"Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America." -The Honorable John Lewis speaking atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 1, 2020
We pulled out of the parking lot, and Dad slowed down again as we passed the protesters across the street from the school. I noticed a local news van parked nearby.
Dad pulled over and stopped the car. “What are you doing?” I asked.
He replied, “I want to hear what they have to say.” I hesitated a moment before I exited the car and followed behind him.
There was an older man standing on a makeshift platform talking into a bullhorn. It appeared to me that about 100 people were standing and listening to him. “Nothing is going to happen if we just sit idly by and do nothing. We must do something to bring about change. I’m going to quote the late congressman from Georgia, John Lewis. ‘When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something. And just months before his death as he stood atop the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, he said, get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.’
“That is why we are here today,” he shouted. “We’re here to get in good trouble.” The people listening began to applaud loudly. “The honorable John Lewis would not have wanted us to remain silent. He told us that when you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.” Again, loud applause filled the air.
“Dr. Martin Luther King also told us that the time is always right to do what is right. That is why we are here today. We are here to right a wrong that was displayed at the gymnasium across the street on Saturday night.” The protesters began to boo loudly. One person shouted out, “Let’s kick their lily-white asses!”
“No!” shouted the man with the bullhorn. “Violence will only worsen the situation. We must let our voices be heard, but we must do it peacefully.” He pointed down at a cameraman who was taping his speech. “They want us to act ignorant. Then instead of focusing on the racist incident in the gymnasium on Saturday night, and the beating that our fellow brother, Darius Moore, received from that racist officer…” The protesters began to boo once again.
“Here me out!” shouted the man. “We are here to find good trouble. We will make our voices be heard. We will bring about change without stirring up the pot of boiling hatred and racism. And when we are through, maybe someday our sons and daughters can walk into the doors of Somerset High School and not be afraid.”
People applauded as he descended the stairs. I was surprised when he walked over to my father and extended his hand. “Johnathan,” he smiled, “I’m surprised to see you here.”
“How’s your health, Ethan?” asked my father. I then realized that he was one of my father’s patients.
“I get a little tired,” he replied. “Especially after something like this.”
Dad patted him on his back. “Just don’t overdo it. I don’t want to have to go back in and fix that ticker of yours again.” They shook hands, and my father asked, “Who is the organizer of this protest?”
“Pastor Moore,” he responded.
“Where can I find him?” asked Dad.
The man put his hand on my father’s back and led him away. “The last time I saw him he was over on the south side of the protest.” I quietly followed behind as people stared at us. I know they were wondering why two white people were walking in their midst. However, no one said anything.
The man pointed to where Pastor Moore was standing talking to a reporter. Next to him was his son, the guy who had been beaten by Anderson. The right side of his face was swollen, and he had a black eye. He looked nothing like the guy I had admired the day before.
He immediately looked at me; and then he nudged his father and whispered into his ear. His father stopped talking to the reporter and approached us. He turned to the reporter and politely said, “We are through here for now. I’ll have more to say later. I would appreciate it if you would kindly leave.” The reporter glanced quickly at my father. I’m sure he would like to have stayed and listened to their conversation. Even I was curious why my father wanted to talk to Pastor Moore.
Pastor Moore extended his hand to my father. “Dr. Frazier,” he said with a smile. “I am very glad to have a chance to meet you.” He laughed slightly. “You sure put on quite a show in the police station yesterday. You must know Chief Morgan very well to have talked to him the way you did.”
“Chief Morgan is a jackass,” angrily responded my father. “I’m sure he wouldn’t have liked what I really wanted to say to him.”
“I suppose not,” laughed Pastor Moore. He then turned to me. “You must be Parker?”
“Yes, Sir,” I replied politely. I quickly glanced over at his son.
“I’ve been wanting to thank you for posting that video yesterday when that officer arrested my son.” He turned and introduced his son. “This is my son, Darius.” He reached out and shook my hand. His grip was soft and gentle.
“Hello, Parker,” he said as he cast his eyes downward.
