Thursday, July 5, 2007

THE INFAMOUS WATERMELON BLOG


PREFACE

Below is the long long awaited WATERMELON blog. Exactly a year ago today, an awe inspiring and life changing incident happened to me. For a variety of reason this blog was never published, I had an opportunity to have the article published, but just wasn't 100% satisfied with the product I had produced and felt it was too important an issue to be written badly or done half assly. One of my biggest issues was the struggle of trying to figure out the direction and style I should take with the text. Whether I should write it as an editorial, with it taking on my perspective and point of view as the biased writer and participant to push the conversation and public opinion in the direction I felt the populous should have with conclusions and analyst or a journalistic approach, strictly fact based to allow for discussions based solely on the facts of the occurrence and on the readers varied views. With no clear answer, I decided to shelve it. Yes! Yes! Yes! I know and agree with you "Doing nothing about a problem means you’re just as responsible for it". I feel that my actions in my community prove that I'm pro-active, just that in this one case I decided to not take the shot. However, my close friends have heard the story and passed it on to all their friends and so on and so on and so on, to the point that's it's become a mythical urban legend that's grown to have a life of its own. This incident that happened a year ago yet as late as last Sunday someone whom I've never met or even to this moment truly figured out the six degrees that connects us approached me at my usual watering hole and asked "Aren't you the guy who wrote the watermelon blog?" It shocked me, but it has happened so many times over the course of the past year that it's actually grown into a big inside joke amongst all my friends "The greatest blog never written" as they, my friends, have come to refer to it as. I would in nnnooo way go that far, but I will say it's something that needs to be seen and discussed. This is where you come in, it's a year to the day and I'm giving you the product uncut and raw, take it, use it, and pass it on.


CHAPTER ONE OF ONE


It took a few days for me to truly wrap my brain around the cumbersome event that I witnessed on the evening of Wednesday July 5th 2006, just a few blocks from my apartment in Brooklyn.


A friend and I were walking up Flatbush Avenue towards Church Avenue, which is one of the busiest and densely black populated areas in New York City. As we proceeded, I saw what I believed at the time was a delusional mirage. Head tilting and neck stretching, I checked my vision for accuracy; before me were15-20 blond haired, blue eyed, white missionaries clad in red stenciled t-shirts, denim shorts and flip-flops, singing “Negro Spirituals” to acoustic guitars, as they vigorously attempted to convert the heathens of East Flatbush. This was truly one of the last signs of the impending apocalyptic prophesy – the gentrification of East Flatbush (the first being that I am able to get sushi delivered to my apartment).

However, the aforementioned scenery wasn't the complete reason for my amazement and awe. Further examination revealed a petit, 5'1" white woman holding a colossal tray filled to capacity, without enough space for even a grain of sand to nestle. In her small porcelain pink and white hands, she carried this huge tray filled to the edges with none other than, wait for it—WATERMELON! Yes watermelon. This white missionary vigorously distributed liberally proportioned slices of watermelon to a massive group of congregated black people at the corner of Church and Flatbush Avenues in front of the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church.

"WOULD YOU LIKE SOME JUICY WATERMELON? HOW ABOUT YOU, WOULD YOU LIKE TO TRY SOME OF THIS WATERMEOLON?" she eagerly sang to the crowd.

When she turned to me and offered me a piece of fruit, I stood there dumbfounded as I tried with earnest to catch my breath and regain my composure; My jaw dropped and hit the pavement, but not one word could escape my mouth. I had to take a moment so that I would not verbalize my unedited thoughts. Unconsciously, my hand flew to my mouth and covered it as droves of black men, women, and children, like a scene from a third world country, extended their hands, like beggars, pushing and shoving, clawing and grabbing at the tray to help themselves to the watermelon. Behind the missionaries were two more large watermelons perched on a table waiting to be cut up and passed on to the masses.

After my heart settled from whence it came, I declined the offer in the most professional and amicable tone that I could have conjured for such an awkward moment. I then asked her if I could take a picture. "Sure,” she said. “If you try my watermelon," she continued with a blind smile. Again I declined, “That’s not happenin’. But I would still like to take the picture." She agreed.


