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Project Life

America The Black Point of View: An Investigation and Study of The White People of America and Western Europe & The Autobiography of an American Ghetto Boy – The 1950’s and 1960’s – From the Projects to NAACP Image Award Winner, Volume One (Amber Booksby Tony Rose

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PART SIX

PRELUDE TO THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF TONY ROSE

PROJECT LIFE

I wrote most of this in 1968.  It’s about death, mothers, and men in the projects.

PROJECT LIFE

BY TONY ROSE

CHAPTER ONE

THE GREAT BIG UGLY GORILLA

Russell’s mother was a great big, ugly gorilla, at least that’s what Russell’s younger brother Spencer thought. Earline thought it was cute , the way Spencer who was only three, would look up at her when she would try to pick him up and say, “get away from me you great, big, ugly gorilla!”.  Earline would look at him and say, “O, isn’t he cute”.

CHAPTER TWO

EARLINE

Earline had six rooms, one 9×12 front room, one 7×11 kitchen, three bedrooms, and a bathroom; also four boys and three girls.  Russell was one of my friends, so I was always over there.

CHAPTER THREE

BIG AND FLAPPY

Earline was a big nice pleasant woman, whose main attraction were her breast, which were big and flappy.  I used to always see them, because she would always be breast feeding someone.

CHAPTER FOUR

IN THE NAVY

I must have been eight the summer that Russell’s father came home.  He was in the Navy, at least that’s what Russell had been telling us for years.  He was only home for five days, but, wow, he sure made a lot of little boy’s happy.  For some of us, it was our first real physical up-closeness of a man.  The size of him, his smell, his voice. Another thing I would do, me and Wilbur, would be to wait for Russell’s father to go to the bathroom, so we could see how a real man’s looked.  I caught him once and I watched closely, he knew I was watching him because he slowly turned around with a grin on his face, he didn’t say nothing, just looked at me.

CHAPTER FIVE

WOMEN’S WORLD

We were sad when Russell’s father left, you see we lived in a women’s world, and they weren’t big enough to pick us up and throw us around.

CHAPTER SIX

TWO BABIES

We all knew that Russell must have had a father, not only did he say he had one, but we all knew that somehow father’s and mother’s meant babies, and Earline sure had plenty of them, so we knew that there must have been someone there sometime.  That’s why when Russell’s father came home we weren’t so surprised, although a few of us were a little skeptical even after seeing him, especially Bupsey, who told me that his mother had told him that Russell’s father had been gone for four years and Earline had two babies that were five months and two years old.  We didn’t know what that meant, but it must have been important since a mother had said it, so it was enough to keep us skeptical.

CHAPTER SEVEN

SHUT UP

At first we thought that, that wasn’t Russell’s father, but just another friend of Earline’s, and everybody’s mother had lots of friends. But, what made me believe that he was Russell’s father, was when he punched Spencer in the mouth for calling Earline a great, big, ugly gorilla and told Russell to shut up for laughing.  Soon after Russell’s father left, Spencer told her he hated her.

CHAPTER EIGHT

FAT AND UGLY

Earline never could control Spencer.  As we got older, the more names he could think of to call her.  She did get to be fat and ugly, but she always had plenty of friends and uncles for Russell, I guess because she tried harder.

CHAPTER NINE

FAT BASTARD

Earline was a good mother, at least better than most.  She would sometimes try to kill the roaches and she did bathe the kids, although from what I can remember not too much could be said for her own cleanliness.  But, she smiled and talked, and she was young and she lived also.  She probably had dreams to.  The apartment stayed the same though, year after year.  One year, about seven years after the first time I had seen him, Russell’s father came back, but I guess Earline looked to tired or used or something, cause he just fucked her and left. (By this time I knew what friends and others did to women)  He didn’t even hit Spencer, when Spencer called him a fat bastard.

CHAPTER TEN

GOING TO KILL HIM

Earline never worked and from what my mother told me, she couldn’t get on aid either, because her husband was in the Navy.  But, her friends never seemed to mind, they lived with her, Russell and the kids, eating up all the food from them.  Russell told me one time that he was going to kill one of them, because he had taken the money that Earline had been saving to buy some food; he had gambled it up and Russell was going to kill him, cause his mother was crying, and her friend had knocked her down for swearing at him.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

PUSSY

Ronald’s mother was the top girl in the projects. My mother was always telling me about Cynthia, plus Ronald was my best friend and I was always over his house too.  Anyway, Cynthia was the top girl, she must have been about twenty when I was eight, because she knew how to tell the men.  She never refused anybody, if they wanted to buy food and clothes and maybe pay the rent good, if they didn’t that was fine also, but they weren’t getting anymore pussy from her.

