UPDATE: The winner is…Debra Guyette!
The phrase “return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear” was made famous by announcer Fred Foy, introducing the adventures of the old Lone Ranger and Tonto on radio and television. But for me, it’s a clarion call to lose myself in that wonderful time machine called history.
Twenty-seven years ago, I pastored a small church in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. Nazarene United Church of Christ sits on the corners of Patchen Avenue and MacDonough Street. Often as I walked to do pastoral visits on the other side of Atlantic Avenue, I passed several wooden houses and wondered what they were, who had lived there. I learned they were the remnants of Weeksville, a community founded by free-Blacks in the 1830s. In the three years I served Nazarene, I never once got to visit them.
On my last trip back to New York, I visited the Brooklyn Historical Society and discovered Judith Wellman’s wonderful book, Brooklyn’s Promised Land: The Free Black Community of Weeksville, New York. She transported me back to the thrilling days of yesteryear on streets inhabited by the residents of a thriving Black community of ministers, doctors, landowners and entrepreneurs, streets I’d walked and intersections I’d crossed. The community’s residents strove to develop pride in self and place. It served not just as enclave for themselves but a refuge for many from the Southern violence of slavery in the South or Northern violence like the Manhattan draft riots of 1863. In 1968, a workshop sponsored by Pratt Institute led to the rediscovery of this historical safe haven.
How odd that I, who grew up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York, chose to write historical romance about Blacks in the far West when Blacks west of East New York were much closer at hand. From my research done at the Brooklyn Historical Society, the Schomburg, and through Wellman’s book I wrote the novella Light The Fire Again for the Fireworks: A Passionate Ink Romance Anthology. Fred Foy’s call to return now to those thrilling days of yesteryear in the West, draws me west to Weeksville and to the thrilling stories Weeksville inspires me to write. A reimagined Gilded Age Weeksville is now the setting of my women’s fiction series of novels that I’m adapting from Wagner’s Ring cycle operas.
I didn’t get to visit the Weeksville Heritage Center last October. There’s always next year, I thought. I’ll be glad when I can tour Weeksville in the flesh, not just on the Heritage Center’s website: https://www.weeksvillesociety.org/.
I hope you will tour the original Weeksville houses and listen to one man reminisce about his childhood home there on the videos listed below:
Thanks for letting me share. Now, how about you share in the comments what you’ve learned about the history of your people or your neighborhood or your family. Everyone who does will be entered into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.
Light the Fire Again
One night in 1896 between delicious rounds of oral sex, Adelaide Hanson and Hero Williams shared their hopes and dreams. She to be an artist like Edmonia Lewis. He to amass great wealth. Hero went off to start a fireworks business. Adelaide remained in Weeksville hampered by a ruined reputation until a doctor’s examination proved her still a virgin.
Two years later, Hero, now a self-made millionaire, returns to share his wealth with the community that sheltered his family from the violence of the Post-Reconstruction South. He has also returned hoping to ask Adelaide for her hand. She, however, is anticipating a marriage proposal from the son of one of the Black community’s most prominent families, despite his mother’s disapproval. Hero begs for a chance to change Adelaide’s mind. Although still in love with him, she is unwilling to risk her heart and societal opprobrium again. Then Hero makes an offer he hopes she won’t refuse: a chance to revive what they shared two years ago by viewing a private fireworks display designed especially to light the fire between them again.
Light the Fire Again is one of seven steamy fireworks-featuring romances in the Fireworks anthology, proceeds from which will go to ProLiteracy, an adult literacy organization. So enjoy some great sex while supporting a great cause.
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/3ktzVH8
Excerpt from Light the Fire Again
Red and white checkered tablecloths fluttered gently in the warm July breeze. Summer sunlight glinted off glass pitchers brimming with iced tea, lemonade and water. The event attendees had filtered out of the hall and were lining up at the collation tables. Everyone grinned and smacked their lips as the delicious scents of collards, cornbread and fresh-baked biscuits, sweet potatoes, and chicken, both baked and fried, filled the air.
Adelaide’s stomach growled. She pressed a fist against her gut to quiet it. She hadn’t had breakfast and regretted offering to help serve.
“Hurry up Adelaide,” Emmaline Thompson barked. “Set those platters beside the others, go back for the last tray then be ready to serve.”
Adelaide bristled, tempted to deliver a tongue lashing of her own but kept silent and complied.
Reverend Johnson, Hero and several clergy and civic leaders headed for a white linen-covered table decked with red, white and blue ribbons set aside for the guest of honor.
Hero glanced her way, catching her eye. He smiled. Not a broad enjoy-your-day smile, but a narrow I-remember-you grin.
She remembered him too.
Her stomach growled again, this time from a different hunger.
She speared chicken on to plate after plate, forcing a smile with every “You’re welcome” she said to each guest served. The letter in her pocket gave her no reason to smile.
Reverend Johnson had given her the envelope in his office. She recognized Hero’s handwriting immediately. If Reverend Johnson hadn’t been present she’d have ripped it up. She’d shoved it in her pocket, planning to do just that when the minister asked her to please open it then and there.
The envelope contained two pieces of paper: one an article from the Brooklyn Eagle announcing the reason for Hero’s return to Weeksville. His family, known for their generosity to causes dedicated to uplifting the Negro race, had several monetary gifts for their former neighborhood. The reporter recounted the family’s harrowing escape from the South then chronicled their rise to wealth. Their most recent success was attributed to the series of fireworks Hero had designed over the last two years. The article ended by quoting Hero.
“Yes, God has blessed us with success, but I’ll be forever grateful to a muse who inspired me late one August night.”
Adelaide re-read the quote several times. Just seeing the words “August night” set her sex pulsing. She laid the article aside and read the second piece of paper. A hot fist of awakening curled low in her belly as she mouthed its simple words.
Let’s light the fire again.
Buy Link: https://amzn.to/3ktzVH8