Archive for August, 2017

Chapter Four

Was going off script the right thing for our community? What is the future of decolonized zones?

Those were the questions scribbled in faded green marker on the white board in front of the basement-level reading room in the public library. Ryder sighed. He recognized the familiar handwriting, and understood from it that Jacob would be leading the group again. This was his favorite debate topic.

The weekly debate sessions gave the young members of the community a chance to develop their critical thinking and research skills. Each subset of neighborhood, or city blocs, had debate groups. Skills they were told, and understood, were the key to fending off colonizers and hijackers. Their weekly policy debate training developed knowledge of structural social, political and economic issues. Colonizers were the slick moneyed corporations who historically had come in looking like lambs and then tore the communities apart like lions. These colonizers, like all those that came before them, came as “saviors,” promising to “fix” what they deemed wrong with the people. Then, after destroying the communities, they swooped back in with the so-called solutions…at a price.

Hijackers worked differently. They moved in disguise. They gained the trust of the community and then redirected the efforts for change away from anything radical that would upset the system, and sell the movement out in the name of “cooperation” or “compromise.” Hijackers knew the best way to defeat revolutionary action was to invite their adversary into the big tent and make them feel like they belonged. In such a way could you assuage the anger of the people, while maintaining power and control.

Being armed with their own facts and their skills at arguing and maintaining their decision to become, and remain, an “off script” community was a vital facet to their survival.

“We have to be prepared to answer those questions!” Ryder overheard Jacob saying to a group of teens at the far corner of the room.

Ryder smiled a little. Uncle Kelley would agree with Jacob. “If we cannot defend our decisions against all critical questions, then we cannot anticipate our weaknesses nor own where we need to improve ourselves,” his uncle repeated over and over like a mantra.

Suddenly Keesha appeared at his left side. “Hey,” she murmured causally. He looked at the clock. 10:00 a.m. Where was Deacon?

“Hey,” replied Ryder.

Together they located Deacon, now pushing his way through a small cluster of people by the snack and beverage table. He grabbed a fist full of crackers out of the large yellow bowl and met the gaze of his two friends. Ryder gestured with a nod of his head for Deacon to “hurry over.”

“Did you hear that noise this morning? Did you feel it?” Deacon asked as he got closer.

“Hush!” Keesha admonished, looking around furtively.

“Like anybody’s paying attention to us, Keesh,” Deacon retorted, his mouth full of crackers.

“Yeah. We heard it. And I felt it,” Ryder added. His feet had quivered as if a rug were being pulled quickly back and forth beneath him.

“Everyone’s been saying it was just a bunch of drones that crashed. Or building demolition from the town of Westborough. They’ve been doin’ a lot of reconstruction. Seems to be an explanation that is satisfying most folks.”

“No.” Keesha said, keeping her face expressionless and her voice low. “It’s them. I know it.”

How do you know?” Deacon’s voice was edged with skepticism.

“I just feel it.” She was always so sure of herself. “We have to get to Westborough. I know that’s where they’re at!”

Ryder opened his mouth to add his thoughts, but he was cut off.

“Hey, everyone!” Jacob called. “Let’s get started.”

Ryder estimated about fifty kids present today most on them around his age. Attendance wasn’t required. Attendance wasn’t a requirement for anything, usually. When something is of necessity, calling it required is merely redundant. In Ryder’s world, in the “off script” community, things were required for their well-being. Choosing not to participate had its own natural consequences, like not having enough to eat, or not being able to move up into the job of one’s choice, or not caring for one’s own home, family or street. Motivation to participate became internalized. Necessity was its own requirement. Being a part of the larger course of the family, community, and future generations created a sense of desire, of pride, of belonging. What Ryder and the others were doing mattered.

Jacob announced, “Today we will hear from Sam and Marcie. They have each prepared an argument to reflect one side of the issue. As usual, they will take turns making a statement. Their point-counter point statements will continue for five minutes. This will be followed by a summary analysis given by someone whose name will be pulled from the jar. So all y’all need to listen and be prepared to respond!” There was a light wave of laughter.

