I would spend my summers in the South as a child and I remember going to church every Sunday with my grandparents. My grandfather was the Deacon of Zion Hope Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa Alabama. My grandfather had a strong presence within the community. After church we would go home and my siblings and I would change out of our Sunday clothes. Not soon after arriving home the men of the congregation would come by and meet with my grandfather in the dining room to discuss who was in need and what each member could do to for the week to help their community. After the meeting my grandfather who also was a retired moonshiner and farmer told me and my brother to “gone down yonder to the shed and get me some empty boxes” I replied “grandpa where’s yonder” “ he looked at me and said “the shed baby”. After gathering about 40 boxes we went out into the house and enjoyed the Sunday dinner, chicken and dumplings that my grandmother had prepared before we went to church.
Early the next morning before the rooster crowed we went out into the fields and filled each box up with fresh fruits and vegetables. We loaded up the trunk, and the back seat of the car. The car smelled of sweet peaches, collard greens, onions and bell pepper. The pleasant and sweet aroma of fresh food filled my nostrils and made my belly growl. We drove down the dirt road and stopped at each house and placed a box on the porch.
There was one house that lingers in my memory til this day. The grey paint was worn and the three steps to the front of the porch needed repair. Only small chips of white paint remained on the wooden fence. There was one chicken plucking around in the yard, a used tire, and a rusty gasoline can lying sideways in the yard. That red flag with a blue X filled with white stars swaying in the wind seemed like the only thing that wasn’t in need of repair. I knew from watching roots recently that it was the confederate flag and in my six-year-old mind I’m thinking, why we here, and didn’t grandpa see roots. I was mad that I had to look at that flag especially now that I had an understanding of the meaning. My grandfather hopped out of the car grabbed a box of food and placed it on the porch. When he got back in the car I said “grandpa, why you give them food and they don’t even like us” he replied “baby, they need it”. It reminded me of what my grandmother had told me the night before at dinner “If somebody comes knocking on your door and they are hungry, feed them because you never know who it could be.”
A few days later even though it was hot outside it was raining non-stop and it felt as if the air and heat was smothering me. I got up from the swing on the porch and decided to go in the house and play office at my grandpa’s desk. I began looking through his books and noticed that he hadn’t collected rent since 1962. I grab the books and located my grandpa reading the newspaper at the kitchen table while drinking a cup of coffee. I take the books to him and lay them on the kitchen table and asked “did you know these receipts are 15 years old?” he replied “yes” I then tell him, “grandpa, we need to add up how much each person owes you and collect”. My grandfather looked at me with a smile on his face and said “baby, they family”.