CHAPTER TWELVE

MAMA

Cynthia was filthy, Ronald was the mother.  After Cynthia would come home from the hospital, she would hand the new baby to Ronald and go out.  One night one of the babies was just beginning to talk, and he was crying and saying, ma, ma, ma, ma. Ronald went to pick him up, and the baby actually thought that Ronald was his mother, because he laughed and said, mama, in a gurgling  tone.  Me and Ronald laughed.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

A GOOD MOTHER

I used to spend my nights over there, sometimes, in fact, in the summer I would try to spend all my nights over Ronald’s.  I met Ronald when I was four and we remained friends until I was eleven.  He lived in the apartment all his life.  Ronald was a good friend and mother.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

THOUSANDS OF ROACHES

When I was little I used to watch Cynthia breast feed her babies.  Cynthia only breast fed because there was never any milk or food in the house, so she gave what she had.  Cynthia never cleaned the house, never, Ronald would try, but with four, then five, then six children, it was hard.  In the end the apartment went under.  Thousands of roaches infested the place.  One night while spending the night with Ronald, I woke up to find a nest of roaches crawling in and around my head.  Cynthia never minded though, so long as she had her Pepsi and men.  Cynthia died in 1966, along with her new son in childbirth.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

WAKES AND FUNERALS

Earline was close with my mother, they would talk on the phone for hours about everything.  Since neither worked they had plenty of time on their hands.  One way in which they used their time was to go to wakes and funerals of people they didn’t know.  Earline would read the obituaries and anybody in Roxbury who had met their death violently was observed at their funeral by Muriel and Earline.

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

INSIDES TORN AND PULLED OUT

They would sit in the front row with the family and talk about the deceased. After the funeral they would talk with the funeral director and the deceased family, then they would come home and discuss the death for days, and of course tell us.  One case they actually solved before the police.  It seemed that a young girl’s body had been found in the Fenway with her insides torn and pulled out.  By going to the funeral and talking with the family and friends, they agreed that the girl had been pregnant and gone to an abortionist.  The abortion had been a failure and instead of taking the girl to the hospital or letting her go, they killed her by ripping her out, then taking her body to the Fenway and dropping her in the water.  They even had the names of the abortionist and her help.

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

BROKE THE CASE

I remember that my mother would be happy that she had this information, because it meant her trips to the wakes and funerals were worthwhile.  Two weeks later the police broke the case open, it had happened exactly as Earline and Muriel had said.

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

SQUIRMING AND DYING

One night as I was being held by my arms over the seventh floor roof; while some of the big boys were trying to steal .20 cents from my pocket and all fifty of the Record American Newspapers I sold at night had been kicked off the roof into the dark; and I was wondering how we were going to eat the next day; Spencer called his mother a black tramp.  (80% percent of all Black people in this country need mental help)  Earline’s mind snapped and she raised her now 400 pound frame, ran screaming to the son she loved more than life, and sent him Spencer screaming through the front room window; six floors, to the playground.  Where he lay for an hour, my mother said, while everyone watched him squirm.  The ambulance came,; Spencer fought for two days and died. His mother was admitted to Mattapan State Hospital for two years.  Russell went to stay with Ronald and an aunt took the rest.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

A LOT OF FUN

Ronald had  sister named Cissy who was the second oldest, just under Ronald. She was different looking then the rest of the us, because her father had been white.  She had long black hair and would have been pretty except she had emphysema and asthma.  Cissy will always stay in my mind as the skinny little girl whose dress was always up. That probably was the main reason all of us liked to stay over Ronald’s.  At night, since all the kids slept together, Cissy would come over to Ronald’s side and we would all play games, she was a lot of fun.  But, as we got older and Ronald died and she got older, what she did wasn’t fun anymore.  She had lost her emphysema because one night when I was coming from a show downtown, I saw her lined up with a lot of other girls outside of Goodtime Charlies.  I walked by and she said, hey, hey mister.  I looked at her and she remembered me, she remembered the filth, the hunger, the babies crying, the horror of having to grow up in hell. She turned her head and I walked away, both of us with a lifetime of memories.