Excerpt – Yet To Be Determined


It seemed like the three of them had been together forever—sisters of fortune, three of a
kind. Their ages were now 73, 70, and, of course, the baby, Miss Alaina, at 68. She was the
most outspoken; the most garish of them all. Her mouth was the filthiest thing you would
ever hear, but even with that there was a lively entertaining ring to her voice. The three of
them, together, were what most would refer to as eccentric. The oldest of the three was very
tight-fisted and authoritative. She wore bracelets from her wrist almost up to her elbow and,
by most estimations, was still as cool as heck. The middle sister was reserve and proper, but
straight Bohemian. All of them were still strikingly beautiful and in their day, according to
them, had men from one end of the United States to the other. Yet, I got the impression that
not one of them had ever married.

Zora Nadine, Claudette Eileen, and Alaina Lee were products of parents of the Harlem
Renaissance. They had witnessed countless parties, numerous jazz sets, and who knows what
else. They were all artists themselves who, at their current ages, still exuded racial
consciousness in their work. They were products of a time that produced aristocratic, stately,
artistic Negros. The three had found themselves in the presence of Langston Hughes, Jessie
Redmon Faust, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Bessie Smith and
countless other writers, poets, and musical geniuses, the likes of which have not been
duplicated, even though all three of the ladies were too young to appreciate the significance
of their experiences. As we spoke, each one of them referred to the other as ‘sister,’ which,
initially, made it very difficult for me to keep up with the conversation. On occasion they
called each other by name or by special nicknames, which only they used, and when they did
this it was almost melodic. Their voices often harmoniously intertwined, as if they had
practiced all their lives to speak in tandem.

I came to know the sisters because of Miss Claudette’s book, The Emancipation Continuum
of the Negro in America. She argued that in the 70’s, even after the Harlem Renaissance of
the 1920’s, 30’s, the stock market drop of the 40’s, the Civil Rights Movement of the
1960’s, and the Black Power movement of the 80’s, Blacks were still struggling for
emancipation to a position of social, racial, and economic equality, even though modern
society could not otherwise function without the advent of the countless contributions they
had so graciously bestowed upon America.

When I met the three sisters in the late 90’s, it was long past the Black Power movement that
had catered to a strong sense of racial pride, the creation of black political and cultural
institutions that nurtured and promoted black collective interests, advanced black values, and
secured black autonomy – – another, yet, socially enlightening era for Blacks. Even amidst
their struggles, as always, Blacks still managed to, somehow, find a happy medium in their
communities. The residuals of the “free love” movement of the 60’s, accentuated by,
seemingly, endless amounts of weed, in some circles, which, by the way, the sisters still
partook of on a regular basis, didn’t hurt to keep some things moving in the 70’s.

Miss Claudette’s book made it clear that many of the characteristics of Blacks, particularly
those that exhibited a non-defeatist attitude, were intrinsic of the indigenous people of Africa
that we were. In addition to anything that I might have mentioned about her previously, she
was also extremely unapologetically afro-centric.