The alarm on the blackberrie,
A proud Canadian made device,
April 25, 2020, the morning to be devoted to a Zoom meeting, during the
Pandemic, of The Gathering of Baptists.
One glance at the overnight email almost caused me to
Shut the alarm off and put the comforter back over my head.
Certainly needed Comfort.
Couldn’t face the day ahead.
Groupon advertised a big bargain, a discounted
On-line Concealed Carry Weapons course.
Farewell to Nova Scotia.
No Restaurant Groupons, my favourite
No Hotel deals
Family travel to….
Not even casinos, or quick easy on-line
MBAs,or other fun stuff.
Instead Concealed Carry Weapons courses
Discounted to $19.95
A pro-active idea struck, to get me…
Out of bed: forward the Groupon advert to an investigative journalist
Saying “look into this please.”
Thanks, said the journalist, “learn how to
Shoot a gun from the comfort of your own home!”
Now that he had the big obscene pandemic fear bargain,
It was off my plate.
The day could be faced.
If I kept my fingers over my eyes.
Rita Shelton Deverell
April 27, 2020
by Rita Shelton Deverell
A couple of days before the pandemic isolated us, and a blizzard raged where I live, I happily travelled to Collingwood, Ontario for a Black History Month talk/book signing. The organizers, Sylvia and Carolynn Wilson, descendants of early black settlers to the Blue Mountains, are featured in my 2019 book American Refugees: Turning to Canada for Freedom. I told their very racially diverse Heritage Community Coffee Club about my mother being honored by her Houston, Texas high school’s Wall of Fame.
When my cousin who lives in Houston first insisted that I nominate mother for the Wall my reaction was: “Why? I’m very busy, mom is no longer on the earth and won’t know, and I don’t need to have her recognized!” Cousin then talked straight to me: “Oh, it’s the present students at Phillis Wheatley High School, who have no idea of the strength of those early black students, who don’t even know who Phillis Wheatley was, who need the tribute to your mother!”
I got that. Here is an excerpt from my gift of history from the class of 1935 to students in 2020.
VERSIE POWELL SHELTON, Phillis Wheatley Graduating Class of 1935
Trailblazer, Secretary, Office Manager, Program Coordinator, Department Head, Political Activist, Civic Leader, Volunteer, & Mentor
Spend a little time visiting the archives of Versie Antoinette Powell Shelton in the Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library, and you will be convinced that Versie strongly believed three things:
In 1930s – 1990s Houston “No” to a Black person was just a stop on the way to a “Yes” or “maybe” or “we’ll give it a try” answer.
In Versie’s life and career, and for the many she mentored, reaching 30 or 60 or 90% of your goals was much better than reaching 0%.
Education, the best and the most lifelong education one could obtain, is the biggest protection against the evils of this world. Those evils include major racism and sexism. As the daughter of Hugh and Versie Powell Shelton, I was frequently on the receiving end of her deeply held beliefs. To illustrate: In 1961, when the day came for me to take the SATs (Scholastic Aptitude Tests) so I could go “away” to university, I said I had a terrible stomach ache. The exams were administered at still segregated Rice University and the Houston schools were of course still segregated. Versie countered my supposed illness forcefully: “I don’t care if you die, you are going to take those tests.” That was the last time I had to be told that the cure for professional troubles was to increase my skills. Versie spread this wisdom about education to the many she mentored in Houston.
Versie Powell Shelton’s heritage is Phillis Wheatley High School, named for the slave poet who overcame most everything. As the preface to Wheatley’s first book of poetry states:
“WE do assure the World, that the POEMS specified in the following Page, were written by Phillis, a young Negro Girl, who was but a few Years since, brought from Africa, and has ever since been, and now is, under the Disadvantage of serving as a Slave in a Family in this Town. She has been examined by some of the best Judges, and is thought qualified…”
Versie always moved forward with and towards the qualified, and taught others to do the same. We can too.
Colour Blind, a modern morality comedy in 8 scenes
For the Toronto Cold Reads Playwrights Challenge
By Rita Shelton Deverell, March 2020
“HART” OF GOLD, a mid-50’s radio station owner, any gender, any race
NEUTRAL “SCOOPS”, early 30’s, biracial reporter on her way to the big leagues, female
“ART” CHERISE, early 30’s Gallery Owner, any gender, any race
“EMINENCE” GREY, a provincial court judge, early 70s, impatient, male, any race
BLACK LIVES MATTER “TOO”, mid 40s, activist, female and black identifying
WHITE LIVES MATTER “ASWELL”, mid 40s, activist, female and white identifying
A 7th Actor should read all stage directions and voice the various character Voice Overs
Scene 1 – At Black Too’s apartment
Neutral Scoops, an aggressive but kind investigative television journalist, rings the buzzer code in an attractive spacious condo lobby. We hear the beeps of her being admitted.
DRACULA VOICE OF BLACK TOO OVER INTERCOM
Lovely friend… do… come in.
You sound like a Black Widow spider.
VOICE OF BLACK TOO
Truth be known, I am…… (speaker cuts out and off)
SCOOPS (enters apartment)
What the hell?
