Did you ever see a dream walking? Well, I did…and I’m not just quoting that old 1933 song of the same name. In her poem, “Still I Rise”, Maya Angelou penned these words:
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave
Every time I look in a mirror, I realize I may be some slave’s dream walking.
Somewhere in North Carolina, my great-grandmother Julie Pitt Hagan’s people were owned by a man named Pitt. On January 1, 1863 when Abraham Lincoln issued the final Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as slaves” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free,” the slaves on the Pitt plantation could consider themselves freed.
I wonder did Julie’s people gather and listen to a reading of the proclamation as depicted in this 1864 engraving printed by James Watts? If they did, did they dream and hope of a descendant like me, owned by no one but herself? If they did, have I — their descendent — lived a life that realized their dreams and hopes?
The Brooklyn church I served once held a Watchnight service to ring in the new year. When the clock struck twelve, we ended the service with the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. As the words were read, I experienced the anticipation – and trepidation — my ancestors might have felt as January 1 1863 brought with it the possibility of freedom. I felt inspired to live a life worthy of my ancestors’ dreams and hopes. As I worshipped that night I recalled Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 dream that called for economic and social justice for all. I resolved to make that dream my dream, too.
This month as we honor Dr. King’s life and work, I encourage you to think about the dreams and hopes of your ancestors, reflect on the dreams and hopes of all people everywhere continuing to rise above circumstances and conditions that conspire to keep them down. You, like me, are somebody’s dream, somebody’s hope. Be a dream walking, see dreams walking all around you and do all you can to bring them pass.
Better to Mary Than to Burn
A bridal lottery seems the height of foolishness to ex-slave Caesar King, but his refusal to participate in the town council’s scheme places him in a bind. He has to get married to avoid paying a high residence fine or leave the Texas territory. After losing his wife in childbirth, Caesar isn’t ready for romance. A woman looking for a fresh start without any emotional strings is what he needs.
Queen Esther Payne, a freeborn black from Philadelphia, has been threatened by her family for her forward-thinking, independent ways. Her family insists she marry. Her escape comes in the form of an ad. If she must marry, it will be on her terms. But her first meeting with the sinfully hot farmer proves an exciting tussle of wills that stirs her physically, intellectually, and emotionally.
In the battle of sexual one-upmanship that ensues, both Caesar and Queen discover surrender can be as fulfilling as triumph.
Caesar looked at Queen. His eyes glistened with unshed tears. She gasped then swallowed hard, unnerved by the sight. Her lips trembled.
Reverend Warren smiled at Queen then addressed Caesar. “You may kiss the bride.”
Kiss? Queen flinched. There’d be no kissing in this marriage. She’d promised to be his wife for two years with sex provided at agreed upon intervals. At the end of two years that requirement would end and she’d be free to live as she chose. She could go anywhere she pleased, especially with the respectability of missus before her name and Caesar’s promised severance. No. This coupling made them business partners. Business partners did not kiss.
She extended her hand to seal their arrangement. He returned the handshake but instead of releasing her, his too rough fingers imprisoned hers and pulled her to him. With his other hand he captured the back of her head and secured her mouth to his.
A squeal of surprise parted her lips. His thick tongue swept into the shelter of her mouth. The assault ambushed her with pleasure and vanquished her resistance.
Her hands rose, as if of their own volition, and pressed against his chest. The firm muscle beneath his shirt coaxed her hands to linger, to explore—however discretely—the muscle beneath her palms and fingertips.
Caesar broke off the kiss.
The embrace didn’t last more than a few seconds, but Queen swayed, robbed of reason and resentment.
Reverend Warren handed Caesar the marriage certificate and shook his hand. Queen stood, mouth gaping, startled by the confusion roiling through her mind, amazed by the moisture roiling in her sex.
With a simple kiss, this bull of a man had exhumed the sexual hunger she’d thought buried.
“Thanks for being available, Pastor.” Caesar shook the minister’s hand. “Mother Maybelle.” He hugged and kissed the older woman. Again, their affection stirred an unexpected sympathy in Queen’s chest. She sucked in a breath to dispel it.
He gripped Queen by the upper arm and hauled her back to the wagon.
“What’s the rush?” she asked.
He hoisted her up to the seat by her waist before she could object. She swallowed the gasp elicited by the press of possession in his grasp.
“Daylight’s burning,” he stated. “Don’t want to be caught out after dark.”
Queen eyed his lips, their fullness still remembered against her mouth. She shifted several times but found no relief from the pressure pulsing along her labia. Good Lord, how was she to make sense of so strong a physical reaction to this stranger? Had celibacy left her defenseless against physical contact from anyone?
Or was this physical attraction genuine?