“Nice to meet you, Darius,” I replied as I shook his hand. He looked up and smiled before casting his eyes toward the ground. Even though his face was marred, he was beautiful. I guess that is the only way to describe his features. One eye was slightly swollen, but I could still how brown his eyes were. He had long eye lashes and dark eyebrows that appeared that they may have been sculptured. His skin was a beautiful caramel shade, except for the dark bruise on his right side. I couldn’t help staring into his beautiful face. My face reddened as I glanced quickly at Dad and Pastor Moore. I hoped that I hadn’t been too obvious with my infatuation.
However, I was busted. Dad had a slight smile on his face. My face reddened even more when he gave me a quick wink. I looked back at Pastor Moore when he spoke to me. “Parker, I want to thank you personally for capturing that video of the police brutality inflicted on my son.”
I looked quickly at Dad. “I’m sorry, Sir,” I apologized, “but I’ve been told not to talk about it with anyone.”
Dad added, “We just met with our attorney, and he doesn’t want us discussing the video.”
“I completely understand,” replied Pastor Moore. “I’m not going to ask you anything concerning it. I just want you to know that Darius and I appreciate what you did.” I looked at Darius, and a smile appeared on his face as he nodded.
Dad spoke, “Pastor Moore. I understand that you are the organizer of this protest.”
“I am,” he responded. “Why?”
I couldn’t believe it when my father said, “With your permission, I would like to address the audience.” Pastor Moore put his arm around my father and pulled him a few feet away. I watched as they talked quietly.
I felt uncomfortable standing next to Darius. He also seemed nervous, so I think he was feeling the same thing. I don’t know why, though. We were about the same age, so we should have had a lot to say to each other. Besides, I would think that what happened yesterday afternoon would have brought us closer together. However, neither of us could find the words to speak.
I was relieved when my father walked back over to me. Pastor Moore headed over to the podium and took the stage. “Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began as he addressed the onlookers. “Our next speaker is a very respected member of Somerset.” There were a couple of boos, but most people remained quiet. “I would like to welcome to the stage Dr. Jonathan Frazier.” There was mild applause as people looked around to see who was going to speak.
My father ascended the stairs and took the bullhorn from Pastor Moore. “Good morning,” he began. “I am Dr. Jonathan Frazier, a cardiologist here in Somerset.” A couple of people applauded, but most looked on with curiosity. They probably wondered what a white doctor had to say to them.
“I asked Pastor Moore if I could address you today,” said my father. I looked over and noticed the cameraman take a position in front of my father to video what he had to say. “I want to tell you that not everyone here is Somerset is a racist.” A few people began to boo. “I’ve lived in this community for over twenty years.” He pointed down at me. “My son attends Somerset High School. He’s getting ready to graduate in the spring.” My face began to redden when everyone looked back at me.
“I know the incident that occurred on Saturday night was ugly and horrible…”
“You got that right, Doc!” Someone hollered out.
My father continued. “I’m not going to make excuses for what happened. It was racially motivated.” A few people applauded. “But what we must do now it take this experience and learn from it. We must build a bridge and not burn it down.”
He looked down at the faces looking up at him. “We have an opportunity here to change people’s attitudes.”
“Ours don’t need changing!” The person who shouted out before yelled. Several people began clapping.
“No, but ours do,” responded my father to loud applaud. “You have been fighting this fight for decades. Martin Luther King addressed this back in the 60’s.”
“And nothing has changed!” he hollered again.
“Some things have changed,” responded my father. “We’ve now had a black president.” Applause broke out among the crowd. “However, there is much more that has to be done. We have to find a way so that what happened on Saturday night never happens again.”
“It ain’t that easy, Doc!” he hollered.
“No, it isn’t,” responded my father. “But standing out here protesting isn’t going to make things better. We’ve got to find a way to bridge the gap so that we can live together in peace and harmony.”
The man hollered loudly, “We’ve heard this bullshit too many times before! We want action now!” There was loud applause from the growing crowd. It appeared that there was twice the number of protesters than when we arrived.
“And how do you plan to do it?” my father asked. Suddenly, I realized that Darius had moved closer to me and pressed his shoulder to mine. I think he was trying to protect me in case the crowd grew more agitated.
“How do you? Talk is cheap.”
