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Evelyn C. Fortson

African American Author of Women's Fiction


Another killing at the hands of the police. This one is especially hard because of who the killers are. Five African American men in police uniforms in a southern state that was once the hub of the slave trade chased down a man to punish him for running. The fact that everyone of them were Black is gut wrenching. Didn’t they see themselves when they saw Tyre Nicholas?

When I see Black Officers I hope that they have put on that uniform to actuate change in policing. I had hoped that their presence in the institution of protecting the status quo would somehow lessen the danger to us.

As I looked at their mug shots, I couldn’t help but wonder if they had forgotten that they are Black men. Did they really believe in that Us versus Them mentality that the police force propagates? If they did believe that they were a part of a brotherhood that would protect them like their White counterparts, they would soon find out how Black they are.

RowVaugh Wells, Tyre Nichols’ mother, stated in an interview that she would pray for the officer’s families, because they have disgraced their families. Maybe that is a part of what I’m feeling. I feel the ugliness of what they did. Watching them beat a man as he cried out for his mother was a shameful act. They dishonored us because we are connected by our shared experience in this country. We are connected by our coily hair, our thick lips, wide noses and our melanated skin.

The Police Officers that beat Tyre Nichols to death did not see their brother, they saw him as a dangerous Black man in a hoodie. They saw him as the world portrays young Black men. They didn’t see the young man that loved to photograph beautiful sunsets. They didn’t see the young father that worked to provide for his family. Or the man that loved his mother so much that he had her name tattooed on his arm.

Tyre Nichols sounds like a lot of young men just trying to make it in this world. I read that he loved to take pictures of sunsets. He will be a part of each sunset until his story fades from my consciousness. I also know that years from now a particularly beautiful sunset will remind me of the young man that died before his time because we are all connected to each other. Our individual stories intertwine together creating a picture too big sometimes for us to see. I carry a portion of his mother’s pain in my heart even though I never knew her son.

Tyre Nichols, George Floyd, Treyvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, are the names that we know, but there are so many more that we haven’t heard about, or we have somehow forgotten. But with each new killing we remember them and how their story ended, praying that this malady of hate will one day be overtaken by love, peace, compassion, empathy and humanity.

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“God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise,” is a pearl of wisdom that I often heard my elders say. I never thought much about it until now.

How many times have you made plans, and they didn’t work out? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make plans. Planning is good, it gives us something to look forward to, and it gives us a sense of control. Controlling the things in our lives makes us feel secure in a world full of uncertainty.

Now when I make plans, I say to myself, God Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise, because I know that I’m not in control. God is in control. There are forces in this world that will work against our plans, but if it is God’s will, it will come to pass. This I know to be true.

I hear my grandmother and mother’s voices when I hear those words. My voice mingles with theirs’ as I repeat the saying. I write sayings like that in my books because I want you to hear your mother’s voice when you read them. That saying and others go back generations and are a part of who we are. We can’t let them fade into oblivion, because to do so, would be letting go of another piece of us.

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I was so pragmatic as a young woman that it was hard to allow myself to dream. I loved to draw, but I couldn’t see myself making a living from it, so I stopped drawing. I balled up my dreams like a tight wad of paper and got a job that I worked for 40 years.

But the thing about dreams is even if you don’t believe that they are possible they never die, not completely. They hover in your peripheral where you catch fleeing glimpses of them. They become ghostly orbs that float just beyond reach. They become the agonizing question, “What if?”

I have smoothed out the furled paper that once represented my dreams. It’s tattered, crinkled, and yellowed.

The dream I now have is different from the dream of yesterday. Both dreams deal with being creative. I draw pictures and paint with my grandsons, but no one has to like them but us.

I dream now of becoming a renowned author. Writing stories for my Sistah’s pleasure. Telling stories where she can escape, dream, or contemplate.

No one has to like the books I have written or the ones I will write, but my dream is that they will.

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