Holdin' On To Her Jesus

by Henry Hardee

Scrap had been doin' the Lawd's work: feeding the hungry and clothin' the naked  long 'fore creation. Doing His will was her reason for livin' and He made  the earth jes ta keep her busy.  

He sent her down into Jerusalem cause he knew she was gonna praise and glorfy his name.  She was in the womb at the same time as Jesus and JohnThe Baptist but the white people in Rome took her story out of The Good Book cause she was a black woman and was happy to be nappy.  

She held Moses in her arms when he was just a lap baby and told tales to children in the projects on the Westside of Chi-Town about drunken yankee slavers that grinned at her nakedness when they came and took her from Africa.  

She taught them the word "Bozal which meant fresh slaves from Africa and told them about the unexpected dangers she had to face when  her birth right was sold for glass beads and rum. She shakes her head sadly as talked about her tribesmen because they had short changed themselves because she was more valuable than the vein of gold that runs through the earth.  

she wore suffering like a black cotton head rag and her memories were trapped in the fabric of slave row.  

The wrongs she went through in her life left a bitter taste in her mouth like a wad of snuff and she'd learned to tread through the storms of being colored and poor like Jesus walking on the water.  

She remembered being caught when she was ten years old after she had waded into the blue ocean to scoop up fish in a basket to help Jesus feed the five thousand and how she was in a slave coffle of women tied by the neck to a forked log with rope made of tie-tie bark and how some of the women held their breath and preferred to starve to death in the belly of that slaveship than eat horsebean mush.  She saw the souls of those women fly up into the sky to live on the North Star that lead slaves to freedom.  

This land they had brought her to was not "new" to her.  She had been here long before the Mayflower.  She had been here with Balboa as he stumbled his way across the Pacific.  She had been here with Coronado in New Mexico.  She had been here with them French explorers that went up and down the Mississippi River because they had heard that it was made out of whiskey.  

the massa who bought her didn't know that the real Jesus was a fine brown-eyed man that  lived in the drum and his Word were spoken in 4/4 time to send Christianity all over the world.  He made him up a Jesus and tried to enslave her with his blonde-hair and blue-eyes.  He made his  overseer , the minister, who taught  Sunday School lessons with his whips and chains, who taught Sunday School lessons that tole her to work hard , do what the massa say and maybe God wouldn't punish her when she got to heaven for being lazy and all her stealin, rascalin' and lyin'ways. 

Scrap didn't pay im or his Jesus no mind but kept her eyes on the wonder-workin God she knew in the village drum.  When she thought back on the rhythms of that drum she knew that God was gonna protect her from the trials and tribulations, thorns and thistles of sharecropping and Jim Crow. She knew that if she kept on all God armor: the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness and her shoes that were anointed with peace she was gonna have victory of the massa Jesus.    

The massa saw her as cheap human merchandise, the overseer saw her as the gem of manual labor but her God saw that the work that came from her hands were the real wonders of the world.   

The lines in Scrap's face had the wisdom of black history in them.  The arch of her brow said that the bloodhounds that Columbus used to get rid of the Indians were the fathers of the German Shepards they sicked on Negroes while they were marching in Alabama.  The curve of her lower lip told you how people use to use leaves as deodorant and that the first hair weave was done in Kenya with orchred strings.  

Scrap had never seen death be so bloody and violent until the white men came and brought her to the plantation.  She saw the whipped go marching in.  She saw the lynched go marching in.  She saw the assassinated president and abolitionists go marching, marching, marching in.  She wondered where they all went to. She wondered if they really went up to the Glory cause the massa's Jesus said that he wasn't gonna let none of them in heaven to be free and get their rewards.  

She'd heard massa's Jesus say how black folks wasn't gonna walk the golden streets of heaven in peace like the whitefolks.  She'd heard him say that the plantation owners was gonna have colored folks working for 5 cents a day for eternity and when she died didn't know if she was going to rest easy in the arms of her God ( that was in the drum) or was going some place to chop wood to keep the sun burning for the massa's Jesus.  She didn't know if she was gonna be in the Garden of Eden to chillin and listenin to gospel/blues riffs of Blind Wille Johnson's guitar or be chopping cotton year-round (cause there were no seasons in heaven) and had to listen to them dry classical songs they played in the massa's parlor wrote up by Beethoven.  

Her soul left her body while she was lying on her cooling board and walked up an invisible staircase into the sky. Along the way she wondered why the Lord hadn't sent down a golden chariot to pick her up or at least leave her a ticket on the “The Gospel Express Train" going non-stop to the other side.  

 On the walls inside the clouds she saw the faces of dem babies that had been taken from their mothers and thrown overboard slaveships, the faces of dem babies what got tore outta they mama's belly cause the missus found out massa was their father, the faces of dem babies that were poisoned by their mother's to keep them from being sold.    

Losing faith Scrap Walked and a-walked. Walked and a-walked.  Walked and a-walked.  Holding onto her Jesus that was in the drum, Scrap, finally, came up to the Pearlie Gates.  She peeped through the bars to see if the colored folks were shackled with chains before she went in cause if they were she was going to turn around and go  back home.  When she heard Mahalia Jackson singing the devil's music in the pulpit she knew the colored people in heaven had lynched the massa's Jesus and were really free-hummm. 

Holdin' On To Her Jesus by Henry Hardee

© Copyright 2006. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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