Even though I still had to finish up my last eight hours for the man I felt good about the beginning of my day. My new Volvo 960 put me in the right frame of mind by passing any and everything on the road as I cruised to work. Through the sunroof I could see the beautiful blue skies that covered the city, but the heat outside was ridiculous. When I planted my feet on the pavement in the parking lot, I felt like dropping straight down to my knees and asking God to take back this wicked, thick, humid air and return the cool breezy air that I love about my hometown of Detroit in early September.
It was so hot out that the coffee vendors weren't parked in their usual spots along the sidewalk for the first time all week. And without the vendors I didn't get to scan for the groups of women who make a habit of gathering around in clusters, drinking their coffee, tea, Slim Fast, and juice, while peepin' the few brothers who have jobs downtown. When these ladies see a brother, they get so excited you would think that Laurence or Wesley had been sighted with signs on their backs saying, TAKE ME, I'M YOURS! I could tell they were really trippin' as they tried their best to position themselves for their morning look over without it being too obvious.
"Hi," one of the ladies said as I approached them with a smile planted on my face. She easily stood out because she was the tallest of them all. I noticed the sister started to drink whatever she had in her cup as she seductively batted her long eyelashes at me, then grinned at her girlfriends waiting for them to tease her about how bad she'd been.
This attention was definitely a first from this group of young women. There are so many cliques on Woodward Avenue that I have memorized each one for acknowledgment's sake. I'd walked past this particular group every day on my way into work, but this was the first time anyone had spoken to me. As I walked directly into the gang, I thought about all the how-to guides in the bookstores that brothers and sisters are writing on how women can lure men. They must be selling big time, and these young ladies must have read every line and talked about it in a literary club because when I slowed down to speak to them, I felt like they were trying out a can't-miss example from the latest book on me. No doubt these sisters were fly, I had to give them that, and I kind of felt sorry for them because of the lack of brothers around to compliment them on their good looks or to do whatever we do to just make them smile. I knew they were up to something, so I just hoped their intentions were good. But I was prepared to encounter any type of game that they were planning to throw my way because in a gang bang you never know the flavor of the day. I had my fingers crossed, hoping one of the sisters hadn't stopped short of reading all of her chapters, because I didn't want to have to take anyone back to school. I have five sisters, and growing up in our house, you said good morning to the attitudes before anyone else in the house. So I was sure that I could handle these sisters if need be. "Good morning, ladies," I responded, making sure I looked at each and every one of them so I wouldn't offend anyone without breaking stride. I could feel their eyes on my backside and, to tell you the truth, I enjoyed the hell out of all the attention.
"Excuse me?" a tender voice sang out.
I stopped and turned around, then looked at the young lady who said hello and smiled.
"Are you a professional basketball player?" she asked.
They all waited intently for an answer. "No, I'm sure not." At six feet five I receive that question a lot. I'd been considered by a couple of NBA teams back when I played basketball at Central State University, and I made it a point to continue to work out over the years and keep my body in shape. At that moment I was glad that I did.
"Then you must be a professional model," a different sister said, as she slowly stirred her drink and looked around at her girlfriends to show them how much spunk she had. Smiling and slightly blushing, I told them, "No, not a model either, just a hardworking ad executive at the Houston Corporation who better get himself to work so that he can prepare for a very busy day. Nice meeting you all."
Waving good-bye to the ladies, I turned around and continued to walk to work. I overheard their comments.
"Hum, an ad executive. Not bad," one of the ladies said.
"Is that what he is?" another blurted out. "All I heard him say, is...he was hard." They burst into laughter.
Still grinning from their comments, I remembered when -- and it was not that long ago -- a brother of my complexion, deep-down chocolate, was not looked upon favorably by the majority of women. It used to be, if you didn't look like anyone in the Debarge family, you most likely had to settle for whatever came your way and hope and pray that she wasn't blacker than you. But the days of being called spook, black knight, tar baby, and crispy critter by your own people are gone. Women nowadays seem to want nothing but a chocolate mocha, radial-tire color black man.
While riding on the elevator to my office, I thought about what my father had told me about the corporate world and all the foolishness I would encounter in the workplace. So much of what he said has occurred like Scripture, and I am just thankful that God gave him to me as long as he did. Before my pops passed away he was always there for me, and one thing is for sure, working as the head of plant maintenance in the automobile industry for thirty-five years taught him a lot about people and what they will or will not do. When he died it hurt me so bad because he was so brokenhearted. Love and respect were always in abundance in the Richardson household, and with six kids to raise there was never a dull moment. My parents went the extra mile for all of us until the day Pops was rolled down the church aisle in his casket. His dream of raising six strong, independent children had evaded him, and he died worrying about my sister Leandra.
My sister Leandra, the eldest of five girls and myself, is the most irresponsible person I have ever known. And the most irritating thing about that is that she happens to be in my family. Everyone seems to have a problem with her and her know-it-all attitude, which has really turned my close family into a thing of the past. Since my father died, four of my five sisters have moved back in with my mother, to the house that he built for their retirement. He always joked that they were going to move out of the ghetto where the drugs and guns were sold to the place where everything is manufactured -- the suburbs -- and that's exactly what he did. After he passed, Toni, Kim, and Pam slowly moved back in with Mom. Michelle is the only one who doesn't live with my mother but still, she's always there.
In the beginning it really didn't bother my mother that she had a houseful again, but I can see that it's taking its toll on her. I'm sure she's grateful that she isn't there with Leandra by herself, and everyone works to keep her mind at ease as she misses my father dearly.
As usual I was the first one in the office and to my surprise the very important contract revision for the sneaker ad had not been done. It was still sitting on my desk. I wish my boss, Mr. Gales, would ensure that the office secretary, Danielle, would do my work as quickly as she takes off her panties for him after everyone has left for the day. When I first heard that she and Gales were fooling around I really couldn't believe it. I mean this girl looks like she could have her face plastered on all the white magazines if she wanted to -- Mademoiselle, Vogue, or some shit. What could she see in Gales? But one evening I returned to the office to get my keys that I had left in my desk drawer, and after hearing for myself the two lovebirds getting their Jones on as I walked past his office door, I realized the rumors about them were true. While I didn't care if she and Gales were freakin' on their free time, this was my money that she was messing with and her lack of professionalism was about to piss me off. It was obvious I was going to have to get on her ass to get the work done before the ten o'clock appointment that I had scheduled with my client.
The first thing that I usually do in the morning is prepare for the customary morning meeting. But this was Friday and the first of the month, which means payday and I just had to ensure my money was deposited into the company's matching savings plan before I did anything at all. This is my bread-and-butter. Come December, I'm going to kiss this drive-you-crazy place good-bye and start my own company. God willing, when it matures I'll roll that money over, take a loan out on it, and pay myself back with interest. The balance in my account was so pleasing, the early morning phone call that took my eyes off my computer screen didn't bother me one bit.
"Good morning, Houston Corporation, Kahlil Richardson speaking," I said in my payday voice.
"Hi, Kahlil. Guess what? Your sister be trippin'!"
Why now? I thought to myself. I was in one of my better moods all week and I could tell my sister Pam was ready to start talking about all of the confusion over at my mother's house. She calls me three, maybe four, times a week to keep me up-to-date on the madness. I settled into my leather chair, swiveled around to where the photos of my family are placed, and began going over my notes for the morning meeting. I was half-ass listening to what she was saying because I had about twenty minutes before I had to be in the boardroom.
"I just thought I'd call and fill you in, before you get a call from your sister Michelle. She came over last night and told Mama that she's thinking about moving in here with us because she and Terrance are having problems again. I overheard her say that she's tired of him and she's found herself a new man and get this -- she's already been sleeping with him and Terrance asked her about it and she told him to stay out of her business and smacked him in the face. I'm sure she's going to ask you to help her move again. So be on the lookout for her call," Pam cautioned me. She always makes sure I knew everything that was going on, if I want to hear about it or not.
That was definitely bad news. I had moved Michelle back and forth at least four times in the past year and a half and I just didn't have the time to drop what I had going on in my life, especially this weekend, to go help her move, then turn around and move her back into the apartment with Terrance when they made up. I don't know why they don't leave well enough alone and accept that things aren't going to work out. I've tried to convince Michelle to just get a divorce and let that be the end of things, but she enjoys the drama of it all. They both do.
