Friday, May 28, 2021

The Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink

 Has your heart every skipped a beat?

Had those flutters of possibility?

Watched the blooming of what could be?

That is how I felt reading The Angel of Greenwood. Set in the weeks before the fatal massacre of the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, it gave a glimpse of what that idyllic life would have been like.

It almost seems impossible to imagine now, a thriving all-Black/African American community that turned their dollar over so many times within their neighborhood that they didn't have much need for the outside world. For years, they built a dream, a promise for their future generations.

Yes, all around them, as more of the world was grappling with the after-effects of the war, as cultural debates among Black people were happening (think Washington vs. DuBois), and as Black vets were being targeted in the south, this little Mecca seemed immune to it.

What this book gave me, give us, is a gift.

There are and will be plenty of remembrances and writings about the lives and businesses lost. Honoring the few remaining survivors who have yet to have reparations, and a country again grappling with what it owes Black America. Tulsa wasn't the first massacre of an all-Black thriving town. There will be plenty of those, but for the brief moments of viewing through the lens of time, we were transported back.

We went back to greeting elder neighbors who knew everyone and everything.

Back to crafters and artisans and teachers and preachers. Tailors and grocers and butchers, and yes, even those who were scrapping by, but scrapping by in a town that held promise for their possibilities. 

This book was an invitation to consider, to close one's eyes and hope.

Through young love and teenage coming-of-age wonders, it invites us into the intimate lives of four teenagers as they try to navigate who they want to be. Budding love, questions of what they owe their families and what they owe themselves, even grappling with the dynamics of friendships, this book is a great read for high schoolers and adults.

I loved the emphasis on books and writing, the poetry of Randi Park, and the hope resting in words for a people whose words are not all spoken.

It did not gloss over the doom that came in the dark of night, in fact, it vividly rendered the events through the eyes of these teenagers. It is part of the excellence of her writing, she did not lead with us, but suddenly, in the night, it came, like it did back on May 31, 1921.

I invite you to discover this book. Memorial Day Weekend is a great time to read it. Buying it from a Black owned bookstore is a great way to do it.  

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