If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.
“Get your flapjacks here! Get your flapjacks!” Zeke’s Kitchen is seemingly back open, well sort of. The temporary vendors entice passer-byes with their tasty entrees, yelling specials of the day, seducing you with their delicious smells, large exciting visuals displays drawing you in. It’s a sight to see in-route to work.
Still closed, Zeke’s Kitchen, the building, sits idle as the favorite west side restaurant has been overrun by barbeque pits, sandwich carts, hot dog stands, and the omnipresent food trucks. Friends, associates, and so called Zeke Fanatics are all lending their support and service in an unprecedented effort to ‘Occupy Zekes’ in the famous restaurant time of peril.
By occupying the parking lot of the shuttered enterprise, the vendors are supporting the cause started by disgruntled patrons who learned their favorite cafe was closed by what they claim is a ‘conspiracy.”
Their chants of ‘Eat@Zeke’s’, ‘Eat@Zeke’s, ‘Eat@Zeke’s’ coupled with the parking lot frenzy has definitely caught the cities attention.
“Mama, that sweet dear woman is a legacy in this community. Mama and Zeke, I grew up craving their delicacies, the succulent yams, the fresh turnip greens…”
“Turn it up!” A kid yells.
“As I was saying, the Chicken Fried Steak, the Black Eyed Peas, Okra, collard greens, fried fish, heck even all the Pigs Feet, Ribs. Mama make them dripping off the bone so-so good… What’s that? Am I worried about the fat content? Heck no, not with Mama, they hooked up their food lean, low fat. Trust Mama know how to cook! I’m trying to be slick like her!” Carlton flips a flapjack, “So you ordering from me? How much you want?” Carlton chuckles and keeps working.
The crowd surrounding Zekes has swelled to capacity in an unprecedented show of support for a fallen local hero. It’s standing room only as the local neighborhood and Zeke’s fanatics have descended on the parking lot shouting, “Eat@Zeke’s” in unison. As officials were alerted to the burgeoning scene, it’s surprisingly a primary peaceful crowd with just the chants and sounds of vendors promoting their wares. Is a fitting testament to the woman who many think of as a surrogate mother.
“Be sure to get your nice watch, got your nice watch here! I know you want one, I know you do.” Stephen yells from his cart.
‘Occupy Zeke’s’ has morphed into a political movement as the peaceful protesters lamet against a political system they feel is designed for failure against small business owners, especially against African-Americans.
Operating for years in the backdrop of the auto industry, Zeke’s Kitchen thrived serving factory workers and the surrounding neighborhoods southern soul food delicacies. As many of the workers newly arrived in the north seeking work amidst the civil rights movement, a touch of home was highly appreciated.
Freddy Styles runs the nearby community center and is a longtime family friend. “See, the magnitude of the unification of all adopted parties, rallying in support against the unseen oppressor is a positive thing. By taking a systematic tranquil approach the people are taking a nod from the forefathers who worked the lunch counters, who skipped the bus, who marched on the capital, who laid the foundation, deep in the trenches, crawling under barbed wire, escaping mortar shells, plugging the bleeding holes with the bare of your thumb, spotting the slants of their eyes hiding in the brush…”
“Sir, are you referring to the Vietnam War or Civil Rights movement?” A puzzled lady asks.
Freddy scoffs, ponders over his mistake, “I digress ma’am, it was a trying time of change for us all. Let us savor the current situation.”
“Savor? Savor this Diablo Dog!” A vendor from Zombie Dogz hot dog food truck blurts out holding a huge turkey Diablo with all the fixings.
“Diablo Dog? A devil dog? The savior has been insulted! Where’s the justice for the king?” An elderly passerby injects into the conversation.
“Hey bro its just food, man, chill. Just say your blessings before you eat and you’ll be alright.” The vendor shakes his head.
Preacher Man from the local Heavenly Righteous Missionary Baptist church Mama attends suddenly appears and touches the food box, “I pray in Jesus name the sanctity and blessings of this fine food presented to us on this fateful day, and for all the love and support given to Mama in her time of need. In his glorious name Amen!” The vendor smirks and let’s the hungry preacher take the food.
