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Memoir

…and Mistakes Made Along the Way, Book Two, Introduction to Lying,

A Memoir by Fred Beauford

For those of you who have not read Book One of …and Mistakes Made Along the Way, it dealt with my childhood when I went from foster home to foster home, a few wonderful years living on my grandfather’s large farm in Northern Virginia, to a harrowing, brutal Dickensian six years in a horrible  foster home in cold, snowy Buffalo, to finally living in an all-white, middle class, mainly Italian area in the Upper Bronx, where my two brothers and I were reunited with a mother we barely knew.

But, in many ways, the time I spent with no real guides on how human beings were supposed to function, and especially a black American male living in the most racist society on Mother Earth, or how was I supposed to behave with other human beings, no matter their color-- no one ever said a word to me about all of this.

However, as it turned out, this was my salvation, silently given to me by some unknown, ever watching God. I was a blank slate, with the little do’s and don’ts that became imbedded in my mind, being put there only by me.

That was the good side of my solo encounter with America and the world.  For example, I saw little that could stop me from saying and doing whatever I wanted, much to the dismay of others around me. Calling myself an American really bent them out of shape, especially black nationalist and Jewish liberals, who believed strongly in separate but equal, and scoffed at the notion that there is something called just a plain American.

Maybe if I had lived in the South and not New York, it would have been Black Nationalists and WASPS saying the same things, but I never met any WASPS. In fact, a friend of mine who lived in the first low income housing project near me, the Edenwald Houses, and who was first black friend I finally had at the age of 14, James Johnson, said to me one day years ago, that we never saw any “real” white people growing up in the Bronx.

I guess, for him, the Jews, Irish, and Italians that we knew could not be considered white in his eyes.

***

I was shown the door after my first year of high school, so two years later I joined the Army at the age of eighteen and served with Elvis. I decided soon after my service, as I slowly began to think of myself as a genius, especially since the Army said I had a IQ of 149, that I could become President of the USA because of my love for President Kennedy, who always seemed to be talking directly to me—if only I could get a law degree like him.

By this time, all my friends began to see me as somewhat strange. One friend even laughed in my face at the news that I wanted to be President.

“Nigger, are you crazy! You don’t even have a high school diploma.”

Yet the laughter soon stopped two years later when I had not only a GED high school diploma, but also was now a student at NYU, way before Affirmative Action. I had skipped high school and went straight to college.    Who does that! I must be the genius I now thought I was

In addition, I started my journalism career at NYU by starting a student newspaper, The Faith. And at 25, I started a national magazine, Black Creation: A Quarterly of Black Arts and Letters, now proudly in the new African American Museum in Washington; and, for most of my stay at NYU, I was a Big Man on Campus. And, best of all, I have made the history books (55 books and counting) just by Black Creation alone.

All of this was because I never allowed others to tell me what I could or couldn’t do. I had a funny kind of reasoning for my attitude. What I knew from American history was that it was the Northern Europeans that prevented blacks from being free because they had guns, bombs and the rope, and didn’t mind using them against any black they disliked.

My favorite example is what happened to a young black woman, Ida B. Wells, who was born a slave. She co-owned a newspaper, the Memphis Free Speech in the 1890s, and spoke out against lynching and racial injustice. For her efforts her house was set upon by a white mob one night, was bombed and burned to the ground, and her precious printing press was destroyed.

Ida B. Wells could have also been destroyed just like her printing press and house, but just happened to be out of town in New York City. After that, she left Memphis, never to return.

Well, all that was gone, hopefully never to become a part of American history again, thanks to the Civil Rights Movement. We were now free, all of us, blacks and whites, after 277 years of slavery, and another 100 years of part-time slavery, on this soil called America.

So, why pay any attention to the guilt tripping and name calling and psychological warfare of the black Nationalists and Eastern Europeans trying to keep me in my place, because in my odd mind; if no one was going to physically harm me, who cares what they think about me?

I also first learned at NYU the stark details of the narrative which is imprinted in the mind of almost every black American. I call it the quiet voice from the grave. But it was not the voices of long-dead black relatives that were whispering comforting things to them, but the low, almost imperceptible voice of the Slave Master that said over and over, “Know your place because you will never live a moment of your life without your fear of me.”

But that old wrinkled, white motherfucker didn’t scare me, like it did the Affirmative Action black students that came to NYU right after the killing of Martin Luther King. I was a blank slate and was too unschooled to even know that I was not supposed to just waltz into NYU and say, “Hi gang, I’m here!” or do all the other things I was now doing, because I was poor, black and male. In addition, whoever heard of someone that did so well, that didn’t have a wise preacher, or pushy parents, or civil rights leaders, or good friends egging him on?

I tried to tell my fellow students, black and white, that only my own naive mind said that I could be anything I wanted to be. Also, I had a profoundly cool, rational mind. So, because of the two, only I could tell me what was real. What I didn’t tell them that there was a cost to be had for this behavior. The first was that my lovely young wife finally dumped me and threw my stuff and my black ass out the door shortly after I became a student at NYU. She thought I had ice water for blood.

I didn’t blame her. She had married one man, and woke up one morning with someone strange, and suddenly driven. She didn’t know what to think of this, and all I could say to her that game changing morning is, “I got the spirit!”

I made little sense that morning and weeks after because I now felt a strange sense of energy I had never felt before, and which has never left me—which frightened her to death but made me feel invincible.

But all of this is in Book One of …and Mistakes Made Along the Way, so please get a copy on Amazon. It’s a great book. I let it all hang out.

***
    But, despite my wife showing me the door, much like Evander Childs High school once did, this “Spirit” was the good side of my strange behavior. The other side was dark, very dark indeed, and had nothing to do with the now famous profound touch from somewhere in the Cosmos.

It’s something that has also been a part of my makeup for most of my life, and the worst part of the blank slate and rational mind: I really believed what people say when they tell me what they want to do with their lives. I could instantly see how easy their fondest desires could be accomplished.

“Yes, yes, what a great idea. You should do it. I can help. Let’s do it.”

But nothing would come of these great ideas. So many people, especially black Americans, are willing to gain a bit of satisfaction and self-esteem just by coming up with a good idea. They would tell me tall tales and blow a lot of smoke my way about an unknown person or group that was going to put up the money, which will come any day now, which I often fell for, over and over again.

The blank slate. I have nothing to protect me. Why would someone lie to me?

In other words, I did not realize the value of lying and bullshitting. When I took the entrance exam at NYU, I scored in the top 7 percent. I knew a lot about so much. What I didn’t know was human nature. You can’t get that from a book, but at the dinner table, listening to your folks.

By the time you’re seven years old, it’s buried deep in your inner self. But there was never a dinner table for me filled with family busy chatting away—just other homeless kids, coming and going, some of whom being mentally impaired. So, tell me anything. If it sounds reasonable, I’ll say, why not try it?

But most humans are not like me. They can spot bullshit much quicker than I can. I now know that huge empires have risen all over the world for ages on end, on nothing but lies. A good lie is one of the most potent weapons in the world. At NYU, most of what I was taught as a journalism major was lying to protect an interest or a group that the Professors cared deeply about was de rigor.

They taught me the basic mechanics of journalism, which was well taught, indeed, and has served me well in my great career. No doubt about it. But telling us that we’re about to enter America journalism was the biggest lie going. I found out that there was no such thing as American journalism.

What I found was three kinds of journalism: Racial journalism, Tribal journalism, and most clever of all, Tribal journalism masquerading as Racial journalism. What I also found when I left NYU was a lot of loneliness and a lot of lying.

—Among his accomplishments, Fred Beauford is the editor of The Neworld Review



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