responsible for that. So is Henry.
Henry Redwell, young artist of high regard, who put on a soul celebration, dreamed it up and lived it and created a beautiful poster and even made the overtures to The Family Shade for today’s performance; but when the day came, Henry had run away to find himself, or re-find himself, or maybe to lose himself here in Mount Morris Park.
Some of the history here is personal, sure. When Henry was a kid, a tiny one, these same oaks, this same path, this same baseball field looked the plantation to his grandfather’s mansion; a view representative of what seemed possible at one time for a black family in Harlem, a view that certainly inspired the guests and colleagues at Grandma Antonia’s civil rights rallies.
Henry looks to the house. An upstairs window winks. The jay continues to shriek. Rage. Unnerving. “Shut up, jay.” Henry caws. His voice sounds strange, underwatery, but shrill. A vision of Papa Jay Shade up on the bandstand rolls in, with his big, ugly grin and his giant sunglasses, then the whole Family Shade with glinting eyes. They become flies, then jay. “Can’t get away from the jays!” Henry’s nervous laughter turns into an animal cackle.
A white couple walking, winding slowly up the path snaps Henry to attention. He tries to stop the laughter, but the effort only feeds the cackling. He sounds just like that dark bird in the very tree beside him; its shrieking is a mockery of Henry’s cackling, and so he is losing control of the sound of his own voice and he sounds like a crazy man because he is a crazy man, and dammit, Paula Shade and Deedee and Papa Jay must have dosed him back there,
Black Man Running, 1969 — 4