BEFORE BARACK

My Life Among White Folks

The Books

Volume 1
"Why do you hate white people so much? What did they ever do to you?"
Volume 2
I was a raisin in a pot of rice.
Volume 3
Back south of the Mason-Dixon, my life was in their hands...again. Or so they thought. They were wrong.
Volume 4
The first day I walked across Harvard's campus, the only thing I was looking for was the quickest way out.
Volume 5
I coulda been Condoleeza, but I was way too smart for that.
Volume 6
"How can you be friends with them?" Her body was rigid with fury, her light brown face flushed red with rage. "Them"...the white folks.

Quick Links

Volume 6 BLOOD WORK

Volume 6 BLOOD WORK: Domestic Dirt & Foreign Soil

After being Black in Paris, Mexico City, Santo Domingo, Frankfort, Accra and various Caribbean ports, I do not expect to be warmly embraced in 1998 South Africa--the Land of Apartheid--halfway around the world. I am no longer confused about not belonging or not being wanted, much less adored, any place in the world.

Instead, South Africa throws me for a loop. It is so warm and inviting that when it is time to leave, I want to stay. Forever.


"Tourniquet" [excerpt]


By 2003 I am in Sydney Harbor, trying to see past the Opera House’s slick roof lines that mimic billowing tents, trying to imagine “Sorry” strung across an Australian bridge to apologize to the descendants of exploited and murdered Aborigines still waiting to get more than a sorry banner.

I've come a long way from where I grew up, a poor girl among bourgeois black folks, most of whom I couldn't stand. I realize now that learning to put up with them was perfect training for making friends with white folks. Even though some of my best friends are white, most aren't. But Polly was.


Stealing away from the buzz of activities, I sat in Polly's chair at her desk in her cozy writing retreat in the barn, a room she named in honor of me and my relentless badgering that she create a space to write. And write she did.

There beneath the insulation stuffed attic, amid her writing familiars, the much-discussed state-of-the-art wood-burning stove, her own phone line, a laptop computer, a thesaurus, and a dictionary, sat a perfectly formatted final copy of her novel manuscript.