Stop jokin TOO.
Everything’s black in here.
Me too. (ha ha) That’s no joke. I’m totally Black. What do you think of my new décor?
Ow! Ow! (Scoops keep bumping into furniture and other objects)
OK enough. Now my beautiful stockings are ripped.
I’ve had enough. I’ve set a trap for White Aswell (pronounced like Asquith). She’s laid traps enough for me.
Next time she tries to play palsy walsie, footsie tootsie, ally dally in here, it’s big blackout time for her.
What do you mean? (continuing to bump into furniture etc.) Ow. Owee. Yikes.
She’s never laid traps for you.
Go to her place if you don’t believe me!
Scene 2 – At White Aswell’s apartment
Once again Neutral Scoops, aggressive but kind investigative television journalist, rings the buzzer code in an attractive spacious condo lobby. She is not admitted and rings the superintendent.
7th actor - VOICE OF THE SUPER ON THE INTERCOM
This is the Super. And who might you be?
VOICE OF SCOOPS
I’m Neutral Scoops the reporter, here to see Ms. White Aswell, and there is no answer to her buzzer. I’m worried.
7th actor – VOICE OF SUPER
Okey dokey. I will let you in to Ms. Aswell’s flat. You’re on her list of emergency contacts. (various beeps from the intercom)
Help! Help! I’m blinded.
Aswell, this is ridiculous. Where are you in this completely white, white-out of an apartment? It’s like being in a blizzard. Going north on the 400.
Help me. Don’t lecture me. Walk slowly and carefully Scoops and you’ll be able to get me out of the blizzard. Isn’t all this snow dreamy beautiful?
This is the last time I will help you through this silly décor. Now you’ve made it a real trap.
OK. Take my hand and walk slowly through this f-ing freaking cloud.
Scoops all this white is so beautiful.
Last time. Now please get over to Art’s Art Gallery so I can quote you in my review. You and Black Too. It’s going to be dynamite!
Are you sure Too is speaking to me?
Duh? Don’t be such a drama queen. Of course, she’s speaking to you. Not my problem.
Anyway, she doesn’t have to be speaking for me to quote you both.
Scene 3 – The Art Gallery
Art Cherise’s Gallery is painted Cherise on the outside with rainbow flags prominently displayed at every opportunity. The front door hangs loosely on its hinges, an ugly blemish on an otherwise perfect exterior.
Oh, woe is me. Has anyone seen anyone more wretched than me? I? OK, “me” will have to do.
Observe ye Canadian people! See what injustice has been wrought upon my once beautiful Gallery. This singular temple of Art.
It doesn’t look that bad.
ART (gasps, another audible gasp)
Well, I mean it is kinda stylist. Monochrome. Not all in your face. Know what I mean?
No. Ms. Scoops. I have no idea what you mean. Woe is me.
The …er…. black and white palette is chic. Restful.
And those dreadful hot pink Pimples are gone. They were soooo tacky, if I may make a comment simply based on personal taste. Wise move Art. I am not going to express my personal taste in the review, but have two insightful community members to make comments.
Well this disgusting black and white display is certainly not my move. I suspect those two crusaders, Black Too and White Aswell. They act like my friends, invite me to their parties, pretend to be art lovers. Then they stab me in the back.
Are they your two insightful, unbiased reviewers?
Er…well…I did ask them…
Now my gallery is caught in their colour crossfire. I’m certain of it.
I’m calling the police and reporting this murder of art. And those two murderers.
I’ll kill them with my bare hands! At least spray paint them hot pink.
I did ask them for another review. Maybe I shouldn’t have? Of is Radio 107, the home of calming, soothing, colour blind rock.
Scene 4 - Hart’s 107 radio station
(Smashing records, throwing them against the natural brick walls)
Ha! You call yourselves Toronto’s radio station. (smash Smash)
Not my Toronto. I’m not dreaming of a white Christmas. (smash Smash)
(smashing records and CD’s another part of the brick walls behind long-time station owner HART of Gold).
This isn’t just about you TOO. It is about me ASWELL.
Me! Me! (smash smash)
I don’t want the music to suck up to me.
Like Pink -- hello! – Floyd. You think he’s harmless?
Easy listening for who? For Whom? (smash! Smash) Not for me for sure.
(The women have narrowly missed HART’s head with each of their record throws.)
You women calm the hell down.
I’ve asked each of you to be on our Community Advisory Committee, so you each get the points of view of your communities across.
I’m a feminist. I’m an ally. I’m your best friend in the corporate world. Why are you attacking me?
Oh plu-eeze. I wouldn’t be on a Committee with her if my life depended on it. (smash smash)
OK Too. I’m happy to take over all the power on the Committee if you quit. (smash smash)
My heart can’t take all this conflict.
TOO and ASWELL
We are tired of your playing the heart card Hart.
And I’m fed up with your blackmail and whitewash tactics.
(he falls over, head hits the desk)
TOO and ASWELL (chaotically, repeat randomly)
Give us a break Hart.
You can take it.
You’re The Man in charge.
