NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 139

It sometimes took until midnight until everybody had read their inspired work. Sonora McKellar was a sassy sister who was always sipping on a shortdog of Italian Swiss Colony dark port. She was a savvy senior citizen who did not hesitate to let you know her opinion, especially when she was pissed off. The words came out of her mouth with great force along with copious amounts of alcohol infused spit. Working her jaws interminably, Sonora was angry about the way the stream of money that flowed into the workshop was being misused or ripped off. Although he had a weight problem, Harry Dolan, the rotund director of the Frederick Douglass Watts Writers Workshop, managed to overcome the pull of gravity as he slowly stood up to address the angry tirade of Sonora. Harry wiped the sweat from his forehead with the immaculate handkerchief his comely and charming wife, Claire, put in the pocket of his sharkskin blazer every morning. He told the pouting old woman, “Sonora, the tremendous amounts of cash you are jaw jacking about really is a product of your imagination.” As he twirled a fat cigar between his thumb and forefinger Harry continued to speak, “I will account for every cent spent.” It was obvious Harry intended to launch a long winded, tedious explanation, but before he took off, the nervous, trembling and stammering voice of Budd Schulberg interrupted the cacophonous exchange, saying, “Har- har- harry I-I-I-I thi-thi-thi-think we-we-we can-can-deal with bus-busbusiness mat-mat-matters lat-lat-later; now it’s-it’s-it’s ti- time for -for the-the wri- writers.” Harry sat down and began talking to the dude sitting next to him, who was Bob Hill, a debonair brother from Detroit who heard about the workshop and came to Watts to apply his considerable business expertise. Bob was always dressed in a suit and tie; he wore pinstripe shirts and had a neatly trimmed mustache. A bright hustler, Bob had, in a very short time, made himself very useful around the Workshop; he was, in fact, Harry’s de facto right hand man. He, and Ted Simmons, were the only white men. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE “Yesterday I will be born, Tomorrow I died” was the first line of a poem Leumas Sirrah uttered one evening; he was a kid from the Jordan Downs Projects and turned heads whenever he had something to say. I remember the way he entered places was very weird and he refused to walk on the sidewalk. He was like a big rabbit; he used to jump from the roof of a house to the roof of the neighboring house. When we heard footsteps on the roof over our heads, we knew he was about to enter the workshop through a side window. He didn’t like using doors. 137 The famous writer from Hollywood, Budd Schulberg, kept the ship on course, so to speak, as both founder and moderator of the workshop. He enlisted Ted Simmons, a veteran poet from Hermosa Beach to supervise the poetry section of the workshop. Every Wednesday night, after the general discussion, the workshop divided into two different groups. To a casual observer it looked like the young folks were separating themselves from the old folks. The group with more elders in it, supervised by Budd, consisted of authors of essays, short stories, and novels. These were people who had enough self-control to sit and write for long stretches. Working on a story is time consuming and requires a lot of patience, stamina, and, most of all, will power; young folks simply will not sit around for long stretches of time staring at blank sheets of white paper until ideas rush out like water and fill up the empty spaces on a piece of paper. Patience ain’t the virtue of youth. Budd ended up moderating a circle of prose writers who were, by and large, elders like Birdell Chew, writing about her one eyed pig, or Louise Meriwether, author of Daddy was a Number Runner. While Budd mentored the more mature members of the workshop, the younger, more militant members were in the rear of the house, writing poetry under the kind, owl eyed supervision of Ted Simmons. He drove his little sports car to Watts every Wednesday after sunset where few white men, other than police, would dare to set foot. Ted took the time to elucidate the more subtle qualities of our poems. Metaphorically, in his own words, Ted inspired the young wild-eyed poets to “grab a chandelier, and swing out into the wide possibilities of the night.”