“I don’t know,” confessed my father. “All I do know is that Somerset is filled with some very wonderful people. So is Rosemont.” He motioned for Pastor Moore to join him. “I’ve briefly talked to Pastor Moore. We’re going to sit down and see what we can go to bridge the gap between Somerset and Rosemont. We don’t want to see an occurrence that happened Saturday night ever happen again.”
I felt Darius tense up when the guy hollered, “What about the ass beating that cop gave Darius? You gonna do something about that too?”
Dad looked down at me and Darius who was pressed against my side. “We’ll find a way to deal with that too,” answered my father. “Even if we have to find good trouble, necessary trouble to do it.” Applaud broke out among the crowd. Pastor Moore shook my father’s hand, and he descended the steps. A few people patted him on his back.
The reporter stepped before my father and shoved a microphone in his face. “Dr. Frazier,” he asked. “Are you promoting violence in Somerset?”
The crowd roared when my father told the reporter, “Fuck off!” Dad approached and asked if I was ready to go. I looked over at Darius and waved. He smiled and waved goodbye.
As we were walking to the car, my father put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Cute kid.”
“Dad!” I shrieked. “Don’t!”
As we pulled off, I asked Dad, “Do you think that was wise telling that reporter to fuck off?”
“I don’t really care,” he said. “He didn’t hear anything I said. He was just looking for something that could cause trouble. I never once mentioned violence. I was talking about building bridges.”
“Yeah, but you telling him that will be all everyone sees on the evening news.”
I giggled when he looked over, smiled, and said, “Fuck off.”
Before going home, we stopped at a phone store. I was surprised when Dad handed me his credit card. “What?” I asked.
“I have a couple of phones calls that can’t wait,” he said. “Go pick out a phone and pay for it.”
I grinned and asked, “Any limit?” When he said there was none, I jumped out of the car before he had time to change his mind.
I returned forty minutes later with the latest 5G model. The clerk said it was the best gaming phone out today. It was expensive, but Dad did say there was no limit. He didn’t even say anything when I held it up and showed it to him. He nodded, started the car, and we pulled off. We were halfway home before he held out his hand. “Don’t think I forgot,” he laughed. “Card.” I reluctantly pulled his card out of my pants pocket and handed it to him. He laughed again and said, “Nice try.” I played with my new phone all the way home. Fortunately, I was able to retrieve my contacts from a backup app.
When we arrived home, I went to my bedroom while Dad headed to his office to do some work. I turned on my computer to check my email. However, since most of my friends send text messages, there were only a couple. One was from a dating app I joined last year because I thought I might be able to meet gay guys my age. However, after joining, I discovered that it was mainly for straight men. Now, I get daily emails from women wanting to know if I want to have a good time. I was going to delete it, but I find many of the emails entertaining. I wonder if the girls who post there are really that desperate, or if they are just trying to make money.
I went over to my bed and lay down. I grabbed my phone and played a game that was downloaded on it. I found it to be a rather boring game. I think it was designed for twelve-year-old girls.
I looked at the clock and realized that school was still in session, or I would have called a friend. None of them had my new cell phone number, so I had to decide who I wanted to have it. Going through my list of over 200 numbers, I realized that I only corresponded with maybe a dozen of my contacts on a regular basis. Most were my best friends at school. However, after the way they reacted to the incident on Saturday night, I wasn’t sure I wanted to talk to them anymore. I knew it might be a long time before I talk to Dan again after some of the crude comments he had said.
I was also afraid if I shared it, they might give it to someone I didn’t want to speak to. The video had brought out a lot of crazies, and I didn’t want to be awakened at three in the morning with someone threatening me. I decided the best thing to do was share it with only a few people. Natalie, of course, would be someone I could trust. She appeared to be as upset about the incident as I was.
I fell asleep for a while until Dad came to my door and knocked. After hollering out for him to come in, he opened the door, walked across the room and sat at my computer. He asked, “How are things going?”
“I don’t know,” I responded. “I’m kind of bored. I miss being in school.”
He frowned and said, “That’s what I came to talk about.”
I gave him a puzzled look. “What is there to talk about?”
“Whether you realize it or not,” he said, “things have changed since Saturday. I understood that talking to your principal.”