Goes with the territory.
You’re the owner, whatdaya expect?
He’s really not moving Aswell.
Are you sure?
We’d best call 911 and get some medical attention.
(picks up phone)
Radio station 107 calling. Come quickly. The owner, Hart of Gold, has collapsed.
Scene 5 – A remote newscast, Scoops reports. Her satellite truck is seen behind her.
Four well known figures in our world-class city’s arts community are at the centre of this story. The action all happened in the most travelled part of the Arts Corridor.
Very serious vandalism was discovered by Art Cherise at his well-known Gallery. The vandalism completely destroyed the “Pimple Exhibition” which has been rated 5-star by many critics in North America. Next, the vandals moved on to Radio Station 107 where owner Hart of Gold witnessed his entire collection of vintage vinyl being destroyed.
The alleged vandals, well known anti-racism and feminist activists, White Lives Matter As Well, known simply as “ASWELL”, and Black Lives Matter Too, known simply as “TOO”, apparently watched Hart of Gold collapse and called 911.
Mr. Gold was taken to hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries. Meanwhile, Ms. Aswell and Ms. Too have been charged with numerous counts of public mischief and murder. That’s correct, MURDER, of Mr. Hart of Gold.
This is Scoops who will report every moment of this important trial.
Scene 6 – The courtroom.
Seated high on the bench Judge Eminence Grey is taping his fingers impatiently. Black Too is dressed in all black; White Aswell in all white. Both wear the attitudes of model cooperative citizens.
7th actor -- VOICE OF THE CLERK
White Lives Matter Aswell, also known as “Aswell”, and Black Lives Matter Too, also known as “Too”, you are charged with extensive vandalism of the Art Cherise Gallery, and Mischief leading to the Death of Hart of Gold at his radio station 107.
I understand Ms. Too and Ms. Aswell that you will represent yourselves. I know you are both articulate, but I think that is extremely unwise. Have you changed your minds?
Not in a million years Judge Eminence Grey. I will quite capably represent myself.
Ms. Too, are you still following the unwise course of representing yourself?
I am never unwise. Of course, I’m representing ME.
How do you plead Ms. Too?
Resoundingly not guilty. Everything that has happened was White Aswell’s fault.
Stick with the plea. Do not editorialize.
Ms. Aswell, how do you plead?
A thousand times not guilty. Everything that’s happened is Black Too’s fault. She started it.
(Aswell suddenly pulls out a taser hidden in her pocket and zapps Too)
You see Judge Grey, she always starts the racist slurs, micro-aggressions, and violence.
(Too pulls out a taser and zapps Aswell. Both slowly crumple to the courtroom floor).
Tasers are macro-aggressions! There is nothing micro about silencing the other person. I am at the end of my patience. Clear these women from my courtroom. Adjourned until 9am tomorrow when I will hear what these women have to say for themselves.
Guards do your jobs tomorrow and check them for weapons. I am disgusted, disagreeable, and dishonored. (bangs gavel)
Scene 7 – The courtroom the next day.
Judge with respect…
With …respect, I’d rather be locked up for life in the 9th circle of hell than be sentenced to even two hours of having that woman yell at me for being white. (starts to whimper). I can’t help it. I was born white.
JUDGE GREY (bangs gavel)
You will stop that snivelling in my courtroom.
With even greater respect, I too would rather be thrown into a pit of vipers for eternity than to have to listen to her 1930s excuses for being racist. My intentions were good….blah blah…different times….blah blah…
See how wise I am? My sentence of course stands. I do not change my mind. (bangs gavel)
You are both sentenced to a year of cross-cultural sensitivity training, anti-racism education, and most importantly talking to each other for one hour per week, with a mediator, to make sure you listen as well as talk for 52 weeks.
I am not giving you ladies…
(Substantial hisses and boos from TOO and ASWELL
JUDGE bangs gavel)
TOO AND ASWELL
Take Sensitivity Training your own Grey Self! Ladies….huh!!
Order…Alright, you Women of Distinction. I’ll take sensitivity training!
(Substantial Ah ha’s!!! and gotchas from the Women)
…I am glad to see you are already united in condemning my language. My sentence is wise!
In any case I am not giving you two Women of Distinction the option of going to jail or paying a big fine. That’s too easy.
You are hereby sentenced to talk to each other until you work out your Colour Problems.
This court is adjourned.
Scene 8 – Scoops, looking very satisfied, does her stand-up in front of her satellite truck at the court-house.
What can we learn from the sad tale of Black Lives Matter Too, known to her friends as simply “Too”, and White Lives Matter As Well, known to her friends as simply “Aswell”?
That it is perhaps better not to destroy property? Human life? Art? And Reputations? In order to avoid talking to each other.
Judge Eminence Grey has sentenced them to Talk.
Although both of these women, who contribute so much to our communities, say they’d rather be in jail than speak of each other, I sense a slight crack in the ice. Plus they really don’t mean orange is the new black and white.
I, the ever present, ever accurate, and ever insightful Scoops, will keep you posted over the next year on cross-cultural relations.
Good night and good luck.