NYU Black Renaissance Noire Volume 18 Issue 1 - Winter 2018 - Page 44

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Joseph Clesca .
I loved helping prepare the coffee . I would rush to the small kitchen out back to beg the maid to let me help , while she put the beans in the chodye to grill them . I hurried to put my tiny hand over hers on the wooden spoon to turn them over , for they had to be evenly grilled on the small charcoal stove . If she wasn ’ t in a hurry or in a bad mood , I was lucky . Then , the beans had to be ground . Sometimes , I was allowed to turn the handle of the coffee grinder , while waiting for the water to boil . Then the little drawer was pulled out to reveal the ground coffee that was poured in the burlap perculator .
“ Hold it tight ,” the maid would tell me , as she handed me the thin handle made out of a metal hanger , twisted for this purpose . Then it was time to pour in the boiling water to see the coffee pour out into the enamel cafetière . By the time she served the hot black liquid in the small white enamel demitasses , every inch of the house was permeated with the scent of coffee . GrandAngele ’ s mouth twisted slightly , as she took the first sip of the blazing-hot coffee . “ Mesi wi ,” she always said , after tasting it . I will forever remember that smile of satisfaction on her face , when she had had the perfect cup of Haitian Arabica , which was almost all the time .
Over the months , through multiple trials and as many tastings , I had learned to make a perfect cup of Haitian espresso coffee . I knew something . It was a way for me to be part of GrandAngele ’ s family ritual . Mother would have never let me get as close as I did to the hot water , afraid that I might get burned . She was probably right , but she was no longer with me . I had more freedom .
Once , I gently leaned on the wide arm of GranAngele ’ s rocking chair , curled my hands into hers , despite the heat , and asked her how she had gotten her house .
“ Mari m ki te bati l pou mwen ; se te yon paket afe ( My husband built it for me ; it was a big deal ),” she had mumbled , without missing one movement of her rocking chair . I detected some pride and vigor in her voice , when she said my husband . I didn ’ t know my grandfather , Joseph Clesca , except from the black-and-white photograph standing on GrandAngele ’ s bedroom coiffeuse . It and her dining room pantry are heirlooms from the 1920s that I treasure in my own home today .
Joseph Clesca was her common-law husband . In the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Haiti , very few couples married legally , particularly in the rural areas ; the norm was rather concubinage called “ plaçage ”, and that ’ s what GrandAngele and Grandpa Joseph did .
There is no mystery concerning the family of Joseph Clesca , who had the French nationality of his father and the Haitian one of his mother . The Clesca family lived in the rich valley town of Saint-Marc , the first city north of the capital Port-au-Prince and located in the plains near the Artibonite delta . Grandpa Joseph came from a long line of adventurers and civil servants and was given his grandfather ’ s name . The first Joseph Clesca had migrated to Haiti from France in the early 1800s to serve the French government as commercial Vice-Consul to Saint-Marc .
21 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE
poetry By Melba Joyce Boyd Eulogy for Detroit, 1967 “Repression breeds retaliation,” Robert Kennedy Cooper, Pollard and Temple, 3 black teenagers caught crossing the color line, aspiring pimps partying with white prostitutes; caught betwixt and between the skin game and police rage emboldened by fire power and Marshall Law; 3 young men trapped in the annex of civil disobedience, like movie extras doomed in a script, or like refugees detained at the border without citizenship, restrained, beaten and murdered in the recesses of city unrest. III. In the aftermath, ignorant and absent of brown peers, of family or community grief for the deceased, 12 jurors, boxed in a white courtroom beyond inner-city view, dismiss witnesses and evidentiary examples, and deem murders by cop justifiable homicides of Carl Cooper, Aubury Pollard and Fred Temple, unarmed teenagers guilty only of carnal sin and dark skin. IV. “The Algiers Motel” now lies beneath the clay of decay, while 12th Street recalls Rosa Parks, a veteran of domestic wars, symbolic renaming on the outskirts of city planning and sacred burial grounds. 50 years hence, people live with history twisted by myths brooding with untruths to justify retaking the city from survivors of ’67, repossessing homes with excessive taxes, extreme insurance rates and soaring utility bills for water too expensive to drink; even in the City of Flint, where rusted, lead pipes funnel poison into kitchen sinks; while arsonists acquire acreage for real estate moguls to house hipsters, born-again Republicans, and capitalist investors, claiming to save us from ourselves as white folks move back and the mayor ain’t black. V Peregrine falcons once soared above skyscrapers, and perched on gargoyles viewing museums filled with tempered memories savored for patrons on passages to yesteryears. This poem… this poem is a eulogy, a remembering, an unearthin )х)Ʌٕ̰)ɕ̰ͭ)ѼɕЁݽչ)ͅ(啅́ѕȃdܰ)ѼɕɥٔɕѠ)ɕٕ̰́́)ɥͥ)ݥѠѡչѽ))͕ձ)ɔ)յɕ̸+ ɥЀ܁5)協 )ÍI͕ٕ(%%$) Ѡɕ)ɥͥ)͵Ց̰)Ʌչɵ)٥́ѡ)́5ѕ)ͥѼɥ)ȁ͍)q ͅt)ݡɔM)ѡ)́ȁ а)ѡɼ)ѥ͍ʹ(%$) ́ͱݕȰ)ٔ͡ɔ)ѡɕѕ)ݥѠݕ)ݥ)͡ѕȁȁݥ̰)ɥ)́а)ͥ́)͵ɽչ(Ѡ ɵչа)́䁅хє)ձ́ɥ)ѵЁե)хɝЁɅѥ)ȁYѹ͔٥)ULɵх́)ݸձمɑ)ѡȁՑ)ɥ)ȁɽ镸)ձ䁡)͹́ɕɸɔ)Ѽѡѽɴ