A Little Bit of Light
She adjusted her hiking hat and moved into the center of the shade she’d made by raising a ten-by-ten-foot canopy. Naylene Ross Lupan had set up in the weedy yard of an abandoned fast food restaurant on the corner of her small-town crossroads to protest. Well, not that it started that way. At first, she just wanted to do something.
“Why,” her grandmother had asked when Naylene told her what she wanted to do. “You just bring trouble on yourself.”
“But Shichu, something must be done.”
“Let the whites do it. They’re the ones causing the problem.” Shichu went back to making fry bread for dinner as Naylene went into the living room.
Her brother, Kuruk, came home from work at the casino where he did security. “Don’t,” he said when she told him what she wanted to do. “Your last year of high school starts in three weeks. Get ready for that.” He popped a beer and drank deep. “It will just cause trouble.”
“That’s what Shichu said.”
He nodded. “She knows. Leave it alone.” He went into his room to change out of his uniform.
That was a two weeks ago. She’d been here a week. At first there were horn honks as people drove by, drivers giving her a thumbs up as she held her sign, “No More Racism!” But there were nasty shouts too, usually by angry white men, or teen boys in their gigantic trucks. Some of them had that device that blew a lot of black smoke, and they used that too. Sometimes they’d drive back and forth, giving her the finger, yelling obscenities and blowing that smoke. That was disheartening.
She wondered why others in town didn’t come to join her. Surely there were people—Native, Hispanic, and even Whites, who agreed with her? After a while people grew used to her being on the corner and the honks of support stopped. The obscenities stopped too, for the most part. Once in a while some teen boys would drive by and throw apple cores at her but that was about it.
As long as it was daylight, she stood on the corner, her long black braids swinging as she moved. The week before school started, a reporter from the town paper came by. “Why?” the young woman asked, after she’d snapped a few pictures of Naylene with her sign. It was clearer to Naylene now that she’d had time to think. Now that the news remained filled with video of local, state, and national representatives spewing hate-filled words.
“This isn’t who America is.” Naylene tried to find the best words to use. “In history class we learned about Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. We learned of the ideals of this country. What I see on the internet and television, that’s so far from our ideals that I just felt I had to say something.”
The reporter nodded and left.
On Friday, her brother brought her a copy of the paper, her picture on the front page. It was a long shot, making it clear that Naylene was out there all alone. “Makes you look pathetic,” her brother said as he looked over her shoulder at the picture.
“It does. But that’s not going to stop me. I have two more days to be here before school. I’ll keep going.”
“Your time,” he said, and left.
About three in the afternoon, two old, white women showed up, sun hats in place and signs in hand. “We saw the paper,” one of the women said. “We’ve come to help.”
So, they did, waving signs and telling the young woman jokes. Naylene felt better than she had since she started.
At five, three Hispanic women joined the small group. “Thought we’d join in,” they said. And they began chanting, “No More Racism.”
A few minutes later, her childhood friend, Elan, showed up with his handmade drum. He gave her a wink. “What are friends for!” He grinned and sat down cross-legged, drum in front of him, and began a slow beat. The women began to chant again, in time with the drum. Soon, more and more people came. Some had signs, some joined the chanting. The newspaper lady came back and gave Naylene a hug. “I was hoping this would galvanize the town.” She took more pictures and joined the group. Cars honked approval as they passed.
By dark, they numbered about fifty. “We’ll be back tomorrow,” they said. “This was fun.” Naylene agreed. She realized this is what she’d been hoping for. A little bit of light in a dark world. It was worth it.
An Air Force career, computer operations company manager, wife, mother, sister and volunteer, provides a rich background for Connie Cockrell’s stories. After 20 books, inclusion in 5 anthologies and published on EveryDayStories.com and FrontierTales.com, Connie’s still on the lookout for a good story idea. Beware, you may be next.
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