September 1st was the beginning of the Melody & Dera Get Finished Workshop. Now is the time to put up or get up. I turned in a proposal to the African American Museum & Library of Oakland (AAMLO) to share my growing up in Oakland stories. Now I need at least 5 pages of my in-progress manuscript, The Enchantments, by Thursday. But first I need to do some organization of my characterizations.
A Tale of Two States
Arkansas. The state where I was born. The place of my ancestors, family reunions, family weddings and celebrations and a place where those who have left come back to as their final resting place.
I had come on this journey this year 2019 in the month of June to commemorate my mother’s burial grave in the Rowland family burial plot at Batts Chapel Cemetery in the little town of Huttig in southern Arkansas. My mother left southern Arkansas to attend Philander Smith College, a small Historically Black Methodist-run college in the capital city of Little Rock. After graduating, starting her teaching career, married and had me and my brother, my parents decided they would make the trek which came to be called the “Great Migration” when thousands of African Americans moved from the south to the North, the Midwest, East and Western states.
My family left Arkansas in 1953 when my brother was just two months old and I was two years old. As much as my mother acclimated to California and made a life for herself, she was ever a southern girl at heart and always wanted to be buried where she and her family still have ties. The ‘old place’ where my grandparents raised their family is still standing on heir property and elder members of our family are receiving compensation for the lumber the beautiful pine and oak trees produce.
As we drove, two carloads of us, from Little Rock to Union County, about a 2 ½ hour drive, there was no denying the lush beauty of the natural forest of majestic pines towering along the highway. We drove past numerous small towns with small populations and being in the Bible belt there were churches prominent along the way. I became nostalgic watching the scenery before me.
Dera R. Williams is a published author of fiction, nonfiction and memoir, a griot who has co-authored a short story collection and a collection of childhood memories of growing up in Oakland.