The preacher takes one bite as he juggles a flapjack in his hand, he drops the hot dog onto the flapjack. He shrugs and wraps the dog in the flapjack. Hmm, tastes good.
“Preacher Man is eating the diablo!” A passerby gasps.
“And I have rid it of all its evil misrepresentation, cleared it of its evil spirit, sanctified it in the glory of good to be consumed, by myself, in its entirety and its delicious.”
“I just saw lighting come out the preachers’ fingers cleansing that Diablo dog!” A kid quips.
Curious folks bump Preacher Man trying to eat, he scoffs, “Lord have mercy, folks, there is enough bounty to share, remember, we are here to support Ms. Woods!”
The crowd fills to capacity milling around the food trucks, curious to what is happening with Preacher Man.
Big Moe, Zach and Quinton Jones navigate the crowd as the larger gentleman is able to move through easier leaving his buddies able to follow in the wake.
Quinton stays on his iPhone navigating his daily hustle, Zach keeps close to his boys in the swelling crowd. “Figure out what we going to eat?” Zach asks anxiously.
“Why, you getting nervous white boy?” Quinton smirks
“Naw bruh, I’m cool, my stomach is growling and its mad hot up in here, black folks sweating!”
Moe chuckles, “It is hot and Moe is hungry!”
“They have that chicken and waffles cart set up Moe?” Quinton can barely see overhead.
“Not confirmed Q, Moe needs food!”
“Yo Big M, why you talk about yourself in third person homie?” Zach innocently ponders. Moe looks down at his hesitating friend, nostrils flared.
A curious child, maybe twelve reaches out through the swelling crowd, his mother distracted with his younger brothers and sisters. Almost being stepped on, feet trample around the generic styrofoam plate amongst the destroyed grass, his fingers stretch, fondle the edge of the recycled material, pulls it forward. He grips the flapjack and his eyes go wide as he pulls it to his face. The crowd pushes and pulls around him as he stands still, mesmerized, in a trance.
His mother Adanna finally notices, tugs at him, “Ebele, come, it is getting too wild here, let us go.” Her voice concerned, she from West Africa, her husband, a U.S. Soldier.
A woman glances over his shoulder, eyes go wide, she shrieks, “It’s Jesus! It’s the savior in the flapjack!”
The immediate crowd surges forward, as gasps and shocked groans inspect the burnt dough.
A man shakes, yells out, “Jesus is real! He has blessed Mama’s in the flapjack!”
The crowd surges again, Adanna concerned for her children as the open air grows dimmer.
“They saw Jesus in a flapjack!” It was spreading.
“Jesus spoke from the flapjack!” The word was getting twisted.
“The flapjack heals you!” The gossip waned downhill.
“Heal me Jesus!” Somebody reaches, another falls, the swelling murmur opens into a full fledged roar.
Adanna concerned the she is about to lose her children clings desperately on them as the crowd dessen’s into a pack of wolves reaching and grabbing for the flapcake.
As quickly as it became, the crowd suddenly parts like the red sea, the boy and his family are scooped up like pawns discarded after a bad chess game.
Big Moe bellows, “Leave them alone! Big Moe got them!” He moves them towards the side away from the following crowd.
“Ebele, leave the pancake, let somebody else carry it.” Adanna looks down to where he was, he is gone.
“Where the lil’ dude go?” Zach trips out.
“Ebele! No! Come back!” His mother cries.
“There he go! He has Jesus!” Somebody cries out.
The frightened Ebele grips the flapjack and crashes into a cart flipping it over, angry storemen yell at him. The chase is on.
“People! Keep calm! This is nonsense!” Freddy Styles yells over a loudspeaker as the crowd chases the boy.
Frightened, Ebele knocks over people and items in his haste as the local Detroit’s finest take notice.
Moe looks Adanna in her eye, “I promise, I will retrieve your boy, what is his name?”
Her teeth chattering, “Ebele”
“I will bring back Ebele I promise!” Moe rears up to move through the crowd.
The officer calls out, “Hey boy, what you got there?” He touches his shoulder, Ebele jerks not realizing who it was.
The officer puts his hand on his baton but Ebele backs off, “Relax, I am an officer of the law. Son, you take something, what did you take? Come here.”
