You are watching: Tell the truth and shame the devil meaning
I mental the very first time that i heard the word, nigger. It to be a beautiful fall day in the Delta. The skies was a shining blue and also leaves to be auburn. It was not as well cold—just a slim chill. My grandmother, Mama, called it “jacket weather.” ours temperamental washing an equipment had take away it critical spin.
We resided in the distance away native the wares, and also tears, of the modern-day world. While mine childhood was isolated, it soon lost its innocence.
The nearest to wash mat was located at the leaf of a trailer park. Together we made our method in, I saw a twenty-something young woman v a child around my age, six. He had a firetruck and I had brought with me favorite hot Wheels car. I was excited and so to be he. “Mommy, Mommy, look in ~ the niggers. Look at the niggers,” he proclaimed.
I had actually never heard words before, yet I knew that was not a good one based upon the furious watch on Mama’s face. I began to cry. “Hush up, boy,” she commanded. “You gotta call the truth and also shame the devil. I didn’t allow them operation over me once they to be lynching us and also I ain’t gone start now.”
“You understand how kids are,” the mother feigned.
“No,” Mama proclaimed without elevating her voice, yet visibly fuming. “Children execute what they are taught.” She was looking the mrs square in the eye. “You teach him that.”
The small boy and I never ever said a word to each other. For the remainder of the afternoon, us played about but not v one another.
Late in the midnight hour, Mama often prayed over me. “Lord, this is a mean ole world. Nothing let him hate. Let him return love for hate. Satan, ns rebuke you. In the mighty name of Jesus.”
As a child, I assumed God live over ours kitchen sink since that is where she speak to the the most. We always listened to the radio in the morning—“I acquired to check out what white folks was doing while i was ’sleep,” Mama would certainly say—and ~ hearing unfortunately news, she hands extended soap suds, she would certainly look up yonder and also call God right into account. “You claimed in your word the the prayers that the righteous availeth much. I require you to safeguard this boy from the trouble that is wait on him.”
Long prior to I come along, my grandmother to be chasing the devil back to Hell. At 4\"11\"\", she had stared down a lynch mob v the pistol the she was known to store in she purse. They came to our family members home to fetch she first-born son, who had acquired into a fight through the son of a affluent land owner. After a few shots in your direction, they knew she was not playing and also left with great haste. She was good for that—challenging the powerful yet respecting the powerless.
Mama teach me come read as soon as I was four years old. It was my task to check out the mail for miss out on Roberta, who could not read however carried a wisdom that ns am however to adequately conceive of. She dipped snuff, walked with a cane, and also was without doubt royalty, and she love me. Zent, Arkansas, was a kingdom the dignity. Persons like miss Roberta tore turn off the finest pieces the themselves and also sowed it right into a quilt the shields me come this day. If that was not for that covering, i would have actually long been consumed by rage.
Zent to be an eleven-house hamlet nestled in the rural Arkansas Delta. The thirty-five people who lived in a time now forgotten to be a blues people, who loved Jesus; the men in certain were given to Jack Daniels. Your bodies boring the kind of scares the made Robert Johnson sell his soul simply to play guitar. ~ a mainly of working from can’t-see-morning come can’t-see-night, they always had much more week than money. Once the eagle flew ~ above Friday, they paid what bills they could. My grandfather, Richard Braselman, would move the former yard. Mama dubbed him Daddy. A former chitlin’ circuit sideman because that Louis Jordan, daddy would press the slightly out of song piano the end onto the front porch because that the continual Saturday night fish fry. They would dance, reduced up, and also curse far the problem of main if not the world. The blues was their balm.
Somewhere between a tough lash and a longing because that home, the blues to be born. The blues provide life by telling the truth about the darkness, however they never ever let the darkness have the last word. The tension between hope and also hopelessness provides for flats and also chords in young keys; dissonance—two notes so close yet so different—is where the harmony is found. Joy and also tragedy room not in opposition; they simply coexist, top top a dusty dance floor. Like the Spirituals, blues is the ingredient that faith is made of—staring in ~ the thin ugliness of life in face and making beauty of nothingness. That point that enables a sold-away servant to lament, “Sometimes ns feel prefer a motherless child,” and also in the next verse celebrate, “Glory Hallelujah.”
Or Daddy, drunk in ~ the piano, singing, “I been down so long that the blues don’t obtain me down.” The blues was also correction and also compassion.
The day at the to wash mat wore on, Mama packed up and we ready to leave. As we headed to the door, us heard a whimper. The woman was crying and also her small boy to be trying come console her. As far as I could tell, the woman had actually run the end of coins for the machine. Mama rotate around, walked over to her, and, never saying a word, provided the woman 2 rolls of quarters and unopened crate of washing powders. In the parking lot, Mama looked in ~ me and admonished, “Boy, you speak truth with grace.”
“Yes, ma’am,” i obliged.
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We gained in the car and also she rotate on WDIA. Louis Jordan’s “Saturday Night Fish Fry” to be on the radio. Mama smiled and so walk I.