NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2013 - Page 156

Kwame had bird-dogged news stories all over the U.S, even in Cuba and Haiti— panhandling and hoarding his treasure chest of facts like a hopeless miser. At times he’d practically chained himself to his desk to pay penance to his writing demon—combing the slush pile, not daring to chance that he might miss it. But what, goddammit? Whatever the hell it was he couldn’t put a name to. It was an itch that he couldn’t scratch. It had even driven him back to the antebellum plantations and slave shanties of Mississippi and Alabama. But they had only made him angry, and he had still come up empty. Once he found himself on assignment in Wilmington, NC, busting his ass trying to piece together clues about a string of drive-by Ku Klux Klan murders. Known eyewitnesses were tight-lipped, which was not surprising since Klan thugs shadowed him everywhere he turned. Just when he was about to lose his cool, something weird happened. “One day the fruit will fall!” a strange voice spoke to him. 154 “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Kwame shot back before he even realized that no one was there. BRN-FALL-2013.indb 154 “One day the fruit will fall—fat, ripe and sweet!” The self-assured voice chimed back at him. It made no goddamn sense, yet somehow it had comforted him. As time went on this weird mantra was the only thing that sustained him through the deadening avalanche of facts. Ironically, it was his drive for excavating them that won him respect amongst his peers. He was reaping the spoils of a runaway career as an investigative reporter with a prominent Chicago daily when he was assigned to cover the aftermath of a raid on a Black Panther Party residence in a suburb just north of the city. The raid had been conducted just before dawn, the home’s sleeping inhabitants showered with automatic gunfire. Two young Panther leaders were killed and others wounded. Even Kwame, who knew his way around a crime scene, was awed by the hundreds of bullet holes fired at point blank range into a residence that held sleeping men, women and children. Something cold and hard settled in his gut as he observed the carnage—the lavishly spilled blood, the horror in the eyes of the women and children, the grief-scarred faces of young Panther members barely old enough to shave. But then his no-nonsense credo reared its mulish head. The story always came first. So he strapped a straitjacket on over his feelings and trusted the facts. And the facts told him that this was a meticulously planned FBI hit. He cranked out the story guided by forensic evidence from the scene, eyewitness accounts, a trusted source inside the FBI itself, and well-publicized threats by the head of the Public Defender’s office. His story bled to death on the city desk. Dan, his “fighting Irish” city editor—his beer and pool-shooting buddy—had balked, said his account was “too emotionally charged.” That his story had to be edited for “balance” and “objectivity,” thinly guised code words for “Don’t buck the status quo!” Meanwhile he had to stomach the humiliation of watching his boldest critic recycle press releases from the Public Defender’s office as “breaking news.” The whitewash sickened him. His stash of ironclad facts had always been his strong suit, his armor. Righteous anger drove him into a head-on collision with the company’s top brass. Rebuffed, he passed his uncut story on to the Chicago Defender, a crusading black daily. That’s when shit hit the fan. Newspaper Guild protection notwithstanding, he was fired the same day the story hit the newsstands. Kwame hunched forward as if he’d been gut shot, glaring at Anyika as if seeing her for the first time. He stood for a moment, one hand gripping the desk, but an anchor drew him back down into his chair. Oh God! Please don’t let this be! A prayer wheezed through his chest. “But Anyika…I thought you of all people would…” he broke off as the whipped sound of his own voice sent a shiver through him. 9/13/13 12:48 AM