Eclipse (An Annotated Excerpt from The Red Book of Houston: A New Compendium for the New Black Metropolis (2015)
by Charisse Pearlina Weston
We must organize our purchasing power behind a demand for equal opportunity to work and also in support of those businesses in which Negroes can do work without discrimination.1
On another occasion, Richardson surveyed the problem of black economic dependency and wrote: “There was a time when we were justified in giving our business to others, but that was before the advent of reputable and responsible race enterprises…We can never be a substantial and successful race so long as we build up concerns of other races to the detriment and exclusion of our own…From a business point of view we must think more in terms of racial solidarity, co-operation, teamwork, and group action.” In the same vein, he implored, “Let us not slacken our speed, but let us pull full steam ahead to the distant port of economic independence, racial solidarity and interracial amity.” 2
Alexandra Richardson is the wife of Dr. Heathcliff Richardson. He is well respected in the community.
I grew up feeling detached from my peers. With exception, from my parents, of course, I was not. I suppose that explains my unwavering desire to provide for my community.
They, my parents, always lived in the realm of exception-floating heavenly above all by the graces of God, in exception. It was always astounding to me, to be lifted up with them—all of us—and yet to peer down at others in destitution,
although always within and through your own destitution. —
Did she interject this under her breath, through her teeth, or were the words so self-ensnarled that they never reached out at all?
I want now
No change of rhythm, no shift, no pause, she is safe.
to bring as many people up as possible, to this level of exceptionality. One by one.
Richardson proudly clears his throat, clarifies his stature, all to continue as he was regarding his business, his six employees of color—who all carry, in some fashion or another, his name.
I got into the habit, like my parents, to prefer a level of solitude bordering on the religious, over shame before others. I hope to instill this in the community.
:Of course, our status in the community affords us
the luxury of solitude.
Panic bursts out. A side step. Too far out. She has let a veritable truth push her so far out of bounds that she may suffocate from the open-air.
There is a long silence as Richardson straightens, perched as she is, readjusts and restructures the reflection of herself in herself until she resembles her husband, again.
In spite of their efforts, the Richardsons shrink beneath a cold overhead light.
Old Fellows Pilgrims
20s 30s 4th
to Lyons Ave. commercial strip self contained, productive Heights Independence
dotted across •••••••••••••••• •••••••••••••••••••••••
5th LA frenchman’s men’s
zydeco and jazz and
stripped principally on Dowling Ave
catered to one to two thirds of Blacks community providing
insular protection against
bigotry trained later generations
of petty white capitalist professionals.
:a landless people is forever and a day the “sport of the gods.”
with always want
drifting and drifting standing soberly engraved
placed upon the door of his own neighbor above
listless meaning full of meaning before others
but not his
biting a path a better
book a better sermon a better basket than his neighbor
throbbing vital fact
thus rooted in the soil.
If we make ourselves permanently useful, we shall deserve, as we shall receive.
1The New Negro Alliance quoted in Buy American: The Untold Story of Economic Nationalism. Dana Frank. 1999
2Clifton F. Richardson quoted in “The Emergence of Black Business in Houston: A Study of Race and Ideology, 1919-45.” Black Dixie. Howard Beeth and Cary D. Wintz. 1992.
Charisse Pearlina Weston is a Houston-based artist and writer. Her work focuses on the deconstruction and reconfiguration of language, representation, and history through the manipulation of various mediums including video, photography, and printed text.