I can hardly wait for it to be light enough to begin. But there must be light and one of the best times ever is just when the sun starts responding with the dew on the ripest of the blackberries in the field. Eye to eye with that glint, the roundness of each of the segments of the berry. After a great morning and evening picking I actually SEE ripe blackberries all evening long when I close my eyes. In those moments, the berries showing up are the ripest, the fullest in what seems like a private slideshow.
Decking out for the picking has become a ritual. Long pants tucked into socks. Tie on boots, laces tucked to keep them tied. Long sleeves, or jean jacket collar up and the hat, of any sort on covering my ears. In other words, I look like it is winter. Then the picking, then when the bending, stretching and isometrics of the exercise picking blackberries has worn me out or the heat of the day gives me the clue to stall out for a bit, the berries are put up, the boots stay on the porch steps and the rest of the clothing goes directly into the washer while the wearer gets straight to the shower. As they say, knock on wood, no chiggers so far this season. It is thought to be fact that for every perfect black segment on a berry, there are several chiggers hanging out looking for a better host with real blood, not that juice they are fooled with time and again.
Black is beautiful is also in season, as we look as a nation at the color of skin for some in an entirely new manner. Our countrymen and women wearing black so deeply want simply to be proud of that color and would like to know simply less hate for being in that skin. Brown can be hated too. I have felt that and understand the bewilderment as a child when stones and names followed me home only to be comforted by my bi-racial parents. When they married, my Cherokee grandmother resented my white mother, while many of my mother's friends wondered why she would marry an Indian. So their children, me and my 2 brothers are mixed blood kids.
My brothers can pass for white and I can't. Another thing happened when I was a kid, it was during the Korean War and there were many Korean orphans who were adopted in the US, and because of the cute haircuts my mom gave me, I could pass for one of the orphans, too, who didn't get a lot of love in the neighborhood either. So I understand deeply the feelings attached to skin, a thing we are all born into. Skin is the largest organ in our body and when you should sunburn and change it briefly it returns to its original color without missing a beat.
This skin we are in causes us to be labeled and labels are another way to call people names and names could be only words, but these kind of words are usually said using a tone that is unforgettable and totally clearly demeaning.
The summer I was 9 going on 10 our family went to live in the Southwest, in Aztec, New Mexico and Kingman, Arizona, where our little rented house had a grocery store around the corner. That summer the store had a special guest: Aunt Jemima. I saw the poster and went on my own to see her. She didn't seem happy, not smiling like the images I had seen. There wasn't a line of people waiting to MEET her or talk with her or hope to get a sample of one of her very own pancakes. Near the tail end of the 1950's the Civil Rights movement was about help her retire, but it has taken this movement 155 years after the Civil War to remove her name and image from the products the Quaker Oats company had been selling since they bought her from another company. That slave image "Mammy" was a real woman, an actual slave who over the century and a half has been on a lot of American breakfast tables.
So how can we change the way we think about color about skin color and the people in skin a color you might not have many friends wearing? Pick a color. I choose black. And by choosing black I will see it as beautiful. And during this season, this season which falls between the anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre and Juneteenth, each day's morning and that time before dusk, I will pick the berries and love the color and know that others can and will in the future come to know black as beautiful too.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim