Fade to Black
in the Antioch Theater we feasted on films
made by colored folks like Oscar Micheaux
those Saturdays back then when we were Colored
before we were Black and all films were black and white
after Hopalong Cassidy rode into white westerns
we watched Ralph Cooper or Mantan Moreland
break up shady deals in Harlem guns blasting
tables turned against white folks robbed
of their power on the silver screen
at those matinees we cheered always the underdog
even Boston Blackie who was black in name only

between Movietone News and cartoons
we laughed stomped and celebrated in the dark
this was like recess without teachers to boss us

one Saturday I stayed too long at the party
and by nightfall my mother sent my cousins
James and Warren to fetch me - - - the two entering
like side kicks in one of Micheaux's films
Bumpsy hooted louder than the others
when my name appeared on a slip of paper
inserted between the projector and lens
James in police uniform found me in the beam
of his flashlight and Warren scouting the other aisle

left me no escape but to follow the sheriff out
to the dusky evening where my mother waited
while Micheaux's detectives ran toward the light

--- From Blood Memory
Colleen J. McElroy
©2016 University of Pittsburgh Press

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