"Pam, do me a favor and tell her not to do anything before I talk to her, okay?" I said in a hurry, putting my paperwork in order. "Now I have to go, I have a meeting. I'll call you later on when I get home. Good-bye."
"Be sure to call me now," she said quickly, "because that's not all I have to tell you." For some reason, I really did believe that.
Everyone else had arrived at the office now, and, as usual, they were talking about their upcoming weekend game of golf. I swear the majority of these assholes think they are the authority on golf. I wonder how many of them would quit the game all together if they found out the tee was invented by a black man. I thought about sharing this fact, but after seven years at the office I know them too well. They would say some stupid shit like, "He made it because he was tired of bending down while our forefathers took their shots off his head," and piss me off. Plus they are still getting over the fact that Tiger Woods beat that ass in the Masters. I think they like to rationalize that he isn't really a black man, just something really special.
Those are the kinds of things I have to put up with at the office. I know how to golf, and I play with some of the brothers from church quite frequently. But I will never play a round with this bunch of disrespectful suck-ass white boys. A sister who worked in the production department and quit about three years ago told me about a brother who worked for the firm a couple of years before I was hired. He took these fools up on their offer to go out and play a round. What he didn't know was that they secretly videotaped the outing, then showed cutouts of the video at a diversity seminar at the downtown Hilton. The seminar went over with great success for the company. Unfortunately there was no mention whatsoever that those people my brother played with called him nigger while he was drinking beer with them in the clubhouse. He was never asked to play again, and I am determined not to be played like a sucker by these fools. Nor would they try me because they know that I'm well strapped.
Everyone here is aware that I sit on the board of the Urban Coalition, which is the strongest grassroots organization in the city of Detroit. All of our members on the board have a keen interest in the community. We are committed to making sure that the black community is well represented both in the workplace in the city and in the decision-making process regarding issues that affect the community.
I love the work that I do at the Coalition. I truly care about what goes on in the community, and I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going to succumb to the pressures of my job or luxuriate in my success without giving back to where I come from. I thrive on making a difference and helping my own people.
I'd already made up my mind that I was only going to answer questions directed at me during the meeting rather than play the political game. I decided to sit back and watch Mr. Gales, an overly large white man who loves to wear three-piece suits, belittle anyone that let him get away with it. He actually tried it on me once, but I set him straight so damn fast he was left speechless. Mr. Gales was the cause of one of the funniest things that has happened since I've been here -- something that verified that these white-boy graduates of Harvard, Columbia, and West Point are not the shit like they think they are.
One morning, Mr. Gales sat and listened to an argument between two Ivy League, well-paid, hundred-thousand-dollar-a-year advertising executives that got out of hand. The boss made one of the reps recount his own words as though he was his father. The rep was told by the boss to say I'm sorry in front of the entire staff. The apologetic rep said "I apologize" instead. This was not acceptable. Mr. Gales stood up and slammed his fist on the conference room table and told the rep to do exactly as he said and say "I'm sorry." With tears in his eyes the stupid asshole said it. He virtually demolished his own self-respect, First Amendment rights, and the corporate toughness that he professed he had. Instead of tough he sounded like a three-year-old boy who had been corrected by his daddy for throwing a rock in the neighbor's front window. He quickly lost the respect of everyone in the office.
I know for a fact that they don't like me and I could care less. They look at me as though I'm just an affirmative-action disciple who has no right to be in the same workplace with them. I don't give a damn about their lack of enlightenment because for the past three years in a row I've led the entire company in advertising sales. I can back my shit up, and I never let them forget that fact. Quite frankly, I used to get upset and inflamed when they only talked about white current events and movies during and before luncheon meetings. They don't have a clue about black America. Even if I wanted to comment on a black event or activity I wouldn't because there were no other blacks around to back me up. I understand that they think everything and everybody revolves around their world because they were born into that way of thinking. I stopped becoming upset, and now I school them on movies by Bill Duke, Carl Franklin, and Julie Dash, just to let them know that there's a bigger world out there. And when I really want to piss them off I tell them that my favorite song is "Paint the White House Black" by George Clinton.
The meeting ended without a hitch, and they all started to talk about their plans for the weekend. I slid out of the conference room and went back to my office to finish what I had to do.
Copyright © 1996 by Franklin