The Watermarks We Drown In: Part I

The other night I found out that my Great Grandmother’s brother was a hustler named Romalus. Heard he was the man when it came to running numbers in New Orleans and that nothing moved on Rampart St. without him knowing about it. Known for adorning both his hands in diamond rings and even a diamond or two in his teeth, Romalus used to pull his black Cadillac up next to his kinfolks’ house in the 7th ward, not too far from where I live now, step out his ride and stunt like the neighborhood superstar he was. All this told to me by my third cousin Pierre. When I responded to the breakdown Cousin P was giving me with, “Ohhh so he was a gangsta!” he kind of shyly waved the term off. “No, no, I think he would’ve preferred — more like…” “Businessman?” I finished for him. He laughed and nodded it off a bit. No matter. I had heard enough to confirm all I needed to know. After some 30 odd years of questioning my blackness as defined by the obligatory parameters of street cred, I could finally — finally… albeit a bit too little too lately — claim some real nigga in my blood.

African Boy by Merriel Tyus Books

The Ellisonian Basement is a collection of my writings on Blackness & visibility in the post-modern world, OR Duboisian double consciousness under surveillance.

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