I laughed and replied, “Nettleman was kind of a prick today.”
“Kind of?” smiled Dad. “He was a prick.” A serious look appeared on his face. “Just be careful, Parker. Nettleman only has one thing he’s interested in, and that is the school’s image. He would throw you to the wolves if he thought you might do something to tarnish that image.”
“Like what, Dad?”
“Bad mouthing the school,” he replied. “If he thinks you are siding with the protesters, he might make things difficult for you.”
“What can he do? Won’t he get in trouble if he does something to me?”
“He doesn’t have to do anything,” warned my father. “If another student wants to confront you, he may just look the other way.”
I was becoming worried. My father was acting as if I could be hurt at school by another student. “Do you think someone might try to hurt me?”
He sighed and replied, “I don’t know what to believe anymore, Parker. It seems like all the crazy people have been let loose from their cages to do whatever they want to do. Some guy might think it is cute to challenge you over the video. Just be prepared. Watch your back at all times. If a problem arises, you call me immediately at the office.”
I smiled and asked, “What if you’re in the middle of a surgery?”
He laughed and said, “They’ll have to wait until I return. It may take a lot of gauze to stop the bleeding.” He patted me on my leg. “Just be careful, Parker. Especially for the next couple of days.”
“Do you think I should stay home for a few days?”
“No, Parker,” he replied. “Something like this won’t blow over in a few days. You have your scholarships to consider. If your grades drop, it could affect them.”
“Okay, Dad,” I assured him. “I’ll be careful.”
He rose and headed for the door. Before leaving, he turned and reminded me, “I don’t have your new number. Call my phone and leave it for me.” I nodded, grabbed my phone and immediately called him.
I fell asleep until my phone rang. It was my father. “Dinner is ready,” he announced and then hung up. I wondered if it was a good idea to give him my number.
Mom and Dad were sitting at the kitchen counter when I entered. We rarely eat in the dining room except on a holiday or someone’s birthday. Mom usually fixes a quick meal. She says it’s easier to clean up since the dishwasher is only a few steps away.
Tonight, she had prepared spaghetti. That is her go-to meal when she’s had a busy day. All she has to do is boil some noodles, heat up a can of spaghetti sauce, and dinner is ready in less than a half hour. Tonight, she had put garlic bread in the oven. I sat down and began shoving the noodles into my mouth.
Mom and Dad began discussing what had occurred that morning. He told her about the meeting with Mr. Abrams and Mr. Nettleman. She became upset when he informed her of Nettleman’s attitude. She looked over worriedly at me and asked my father, “Do you think it is safe to send Parker back to school?”
“Mom,” I assured her. “I’ve been going to Somerset since the first grade. Nobody is going to hurt me.” She smiled slightly, but I could still tell that she was concerned.
My father turned on the television mounted on the wall. He normally enjoys catching up on the events of the day. He says dinnertime is the only chance he has. My mother gasped when the local news began with a video of my father speaking to the crowd in the morning.”
“Jonathan,” she asked, “What are you doing on the news?”
“Shhh,” my father said. “I want to hear this.” They spent the next four minutes discussing what had been happening at my high school. It began with clips from the basketball game and an explanation of what had occurred. I tried to find myself in the crowd, but fortunately, I had been sitting on the other side of the gym away from the all the action.
They then showed the protesters assembled outside our school waving Black Lives Matter banners and other protest signs. They briefly showed a clip of Darius’ arrest, but they made it sound like he had resisted Officer Anderson. I was upset because they had identified Darius by name.
The final clip showed my father addressing the crowd. Naturally, instead of emphasizing what my father had said, they focused on one or two people booing him. I looked worriedly over at him and wondered if it might hurt his practice.
When it ended, I asked him, “Dad, do you think them showing this will hurt you?”
He laughed and replied, “I doubt it, Son. I’m the only cardiologist around. They sure as hell don’t want to travel over to Lawrenceville for medical treatment. Besides, the father of the reporter is one of my patients. He’s scheduled for surgery next month.”
Even though Dad seemed optimistic, I was becoming increasingly worried how our lives might change over all that was going on. We were no longer spectators watching on the sidelines. Dad and I were now involved.
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