Church shoes and fancy dresses,
Neon lights just starting to flicker to life
In the dying light,
Reflecting off dark skin.
The woman stands—a living monument to strength—watching cars pass,
Her daughter, already too aware of the world,
Gazes benevolently with the eyes of God,
On the town, on the life, that surrounds her.
A white woman passes, clad in fire-engine red,
The red of someone assured enough to draw attention.
Her eyes are cast downward, confidence wavered
By the monuments she passed on the street.
She’s headed toward a “Whites Only” sign somewhere.
Everything this woman and her child stand for,
Everything they are, is feared, even now.
Then, they saw a black woman daring to stand in public, reaching into a purse,
Now, they see a black person who could be reaching for a gun.
Written from “Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956”