Sam, dressed in a bright yellow over-sized T shirt and brown slacks strutted to the front of the room. There were hoot and hollers from the audience. Marci, much taller in height than her adversary, cheered, “Oh, I got this!” and waved her arms in the air as she moved toward the podium. Her waist length braids swung from side to side as she moved. The girls clapped.

Jacob shouted over the clamor so as to quiet the room, “OK. Marci. Sam. You have five minutes. No outburst are permitted by the audience. If you disrupt the debate you will be asked to leave. The question for today is:  ‘Was becoming a decolonized zone and going off script the right thing for our community?’” He looked down at a stop watch, clicked it with his thumb, and shouted, “Go!”

Marci leapt like a horse out of the starting gate: “Well, it wasn’t a choice.”

Sam replied “Yes it was. There’s always a choice.”

Marci said, “After realizing the full magnitude of abandonment by the larger socioeconomic order, well they never really were here to begin with…other than to shuffle us from school to prison, we could have chosen to languish that way. Some communities still do.”

“We lost money from the billionaire class. We lost access to that world. They wanted to train us and bring us into the fold,” replied Sam.

Marci’s voice was rising. “But the ones who left us to go into that world never came back. Or they came back –changed-doing the bidding of the master. Instead, we have learned to form real alliances, all over this country with other cities, with other groups, doing what we are doing. Neighborhoods like King-Lincoln, back in the day, showed us we can create something for ourselves. But we cannot remain isolated either. These are intersections of need and respect.”

Keesha thought of her mother and then pushed the thought aside quickly. She leaned in to Deacon and Ryder. “We need to talk!”

“Shhhh!!” said the boy beside her. Deacon and Ryder glared at the boy but complied.

“Later,” Ryder whispered. “Tonight. At the tower.” Deacon and Keesha nodded.

Sam demanded in a low but firm voice, “How can we really have any true power while existing outside the system? How long can we remain apart? King-Lincoln was ripped apart by outside forces. So what makes us different?”

Marci responded, “This is a different time. When the corporate class became the master class they sold out white folk too. And we were able to create a new alliance because the colonized class just expanded. So we are not apart. People are coming to our side!”

Sam said, “But can our movement really go to scale? Can we really expect the whole world to change? We are up against data pods. We are up against Colonizers and Hijackers who will never…never stop. We need to think about our long term survival.”

Marci shouted, “Exactly! This is how we survive. Others are waking up. It’s been gradual for decades. We must continue to build our off-script alliances. But what was partial independence for generations finally was now in our community realized as full independence. We had the knowledge at our disposal the whole time. Starting with the abolition movement, and the Black Panther party, the Surrealists, and Black Lives Matter to name just a few. Malcolm X once said, ‘I just don’t believe that when people are being unjustly oppressed that they should let someone else set rules for them by which they can come out from under that oppression’.”

Sam looked intently down at his notes. He said, “But we cannot pretend the rules aren’t there. We should be finding ways to go out there, and work with the rules as they are, and then change them. Why can’t we work with the corporate colonizers and get a seat at the table for ourselves?”

Keesha thought of her mother. She worried, Was she right?

Marci would not be deterred. “Because,” she replied, “Nowhere in history can we find a moment where that has worked for people like us…. People of color, and folks of all races with little or no money or privilege, and anyone whose identity doesn’t fit into the “script” written for society. Show me where anything was handed to us that we didn’t demand and fight for.”

The audience cheered. “Quiet!” demanded Jacob.

Marci continued. “We finally realize now in the 21st century version of colonization that history reveals how the colonizers only ever give us what they wanted to give us, under the illusion that we are now their equals, the illusion that we can have a piece of their pie. Meanwhile they kept finding new ways to stack the deck, rearrange the rules, and put us right back at square one. We had to cease being dependent on them for any of our success.”

Sam was showing signs of frustration his voice raised a pitch and his brows furrowed. “Yeah but there has to be some compromise. We cannot isolate ourselves from a bigger movement. The outside world sees us as ‘extremists’ and don’t take us seriously. In addition, with what resources are we going to make it without them?”

