First, you should know I’m a white woman of 69, who grew up in one of those neighborhoods where the housewives got all tense just seeing a black man walk down the street.  When I left for college up North, nobody really thought too much about the fact that Ursuline College was near Cleveland, and I made sure not to draw it to their attention.

One Saturday my friend, Peggy, and I managed to give the nuns the slip and get ourselves downtown. We didn’t know our way around the city at all, and pretty soon we ended up in front of one of those barber shops where men come to hang out and shoot the breeze.  Just as we arrived, a whole group of guys came around the corner dressed to the nines.  They were laughing and pushing one of them to the front, talking about how he needed a last minute haircut before the wedding.  I knew my mama would have told me to cross the street and stay clear; but Peg and I were feeling daring, so we walked straight on toward the group.

Well, one of the guys had pulled out a little Polaroid and suggested a group picture before the wedding; they even wanted the barber.  So the guy with the camera just up and hollers, “Ladies, we need someone to take our picture.”  Before I knew it, I was standing there with the camera pointed at fifteen dapper black men.  Then they wanted to break up in different groups, and I think I took maybe five or six pictures total.

I was sort of secretly hoping more would come of the encounter, but we just finished up and went on our way.  It’s really strange to see one of the pictures again, almost like something did come of it in the end.

Story by TC Epperson


Fast and loose but clean and tight.

Like Parker and Gillespie man, Ain’t nobody could touch those cats.

Ain’t no-body man, know what I’m saying?

When we’s in those dud’s brother, we are the town.

These white women be taking our picture boy, these white women who cross the street when we in our overalls brother.

Them Police be tipping they hats to us tonight brother. We’ll meet ya’ll on the corner ya’ hear? We’ll head on down the Bar ya’ hear?

We’ll see Clarence off in style man.

 Forty years a man be on the production line, forty years he stand on the spot where one day the brother drop dead. Man’s heart just give out, Man’s heart never was strong; not on the production line anyhow.

 Rich white fellas all over this fine country of ours be driving cars that Clarence built man. And every time he be applying that brake my friend, those little red lights be coming on. And that man be owing a debt to ‘Ole Clarence Man. That there be Clarence’s life work, know what I’m saying?

Beer? We don’t want no beer, Whiskey brother.

My Granddaddy work the fields boy, back a’ways down the river. He say to me “Son, you work and you be grateful, ‘cus ain’t nobody gonna’ beat you if you don’t”

Fast and loose but clean and tight.

Ain’t nobody could touch us tonight brother.

We are the town man.

And Clarence? He’s doing alright brother.

He’s doing alright.

Story by Daniel John Williams

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