When we busted into the room, I was amazed at how quickly the white men grew whiter. All the blood flushed from their faces. The chancellor, who was speaking at the time, stuttered and stammered. He demanded to know the meaning of this outrage, this travesty. I wasn’t in the room 30 seconds before I caught sight of Bob Madden seated on the front row facing the podium. Bob was my boss at the Pullman State University Information Agency's News Center. He was an okay boss. It was a good gig. It paid for my tuition, my rent and gas for my ride. It paid for my food and my high.
I couldn’t afford to lose it.
I panicked, bumping into several Black students advancing into the room as I rapidly retreated. Jammin Sam’s scowl became a full court press on the back of my neck. I was greeted by inquisitive glares from my brothers and sisters filing in as I raced out. Carla Graham, a sister I was thisclose to pulling, who was sometimes my partner during our Bid Whist games in the student union, smiled. “Wrong way, Trotsky,” she half-teased.
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