Marci didn’t skip a beat, as if she anticipated he would make this point. She said, “Re-organizing the resources took some doin’. But with a collective will and wisdom that focused on us, on ourselves taking care of each other is the only means of survival. We created our own cooperative business with our own capitol. We developed our own schools, educating our children by our own community volunteers, and using a curriculum that met our needs. We created our own medical centers and community clean-up crews, and assistance for the elders.” As if to really drive the point home she added, “We need to create routes to connect with others doing the same.”

The crowd burst into more hoots and hollers.

“They will run interference,” Sam countered. “So why don’t instead think of how we can work out there in the corporate world with them and make changes from within?”

Marci continued, “Either we go to scale for full independence, or we would have been quietly annihilated. And blamed for our own demise. Come on, people, don’t you all wonder what that noise was this morning? Ya’ll think that’s some coincidence?” Everyone in the crowd settled into an uncomfortable stillness. “They’re up to something! The watchmen have to keep….” She was cut off before completed the sentence.

Jacob called out, “Time!!!!” and held up the stop watch. Applause rang out causing the walls to vibrate.

 

 

Chapter Three

Keesha hand shook causing the blue paint to zig zag uncontrollably across the cement canvas.

“Crap!” she shouted.

The near-perfect replica of the blue sky, white clouds, brown and green trees, and cityscape was now interrupted by a thick solid blue stipe that crashed through the scene like a lightning bolt. Keesha and everyone else working on the mural paused in their work and looked around for the source of the “boom” that had caused Keesha to disrupt her creative process. John craned his head upwards. Marcus and Lucy stood up and ran to the corner. They peered around, turned back toward the group, and shrugged.

Keesha refocused on her mural. “Crap,” she exclaimed again to no one in particular. “That totally ruined my sky! I was minutes from being finished.”

No one else in the group seemed upset by her mistake in the painting. Her mural team was used to her outbursts. The whole mural had been her vision. She wrinkled her brow and assessed the damage.

Lucy asked the boy standing beside her, “But what was that?” There has been a loud rumble, and the ground had seemed to gently sway beneath them. The water in the clear glass Bell jars, loaded with brushes, was still dancing around with tiny ripples.

The question was met with murmurs. Keesha remained silent. She was too busy being furious that two months of dedication were just brought down with a single blue accidental stroke. She pulled at her short braids, rubbing the large beads between her thumb and forefinger the way she did whenever she was considering something. She made sure to always have at least five beads fitted into her short weave because she secretly believed this made her a more creative thinker.

The mural was the last one in a series that the community economic network had commissioned Keesha and a small group of young people to complete; the task was to “tell the story of the neighborhood”-painted on the walls of the newly rehabbed row homes and offices for all the world to see (or at least the passers-by crossing the intersection between Dulaney St. and 5th Ave). A visual history of her community.

Keesha’s mom disapproved. But what else was new?

“Why are you bothering to paint on the sides of walls, Keesha?” her mom Susan would say, and shake her head. “You know I can get you a job at The Gallery anytime you want.”

By the time Keesha was twelve she had started thinking of her mom as a corporate sell-out. Susan Franks had moved away from their neighborhood for a six figure multiyear grant from the Museum of Art to work on their cultural exhibit, leaving behind her two daughters: Keesha and Keesha’s older sister Naomi. “Left behind” was not a wholly accurate description of what Susan had done to her daughters. The girls had chosen to stay in what, for them, was “home.” Susan was inwardly disappointed, but she honored her daughters’ wishes to remain in the community.

Keesha knew her father only as “Donor X.” Single and professionally successful, too busy for love, Susan had decided at the age of 35 that she would become a mother, with or without the help of a husband — and having none she decided to find a donor instead. Then, just one year ago, when the girls had grown to the ages of 17 and 14, she received “the job offer of a life time” and moved out of their “off script” neighborhood and into South Wick, the corporate sponsored neighborhood that had been introduced decades ago as “smart cities.” The marketing had been brilliant by design.

Naomi, the ever “older- than- her- years” daughter stepped up to raise Keesha, while the two occasioned the train on weekends to visit Susan in her studio condo on the 15th floor of the Romer Onyx Industry complex.