Ebele, disoriented, sees the pale tall slender officer motioning for him, he turns to see the mob coming his direction. In his confusion, he runs.
“Hey, I said stop!” The officer calls it in and goes in pursuit.
The crowd looks in confusion as the cop sprints past and sirens are heard in the distance as the crowd turns ugly. Camera phones whirl away recording everything.
The tree line twists upside down, the heat emanates off of the hot pavement, the air is stiff as people scream and shout. Wails of sirens erupt from everywhere, even among all the confusion all Ebele could hear was his breath and heartbeat.
“I said stop in the name of the law!’ A click of a gun is heard. Time stands still.
The officer looks directly at Big Moe standing in his way.
“Dear Officer John Doe, I believe by you confronting the young man, startling him in his disorientation, touching him inappropriately, you violated the law by assault. By not having all of the facts presented to you, you reacted by your survival instincts. Now not by a normal human, but the heightened insecurity those officers bring to the job with them. Every little twitch, every little reach, anything out of the ordinary you must be conscious too. It’s understandable in your choice of professions and I don’t envy your position. From the same standpoint as you; the oppressor’s mistrust of the community, especially us as African-Americans you displace blame. A bullet does not have a soul, its victims are chosen by those who hold the power, once in flight the oppressor who squeezed the trigger can displace his conscious. And we, as the oppressed must comply, whether we agree or not, or we suffer the consequences, jailed, beaten, killed, a life destroyed, entire families destroyed. We have but a few seconds to make this choice, to stand up for what we feel is an injustice, being targeted for something silly, something simple and insignificant or it could be something more serious, a theft, a pocket of drugs, yes a crime could have been committed but in these mere seconds is somebody’s life worth it to die? Officer John Doe, take that moment of choice, past all of your extensive training, our general distrust of each other, whatever anger is in your head against somebody different than you, and think, are you beyond human that you must take this person’s life? Are they that much of a threat you must end his existence? This person does have a mother and a father, a family that cares for them, they could be a parent themselves, in school trying to better themselves, off work from a hard day – was it really worth it? Before its us versus them, before the day begins and whatever happens, we are all human, bleed and breathe the same way. Keep faith alive that there is a God looking over us and we all must pray for his forgiveness whatever religion you follow.
And my fellow African-Americans, Hispanics, Jewish, Arabs, Indians, whomever feels oppressed from the overseers we can do better by being better educated, being more knowledgeable about the laws, by being less confrontational – and I’m not saying bow down and not saying anything if you feel they are in the wrong – but by having more wisdom we play on their level. Challenge them intelligently. They have less reason to treat us as sub-humans, as the oppressed, as less than man. If you are full of attitude and a chip on your shoulder, channel it into working to challenge the system productively, believe it or not, we have rights, use them.
The officer looks again as there is a solid wall of people standing between him and Ebele. Moe has been joined by Quinton, Zach, Freddy, Adanna, the food vendors, the mixed race crowd supporting Zeke’s Kitchen, supporting their neighborhood. Its deadly quiet as the police force looks into the eyes of the citizens, the citizens of Detroit, the citizens of the United States of America coming together.
Officer John Doe puts his pistol down as his fellow officers look on surprised. Ebele emerges from the crowd holding the flapjack up, gives the officer the gift of Jesus.
#FERGUSON DEDICATED TO MICHAEL BROWN, JOHN CRAWFORD, TREVON MARTIN AND ALL OF THE OTHER NEEDLESS KILLINGS IN THE NAME OF THE LAW SINCE 1476
Smoke filters, fluffs, dissipates over burnt flapjacks sizzling in the forgotten about skillet, shriveled three quarters to the size they normally would be. Dwele plays in the background crooning about the flavored pastries. An iPhone buzzes on the counter inching slightly towards a turnt over bottle of syrup which drips havoc towards the electronic. The text reads from Silvia and Maureen, “Girl we heard you have tickets to the Kommandoz concert! We need to go with you to turn it up! We have a surprise for you!”
Children play in the back yard, laughing, yelling happily, oblivious to the underlying drama.
Utopia stands by the pool, distraught, staring into space she drops a letter by her side, her world crushed.