When I told my mother I was going to the “Come Meet a Black Person” event in Lawrenceville, Ga., she readily told me, “Pickeny gal, a mind dem a nah sum ku klux klan sin ting yah nuh.” This is Jamaican patois for “It’s a trap!” My friends also warned me that it was a trap.
I’m not going to lie—when I arrived and saw the gun store across the street, I said a prayer to Black Jesus and hoped that I wasn’t about to be Brandy from I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.
I didn’t have any expectations, other than a deep belief that the alcohol should be free. My greatest fear was that I would have to endure real-life Kinja grays with no drink in sight. When I entered the meeting room, I was amused to find that of the 50 or so attendees, the majority of the room was black.
Black, blackity black.
The room was made up of predominantly small-business owners from all walks of life. The common reason for coming? “I just wanted to meet people.” That is what most people said after promoting their trucking business, short film, law firm, real estate business and what I can only describe as performance art. Shoutout to Chief Tony T.
Addressing the issues of racial tensions in America wasn’t really the first thing on anyone’s mind, except for a young Frenchman of Senegalese descent I met who travels between Georgia and France.
“In France, it’s a similar situation. We are discriminated against, but we’re French citizens. I wanted to get some tips on how to deal with it so I can take it back to France,” he said.
I didn’t get to speak to the five white attendees, two of whom were representatives from their respective publications, since they were busy for the two hours, but in honesty, the event wasn’t really about them.
It was about Cheryle Moses, founder of a group called Urban Mediamakers, who organized the event. Moses, with her medium height, platinum-blond locs to her shoulders and raspy Southern voice, commanded the room, and her joy and energy were infectious.
She was hard not to love. For her, everyone was “mama,” “honey,” “child,” “baby.” “Did you get enough to eat?” “Did you get enough to drink?” were the common refrains out of her mouth. And with the food, which she had painstakingly made herself, she reminded me of the numerous black women who raised me. Women I deeply admire, and still learn from every day.
“I’m not naive. I didn’t know what to expect. I had a 9 mm in my purse in case something happened. ’Cause I’m not going out like that,” Moses said.
“I have a permit to conceal and carry. It’s important to know your rights. Racism, that’s white people’s problem. They created it. They need to fix it. We [black people] can only worry about ourselves,” she continued.
We talked about the event, which she deemed a success. Moses said she understood why black people wouldn’t want to come, and she wouldn’t want to force them. She said she also understands the realities of race, particularly as a born-and-bred Georgia native. She’s simply the eternal optimist, in true black-mama fashion.
“White people are oblivious. We know them. We have to know them, you know. It’s not like that for them. They don’t know anything about us; they don’t have to,” Moses opined.
Moses said that her objective was to create a space to keep the lines of communication open. It’s fine if you don’t want to answer silly questions from white people, but she’s willing to. Moses said that she plans to take her show on the road, holding this event around the country, while continuing her work as a writer, director and independent filmmaker.
I’m not mad at Cheryle Moses. She’s just another black girl trying to save the world.