YES THERE ARE PICTURE, BECAUSE WITHOUT THEM I WOULDN'T HAVE BELIEVED THIS STORY MYSELF. UNFORTUNATELY, THE BEST PIC OF HER LEANING THE TRAY FORWARD IN AN ATTEMPT TO ENTICE ME TO TRY THE WATERMELLON WITH THE BIGGEST SMILE LOOKING LIKE A BLEACHED SKINNED MAMMY PHOTO WAS ACCIDENTLY DELETED IN MY MOMENT OF PURE SHOCK AND BAFFLEMENT.


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At this point, my friend grabbed my upper arm and led me away. I have been accused of being hypersensitive. Of being easily agitated. Of overreacting in the past. So to make sure this wasn't one of those moments, I presented the scenario to a black Caribbean man, the manager of a store across the street from the church. He looked at me dead in my face and uttered the following word with precision and clarity as if to spell it. “Liar,” he said as he emphasized each syllable in a serious playful laughter as if I were crazy. I looked at him; once again, I felt my stomach releasing its contents in my mouth. This man with a bold straight face called a potential customer a stone faced liar. I anticipated that reaction so I produced the photos for him to see. And he too lost his insides. To verify what he had seen, he called his employees to bear witness. Like a perennial synchronized swan song, they posed the question that has been asked by those to whom I've told this tale "WHERE WAS THE FRIED CHICKEN?!?!?!?!"

The remark and reaction vindicated me in my emotion and I was ready to step out in a state of righteous indignation. My friend attempted to grab and warn me of my temper and possible inpending incarceration. What was I to do? I was not built to simply avert my eyes and walk away. We went back to the church. By this time, a mullato girl who was closer to being albino with a bit of kink in her hair was given the task of holding the tray of watermelon to entice the masses.

NOW I KNOW THIS SHIT IS REALLY FUCKED UP! BECAUSE YOU REALIZED FROM MY FIRST PASSING HOW CRAZY AN IMAGE IT WAS. SO THEY HAD THE GIRL WITH A DROPLET OF BLACK TAKE OVER AS IF THAT WOULD MAKE THINGS ANY BETTER.

This new episode enraged me like nothing else; but I was well aware of the circumstances, the possible perception of the situation and the expectations of the observers. I nonchalantly approached the little smiling white woman with an inviting smile and calm demeanor. I remained consciously cautious of any possible misinterpretation of my body language and controlled the habit of moving my hands and torso in anger.

“May I ask you a question?" I asked. Still aware of and conscious of my body.

"Sure." Smiled as if I had returned for a chunk of the triangular piece of melon.

"Don't you believe that it's culturally insensitive for a group of white missionaries and yourself, also a white woman, to stand on the corner of Church and Flatbush, a predominantly black neighborhood and pass out watermelon?" Seeking answer.

The gate to the church courtyard swung open and the missionaries were ushered back into the walls of their sanctuary like little children at the sound of a school bell. The only black organizer, a woman with a worried frown, walked over and from a distance gave me a stern look of disapproval. She tried but failed to coax the white woman back inside. To the white woman’s credit, she truly believed she had a soul to reach.

"Well…” Ready to defend her righteousness. “I saw Latinos passing too."

"Oh my God. Please don't do that." Begging for some sense of decency.

"Did I offend you?" Seeming unaware of her actions.

"I wouldn't be here if you didn't." Reassuring discontentment.

"We didn't mean to offend anyone.” Apologetic. “I don't see what was wrong with us giving watermelon out." Clearly oblivious of history.

"It's a hot summers day, and I like to eat watermelon on days like this. So why not share the watermelon with everyone?"

We were standing on the steps of one of the oldest Dutch churches in America, which has its own twisted history. It was a terrifyingly hot evening. A slew of shoppers, like a swarm of bees, rammed into us as they rushed to get to the stores before they closed. In the middle of the conversation, a Caribbean man, probably in his forties, sat in his overalls and company hat along with a friend who was dressed the same. They got up and each one took a SECOND piece of watermelon. They devoured their prize. Now take a minute and picture this: watermelon is not a neatly eaten fruit. The first man, with a full slice of watermelon in his left hand, dived back into the half eaten piece in his right hand, while the juices gushed down either side of his mouth as he spit the seeds upon the sidewalk. It was with this image of the minstrel man that I lost it in the most calm of ways for myself.