“Being on script isn’t so bad, you know, Keesha,” Susan said one morning while clipping the delicate blue flowers off the potted hydrangea that flourished on the rooftop Romer Onyx rooftop garden. Keesha looked at her feet and winced. “You’re getting so tall, now,” Susan said gently. She was indeed one of the taller girls in her age group. Her mother smiled and stroked the side of Keesha’s left arm. She didn’t want to disappoint her mom. But something in her was just “drawn” differently than her mom. Standing at only five feet two inches tall, compared to her mother’s nearly six foot tall stature, the difference inside and out were both noticeable. Who could she blame for being who she was? Donor X?

“Mom. I love you. But it’s just not my kind of art. I like being off script.”

Susan sighed. “Keesha. You’ll see. When you grow up, you’ll see. The real world doesn’t work that way. That’s just a fantasy land is all it is. How long is that gonna last you think. Huh?”

Sure, the Indigenous Intersections, linking city- to- city all over the country and completely subverting the on script grid of corporate ownership was growing. But who really knew what would happen next? How long could it last?

Keesha didn’t care. This…here…this community was her home, with, or without, her mother. She would make her own way. She had Naomi. And there was Ryder and Deacon, her two best friends.

Keesha examined the blue sky in the mural. Maybe it is fixable, she assured herself.

“Anyone know what that noise was?” asked the short stocky boy standing beside Keesha. Keesha dropped her paint brush into the Bell jar of watery blue liquid, wiped her hands on the sides of her denim pants and stood up. She turned back to look at the fat blue misplaced streak on the wall across her nearly completed frame. She would have to fix it later.

Keesha had her theories about the cause of the low rumble and shaking ground. Really, she wasn’t surprised by the unidentified sound. Part of her had been waiting for it. But she didn’t want to say it out loud. She had to tell D. and Ride, first.

NOTE: This is a full-length book, being published chapter by chapter with a new chapter posted every one or two weeks. Readers will have to stay tuned for “what’s next.” The story is copyrighted by the author (Morna McDermott) but may be freely shared and re-blogged/posted (with citation to the author). The purpose of the story was to create a thought experiment. What will happen if/when the corporate destruction of public education and society is complete? Can we begin to imagine/enact a different set of societal structures that are more equitable, anti-racist, sustainable, and democratic? Do we have the collective will to manifest such a future? What can we learn from good examples in the past? Can we take some cues from the world of fiction to begin the conversation? This is a story of hope.

Please join us and enjoy the story! Feedback/comments welcome in the comment box. 

IMG_1507

Story Summary

Ryder, Keesha, and Deacon, three lifelong friends, now in their teens have been named the leader-futures for Interregnum City, the first city to decolonize itself from the script of corporate enslavement. The city has gone “off-script.” They, along with their friends and families take the reader into a hopeful landscape of what might yet be possible if, and when, communities embrace the revolutionary power of the collective will, imagination and love. It is fiction of hope; representing any city in America and set in an unknown future time. This is a tale of what could be. Ryder, Deacon and Keesha confront obstacles such as the looming data pods built along the Interregnum Mile, and their secret discovery of the terror that lies waiting for their community if they cannot stop the colonizers secret mission in time. With the help of Ryder’s Uncle Kelley, Deacons grandfather Pops, and Keesha’s mother Susan, these three youth lead their city on a mission for reclamation, resurrection, and resurgence.

CHAPTER TWO

The phone on the wall had rung four times already.

“Get the damn phone!” Deacon shouted from behind the counter.

“Don’t you cuss in my shop, young man!” his mother called from the kitchen.

“Yes’m. Sorry, mom,” Deacon called back. He was sorry, even if his voice didn’t sound convincing. He was too busy lining up the sandwiches and salads in the glass front case. Deacon was in a rush because people were already lining up outside the entrance. And because he wanted to meet Ryder before they had to go off to their community rotations at 10:00 that morning. They were so rarely placed together at the same time, leaving Deacon to fend for himself. Keesha was always working with the muralists. So he had given up long ago of hoping to be placed alongside her. He couldn’t draw stick figures. Besides, he felt better putting his arms and his back into his days’ work. Deacon always marveled at the beauty of both creation and destruction; like when they demolished the old buildings … and creation like when he and the others rehabbed a house and made it new again. It was concrete and satisfying work, and appealed to his affection for double-edged swords like chaos and order.

