What the fuck is Manboy in the Promised Land?
Well, it’s my blog right? Yea, it is my blog but it’s also a riff on a classic piece of American literature, a book with a tremenulous title: Claude Brown’s Manchild in the Promised Land. My heart sank when I explained this to Marlo, my friend and ubiquitous bookworm, a reader if there ever was who knows a bit of everything. Nah, never heard of it, was his reply more or less. I explained it to him and we had a bit of a laugh but listen now, if this motherfucker has never heard of little Claude and his thinly fictionalized account of a life lived, then what hope is there for the stunted masses, pouring over this blog, and understanding that we’re doing a bit of a tongue-in-cheek euphemism for a lost boyman feeling his way through the dark?
“I want to talk about the first Northern urban generation of Negroes. I want to talk about the experiences of a misplaced generation, of a misplaced people in an extremely complex, confused society. This is a story of their searching, their dreams, their sorrows, their small and futile rebellions, and their endless battle to establish their own place in America’s greatest metropolis — and in America itself.
The characters are sons and daughters of former Southern share-croppers. These were the poorest people of the South, who poured into New York City during the decade following the Great Depression. These migrants were told that unlimited opportunities for prosperity existed in New York and that there was no “color problem” there. They were told that Negroes lived in houses with bathrooms, electricity, running water, and indoor toilets. To them, this was the “promised land” that Mammy had been singing about in the cotton fields for many years.
Going to New York was good-bye to the cotton fields, good-bye to “Massa Charlie,” good-bye to the chain gang, and, most of all, goodbye to those sunup-to-sundown working hours. One no longer had to wait to get to heaven to lay his burden down; burdens could be laid down in New York.
So, they came, from all parts of the South, like all the black chillun o’ God following the sound of Gabriel’s horn on that long-overdue Judgment Day. The Georgians came as soon as they were able to pick train fare off the peach trees. They came from South Carolina where the cotton stalks were bare. The North Carolinians came with tobacco tar beneath their fingernails.
They felt as the Pilgrims must have felt when they were coming to America. But these descendants of Ham must have been twice as happy as the Pilgrims, because they had been catching twice the hell. Even while planning the trip, they sang spirituals as “Jesus Take My Hand” and “I’m On My Way” and chanted, “Hallelujah, I’m on my way to the promised land!”
It seems that Cousin Willie, in his lying haste, had neglected to tell the forks down home about one of the most important aspects of the promised land: it was a slum ghetto. There was a tremendous difference in the way life was lived up North. There were too many people full of hate and bitterness crowded into a dirty, stinky, uncared-for closet-size section of a great city.
Before the soreness of the cotton fields had left Mama’s back, her knees were getting sore from scrubbing “Goldberg’s” floor. Nevertheless, she was better off; she had gone from the fire into the frying pan.
The children of these disillusioned colored pioneers inherited the total lot of their parents — the disappointments, the anger. To add to their misery, they had little hope of deliverance. For where does one run to when he’s already in the promised land?”
A foreward that is forward no doubt, and one that should speak to any thoughtful soul, or traveller. We all have our promised land, right? So where is it? America’s poor play video games on futuristic flat television sets. What do America’s rich do? What do you want? Most dreams are fulfilled and yet…there are those that are dead inside: the walking dead.
We all know at least one…
Well regardless, my heart reels yet at the thought of the casual googler lumping your author in with those who might hyphenate the term Manboy, adding the connotation of love betwixt the two.
Whatever, Manboyinthepromisedland is a great blog title.
As I say,
You only live once…or an infinite number of times.