By Charles Curtis Blackwell
About 1954, I was real small and I went with a parent to Playland. We paid and went in. I walked in a hallway. I got on a moving floor with moving walls. I got scared. It was like something you’d use in a Hollywood movie. I started crying.
A few years later, my grandfather visited from “backwoods” Mississippi. At that point, we lived in Sacramento, so we drove down to Playland.
We went to a diner. I remember my grandfather next to me. We sat on stools. I was about 12 or 13. We were looking at the menu. My grandfather asked me: “What is a hamburger?” I told him that it was bread with meat inside, with lettuce and tomato.
“Like a sandwich?” he said.
“Yes,” I answered.
It took me awhile to understand why he didn’t know what a hamburger was. It was before the Civil Rights bill. In San Francisco, you could eat anywhere, but in Mississippi, you ate at home or at a relative’s house.
I was honored that my grandfather asked me.
Right now, Blacks are excluded (or they are at the bottom) from San Francisco. It’s sad because some of my hip white friends in the cultural arts say American arts started with African Americans—theater, music and dance. Even the hip white critics are tired of European standards.
The powerbrokers have a plan to push Blacks out of San Francisco—and Oakland.
I don’t know if we’re ready for the stress. The stress is taking us out.
I just have to trust and continue to use my talents. God will open doors and opportunities.