“Come on, Pops, your phone is ringing,” Deacon said again, more softly this time.

The ring tone on their deli’s “location phone” agitated him. It was shrill and demanding, not like the cool smooth tones that old cell phones used to make, or at least the one Orion had shown him in secret. Nobody Deacon knew had one of those anymore, except for Orion.  And the Blacker Hatters. That last bit wasn’t public knowledge, but it was quietly understood. After their garden commitment one evening last July, Orion secretly showed Deacon and the other kids the old cell phone he kept hidden under his bed, like porn or a hand gun. “It’s not activated,” he would re assure the other kids. But he pressed the “ring” button and his audience of impressed peers “oohed” and “ahhed” with amazement as the screen lit up. The small object vibrated in his hand with each ring. Eliminating cell phones was part of their community agreement to become a decolonized zone when they unscripted. The action was necessary to stop feeding the fuel line to the data pods. Cell phone were the main artery of data mining from the people to the powerful.

It had worked. Eliminating their cell phone and all electronic data collecting devices had broken the back of the corporate masters. Orion looked at Ryder that day and said, “Didn’t your Uncle Kelley want you to ‘come up’ learning how to be a Blacker Hatter?”

Ryder shook his head to suggest “I don’t know.”

A new batch of the younger generation would have to eventually replace middle aged people like Kelley and manage the data shield, and keep up the “secret operations” to take down the corporate data systems and protect their community from pirates and hijackers. Deacon was fascinated by it all. Maybe he’d talk to Uncle Kelley himself and offer to take Ryder’s place since Ryder expressed little interest.

Deacon’s grandfather answered the phone which hung on the wall between the front of the deli and the back kitchen.

“Hello! Watson’s Deli!” he said into the mouth piece.

Deacon returned to his task, lining up the perfectly golden glazed donut rings, one after the other, until he had three rows of twelve. There was one left that didn’t quite fit into the tray. Looking carefully around first for his mother’s watchful eye, when he saw the coast was clear, he crammed the last remaining donut into his mouth and chewed quickly. He pushed the tray into the glass case and slid it shut. The store would be opening any minute.

“Uh uh,” his grandfather was saying into the phone. “Yes. That’s right.” He leaned his large sinewy figure up against the door frame as if he knew he might need to get comfortable, making his “this could take a while” expression.

“Who is it?” his mother called from the back.

“Another reporter,” Deacon said after swallowing the remaining evidence of the stolen donut. “At least, I think it is.” He listened.

“It’s quite simple, really,” Pops explained. “You all don’t need a five installments expose for your newspaper to understand this.” Pops never had patience for stupid questions, or stupid people. “Our community saw it coming.” He paused to hear a question from the reporter.

“How? Well, because we knew what being colonized and enslaved looks and feels like. It’s sandwiched into our history.” Pops loved making deli jokes. “So we could see the corporations for what they were. Masters. We were all their property. Those white middle class suburban folk just wasn’t looking in the right direction. They were too busy eating up the next device or cool app or online service to pay attention to what they were giving up.”

He paused again. He face twisted with greater annoyance.  He listened. “That’s right. Our deli shop was the first to decolonize in this neighborhood.” He shifted his weight on his feet. “Look. We resisted out of necessity. The world around us had abandoned us.”

He paused for effect. Then continued, “Places all over the country … like Detroit. No grocery stores. No businesses. No banks. No jobs,” He was gesturing with his hands and fingers, counting the items one by one. “Eventually they even took their electricity and our water. Left those people to starve. They tried to hang on. They tried to pull themselves out of it. They played the game. Meanwhile, the corporations did come into our neighborhoods to use up those kids. With those online schools…”

He spat on the floor and continued, “Kids sittin’ at computers all day… or those charter schools!” His sentence trailed off. “The corporations came in and mined those babies for their own purposes-which was profits and control. You start messin’ with people’s kids you gonna get push back!”

He listened again to the voice on the other side of the line. Pop’s body language suggested to Deacon that he was not pleased with what this reporter was trying to say.