Clearly frustrated, I screamed, “STOP EATING THE WATERMELON! LOOK AT THE IMAGE YOU’RE CREATING!”

To which he responded in a voice laced with the accent of his native Jamaica, “Mon, just eat deh whatahmelon. It’s gourd.” He chuckled.

The white woman that I clearly towered over released a grim smile of approval.

"You have to know this image holds terrible social and historical stereotypically negative connotation associated with us as a race. And you truly don't see what's wrong with it?" I asked her

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The token black organizer interrupted again in an attempt to usher the white woman back inside without ever taking one step towards us. I asked her to join the conversation seeing as it involved her just as much if not more. My invitation went unheard. The white woman, with a jovial smile apologized and claimed that it wouldn't happen again. She then went back into the fold and the big black gates slammed behind her as if five hundred years of history did not matter.

PLEASE LEAVE COMMENTS HERE IF YOU HAVE THEM, WOULD LOVE TO READ WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY.

GVG
~we're the warriors they write epics about~

8 comments:

Bitchez Dooright said...

Thanks, you had me at 'white...tray of watermelon...black.' I felt what you felt and kudos to you for shutting down the minstrel breeding ground. I'm pretty sure I would have just said something loud enough for them to hear like LOOK AT ALL THE WHITE PEOPLE BEING GENEROUS WITH WATERMELON AND RELIGION...HMMMM, DE JA VU ALL OVER AGAIN, YOU IGNORANT MELON LOVIN' F*CKS!!, while walking away of course, as I'm sure a good 40% of us would. Another 10%(you) would do something about it, and the rest, well...hopefully watermelon juice doesn't stain overalls. Sometimes ignorance makes the blandest of juices taste sweet as candy, and knowlege can easily make that juice quite salty.

Double thanks for the photo, it certainly helped with brewing the internal rage.

DJ M.O.S. said...

Couldn't believe it until I saw the pic. WTF... You would think that on Church and Flatbush they'd have enough pride to pelt those watermelons back at them. What's even more surpising is that they actually had the balls to do that in BK... unbelievable. You got me amped up at 4:20 in the morning. We still got a long way to go my brotha, the struggle is no where near over, it takes situations like this to realize how much teaching needs to be done.

James said...

Holy shit. How the hell did they expect black people to be converted without kool aid? Was Ice Cube there reading "Nigger"? Well, at least they're installing a Connecticut Muffin on Cortelyou, that's one for you, right? I actually heard that they are gonna feature watermelon, fried chicken, collard greens, I believe the chicken and collard greens is going to be one flavor.

I AM GVG said...

James, Jim, Billy Joe Bob, I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE WHITEMAN!!! LOL

GVG
~we're the warriors they write epics about~

Complex said...

They should have served Honeydew or Canteloupe!!! I have one of the replica "Picanniny Freeze" metal plates in my kitchen as a reminder. I also have a sign from Texas that says " We serve colored Carry Out only!!!"

Chubbs said...

This is truly un-freakin-believable! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. I applaud you for speaking up against this tragic foolishness.

With all due respect, I still have to say, I enjoy watermelon, and am not going to cease eating it if I happen to be in a public setting. Of course, I'm not going to snatch it off the tray of a racist singing white missionary--just like I'd likely not eat/take anything passed out to me by a racist singing white missionary. Ignorant folks like her will sadly continue to exist whether you eat their watermelon or not.

The Cocoa Luv Chronicles said...

Yes I just saw this, freetime fridays. Anyway they couldn've pulled that ish in Harlem. I hate the fact that I have to feel some sort of way when I eat watermelon. I mean it's just so good. DAMN. lol. Good post and I will do my best to keep up.

A Screen on the Boulevard said...

The sad part is that they should NOT have had to worry about being white and serving and eating watermelon in a black neighborhood... it should be no big deal to break bread (fruit) with our neighbors... But 400 years or so of history kinda screwed that up, I doubt even Obama will have watermelon or friend chicken anywhere near his swearing in lol! Either these folks genuinely thought that they had a ready source of "niggerbait" (which apparently they did... sigh...) or they thought that they were "bringing porch monkey back..." Either way... bad taste supreme and they were too dumb to notice... I cringe.

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