Saving Stories and Saving Time

Yesterday I interviewed my dad, Calvin Drakeford, as a way to document the normal, and honestly mundane, aspects of his life. The disproportionate amount of death experience by older African Americans, particularly men, as a result of the Covid pandemic jolted me to action. Many stories are being lost and there is an urgency to protect them  so that future generations can learn and hear wisdom from those that have walked before them. Something interesting happening in my discussion with my dad though.

Prince_George_s_Burtality_August_1971
The Baltimore Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · 28 Aug 1971, Sat · Page 12

No question that I asked him was about his experiences or interactions with police. However, he recounted several stories that included him being directly harassed by the police (although I doubt he would phrase it as such).

About 40 minutes into our talk, my dad recounted an incident when he was about 15-16 years old and Prince George’s County Police officers randomly detained (and frankly arrested) him for “fitting the description.” He was walking home from summer school, that he voluntarily enrolled in to get into an advanced math course.  This interaction occurred between 1971 – 1972, at a time when Prince George’s County was predominately white, and the there were ongoing investigations in the department for insufficient protection and ongoing violence towards African Americans.

Nearly every black person in the United States has an experience with police where there is a use of power (physical violence or psychological intimidation) that is intended to remind us of our sacrificial purpose of being in the United States. The trauma inflicted towards black persons in our interactions with police are generational and also daily present. We reflect on these encounters from the past and plot ways to escape or rescue our children from them in the future. Stemming from the initial patrols that rounded up black bodies as property, to knees that suffocate us today when presumptions are made about us.

These memories constantly permeate through nearly every conversation, interaction, hope and fear that we have. Manifesting as post-traumatic stress disorder robbing us time to love, experience joy, peace, comfort, and protection.

Imagine if my father had been taken to that store that day. What would his story had been? What would his future have become? Would I exist? How would this time look differently for me?

Many of our stories are lost to time. If you can find a way, I encourage you to document the stories of your loved ones. It can be a zoom call, an audio recording, or a recording with your cellphone. Forget losing recipes, we’re losing time. If you need guidance on which questions to ask you can start with my list of questions (click here). Forget losing recipes, we’re losing time.

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