“I don’t care what you were told about charter schools!” Pop’s yelled into the phone, “They sold us out …our kids, and our communities, so that Wall Street billionaires could own our public education system, and track our children right into their privately owned prison systems. Owning our children from cradle to grave. Then they built these data pods right in our backyards, like freeways or pipelines cutting right through our communities.”

He paused to listen.

“Uh uh. That’s right.” He nodded. “Yes. I don’t know why you want to include all of that in your story, now. Everybody knows that history. Our community was the first to refuse corporate colonization. The government led them right to our doorstep too. Promising to help. But we got smart, fast. And we had nothing to lose. We started our own food production. My deli shop was the first modeled as a community collective. We trained our people. We employed our people. We feed our people. And the model worked. It caught on. So we created our own jobs. We fixed up our own neighborhoods. We policed our own streets. And we started our own public education system. And we didn’t need no corporate masters anymore and their philanthropic generosity.”

That last words bled with resentment as they rolled off his tongue.

People were starting to file into the shop. The noise-level rose and Pops placed one finger in his ear to hear better.

“What’s that? Yes. Well, you’re welcome to come visit anytime and see what we do and how we do it. I know Cincinnati and some others are doing the same thing. But you come one down anytime. Got the best bagels on the East coast.” Then he smiled. Deacon knew it was true, too. “Well thank you for inquiring. I look forward to reading your article when it comes out.”

People were lined up, ready with their orders and their forms of payment. Some held cash in their hands. Mrs. Randall had two dozen eggs. She must be bartering for the pastrami on rye again Deacon supposed. John Eldridge had a paper commitment to swap three loaves of Italian bread and two pounds of potato salad in exchange for car repairs. Pops would be grateful for that. His car hadn’t been running for a month and it made making his home deliveries difficult. Deacon was tired of riding his bike to and from everybodies homes. His energy flowed through the streets bringing food wherever it was needed. There were no more homeless shelters. No one lived on the streets and o one went hungry anymore. Pop’s deli had been a part of that change.

Imagining himself flowing through the streets on his bike with sandwich orders made him think of Joe, his economics mentor. “Currency … Current. How are the words connected?” Deacon asked himself, pulling the long French baguette into a paper wrapper for Denisha. He knew that Joe, who was now nineteen years old, was going to probably bring it up during their economics hour at the library.

“Deacon,” his mom called. “Bring those eggs from Mrs. Randall back here, please. I can use them this afternoon.”

“Ok, mom.”

Deacon walked into the steaming hot kitchen with the eggs under his arm. All ovens were on full blast. The large square fan wedged into the factory sized window pushed lukewarm air across his face.

He practiced in his head what he would say to Joe. “Money was one source of currency. But currents are a flow of waves, electrical… or like water. It also means now. Present tense. And currency is s a medium of exchange.”

Joe, always the argumentative thinker would of course reject any suggestion Deacon offered.

He could hear him now, “So is money the most valuable currency we have? For centuries we treated human beings as currency for the profits of others. What kinds of other currency can we begin imagining now that can free of from that?”

He had a lot of respect for Joe. They had known each other all their lives and as Joe grew older, he took the role of mentoring the younger kids very seriously.

Deacon would have to drum up an answer later. The line was now out the door and he couldn’t fill his head with abstract theories while filling the food orders. Besides he was quite sure Keesha would beat him to an answer. She always did. Her smarts were her currency, he thought. But they had think bigger, the three of them, him Keesha and Ryder, because soon they were to be the leaders, and they would have to lead with answers.

The cacophony of kitchen equipment and workers talking drowned out the sound of a rumble and roar coming from outside. Looking at the expressions of people passing by on the street Deacon knew something had just happened. He carried three trays of quiches toward the front counter and noticed the disturbed countenance on the faces of the people around him. There were murmurs. Concerned and hushed tones.

“What was that?!” someone shouted.

Karl Jensen was craning his neck up out the deli front window toward the sky. He shook his head, proffering no answer. Folks on the side walk looked up, down and at each other, shrugging their shoulders.

But Deacon had a solid hunch.