Summertime | Eastern North Carolina Now

Lib Campbell: Above
    "Summertime... and the living is easy. Fish are jumping and the cotton is high." Anticipation of summer parties, cookouts and pool parties. Beach trips and lake trips, and our favorite, the Neuse River. My memories are thick with the good times of summer. That is the privilege of growing up White in the South.

    There are memories of Madras bathing suits, shirts and shorts. There are memories of Virginia Slims and house parties at Atlantic Beach. I remember the Pavilion when the Fabulous Blue Notes played and the saxophonist hung from the rafters.

    I remember Aunt Eula's house two rows back from the ocean at Atlantic Beach. Dunes were huge and my cousins and I played all day long.

    Aggie took us to Carolina Beach and Kure. I remember the smell of the cabins with the steel bunk beds. I remember the boardwalk and cotton candy. And I remember asking Aggie, "Am I pretty too?"

    My memories also include times in Ayden. The Ayden Recreation Center is where I learned how to play bridge. It's also where I taught beginning swimming at a new pool just built at the Ayden Country Club.

    My memories reflect the privilege I lived. But there are other parts of my memory, parts I regret not having given greater voice to at the time. For all the idyllic reminiscences, there are also memories etched in my brain of the people for whom summertime was just plain hard.

    In rural eastern North Carolina, tobacco fields in the 1960s stretched as far as the eye could see. Workers with mule-drawn carts carried leaves to the women under the shelter for tying. Even though sometimes my white friends "put in" tobacco, most of the work was done by Black men in the fields and Black women doing the tying. It was hot and dirty work.

    It was about this time in my memory that the public swimming pool in Greenville was closed. Fears of integration gripped the city leaders. Swimming while Black was not to be. Jim Crow was alive and thriving in the town of my youth.

    The Myers Theater, the only public air-conditioned space in town was segregated. Black movie-goers were relegated to the balcony. Black barbecue diners could only be served at a window in the back of the café.

    The Black man who came to my house to tend the yard brought his daughter with him. She and I played for hours in my playhouse. One day, I saw Thurba go to the back door to ask Mother for a cup of water. She served him in a canning jar. My playmate's daddy was not served at my house with a regular drinking glass. It struck my heart that something wrong was happening all around me. I didn't even know what to call it, until I started seeing Martin Luther King on television.

    It was called Racism. I was awakened to the sin of it when I was young. And if it were not still so prevalent among us, I might be able to let it go. But Racist comments permeate too many conversations and too many rants from people, like Jeff McNeely in our own Legislature. It's one thing to apologize, but quite another to root out the animus that seeds Racism. My woke self will keep speaking into the hate until Racism is crushed. But right now, we seem to be regressing instead of progressing.

    Summertime is hard for people who work in the heat. Summertime is hard for single parents who struggle with childcare issues. Summertime is hard for children who have food insecurity issues and miss school breakfasts and lunches. Too many of these people who have it hard in the summertime are minorities, migrants, and the poor.

    "One of these days, we're gonna rise up singing. We're gonna spread our wings and take to the sky. But till that morning"... God has work for us to do.

    Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, retreat leader and hosts the website: avirtualchurch.com. She welcomes comments at libcam05@gmail.com.
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