So far, she’d been holding her own. In the past week, she’d gotten an A on an English paper, a B+ on a report on the Shay’s Rebellion. A B on a science quiz, and a disappointing C on her latest middle school advanced math homework.
The biggest test thus far over whether she maintain before her grueling dance schedule and meet her father’s academic standards came on October 15th. AP bounded by her mother and father on the stairs. She full backpack and had a dance bag dangling from her left shoulder. She also managed to carry a large red, trifold, poster board all without falling over.
“Morning, daddy! Morning, mama! Remember you’re driving me to school today, right?”
“Yes, princess! I remember,” her father said, “I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
“ Don’t you run down these stairs, young lady, ” warned her mother. “If you fall down and crack your head, you won’t be giving any reports this morning or dancing Sugar Plum in December. You’ll have to spend the whole day getting patched up in the ER instead. And I don’t have to spend all day sitting there with you. I’ve got work to do that’s not going to put itself off because my youngest child, who’s old enough to know better, took a header down some stairs.”
“Gee, I love you, too.” AP shot back. Her father didn’t care for her tone and shot her one of his looks.
“Sorry, mama. I can’t be late,” AP knew she whining but didn’t care. “Mr. Russo loves to write detention slips.” AP walked down the few remaining stairs at a more reasonable rate.
“So you mentioned about 5 times yesterday,” her father said. “Don’t worry you know how important I think education is. You’re not going to be late on my account.” he kissed her mother on the cheek as she gave his tie a final smoothing. “I have to go before our youngest decides to hotwire the car and drive herself to school.”
Her mother smiled. “You drive safe now, Morgan, your carrying precious cargo. Call me when you get a minute. I’m going to be working in the studio all morning. Then I’m giving a lecture on African Art history at the Research Center. Maybe we can grab a bite after that, before we go have to go pick up on our resident ballerina and hear how stellar she was in rehearsal today.”
AP blushed. She could hear her parents clearly and her mother’s comments made her sound four. “Daddy, c’mon!” she called and was relieved to hear his footsteps a moment later. AP was a 7th grade dance major at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School. Going to the school was the only positive
thing, as far as she was concerned about the move from New Haven. Maybe if she did well at PVPA, she’d have a prayer of convincing her father to let her enroll in the Walnut Hill School] for the Arts (where she’d major in ballet) or Innerlochen Arts Academy where she could study in the rigorous comparative arts department, combing her various love of writing and ballet.
Daddy said that because the New Haven Public School system had a very good dance program, that also allow to explore her other artistic interest and take rigorous academic courses. She’d be going to Cooperative Arts & Humanities Interdistrict Magnet right in New Haven which was free, supported by his tax dollars, and most importantly, met he “got to keep his youngest daughter at little girl for just a little longer.” As badly as AP wanted the prestige that came with a Walnut Hill or Innerlochen diploma, she had to admit that going to Coop, as it was called, wouldn’t be the worse thing that ever happened. After all, she’d grown up in the New Haven Public School System’s magnet program. She’d enrolled, fresh as a 7-year-old transplant from Atlanta, into second grade at Davis Street Arts and Academics where mutual love of the arts had made it easier for her to make friends. Then in the fifth grade she’d been accepted Betsy Ross Arts. Coop was the next logical stopover in her educational career.
Wherever she ended up attending high school, she knew she’d go on to study at NYU, Purchase College, the University of the Arts, or Cornish College studying either dance performance, choreography, or performance studies. Perhaps she’d even try for Julliard. If the universe was really on her side, she’d spend at least a few years dancing with the Dance Theater of Harlem. This was her big dream. First she had to survive 7th grade and big part of that was nailing this family history report. It was her first major academic assignment since she enrolled at PVPA. She’d spent over a month delving through photo albums, and e-mailing, facebooking, and phone all the relatives who she had any contact information for. She talked to her parents friends to get the real lowdown on them. She spent hours creating and recreating the perfect family tree. In the end, she still wasn’t happy with it, but she had run out of time to fix it anymore.
About two hours later, A.P.’s family tree was on display in the history room and she was mostly speaking without looking at the note cards she’d written in case she got stage freight, although that would be an odd thing to happen to someone who’d spent over half her life on stage trying to be the center of attention . “The first person here is in my maternal great-great-great grandmother Bulla Mae James and her husband Marcus. There are no records for my father’s family at that time as is typical of the era.”
The first mention of them is here. She used the pointer again to indicate a faded black and white photograph of a still handsome, well-muscled black man. This is Alexander Williams. He was the first member of my father’s family born free in America. He was born in 1870. He had two wives, Silvia Marie who died given birth to their first child. Silvia Marie died in child birth, although the baby survived. He then married Annabelle with whom he had six more.”
AP talked and talked detailing each relative. Glad, for once, that her father was a historian packrat who saved everything. She paused dramatically when she got to the part about how her grandfather Peter Williams had fled the South and its rampant racism, seeking a better life in the North. That was how she came to be standing in front of them. “Mogan Washington-Williams, my father, is a tenured professor in African-American studies, on sabbatical for Yale University who had decided to use his sabbatical year to teach at UMass/Amherst.
The proudest of Minuteman, he had jumped at the chance to return to his old stomping grounds and give a little back to the public university system that had helped make him. She told her classmates,” He and Isabella Washington, who everyone still calls Belle, met in the mid- sixties at UMass. After freshman year, They’d both been part of the last group of MJom riders in 1965, helping Southern blacks register to vote, over their more conservative parents objections. You see my mother was the product of a Yankee mill worker and a high school teacher, who’d given up her teaching career to have 5 children of which mama was the youngest and be a
Daddy sprang from the loins of Southern Black folks who’d never, and this is a direct quote, “gotten over the damage inflicted by generations of slavery and sharecropping.” They were too households full of people who firmly believed in not rocking the boat, but my parents believed that if the boat needed rocking they were the people to rock it.