By Dee Allen

root - Posted on 19 December 2007

The trip to Atlanta by Van

by Dee Allen, Joseph Bolden, Queennandi Xsheba, Jewnbug, Luis, Vivian Hain, Dharma, Ruyata

A Journal by Dee Allen


PAST 12 NOON: The white Chevrolet van, filled with 9 Poor Magazine
staff writers--including myself-- (Teresa Molina and her two children, Joseph Bolden, Ruyate, QueenNandi, Yaya,Arnulfo,) leave San Francisco by way of the
Bay Bridge. I felt nothing but excited to be going back home, even if
it's for a 5-day activst networking event. That & hearing oldschool 1980s
Hip-Hop by Grandmaster Flash, Run DMC, Paris kept me in good spirits.
Brought back memories of high school & the movies Fame, Krush Groove, Beat Street and Fast Forward.

4:30PM: Stopover at Carl's Jr. Brutally hot. While everyone else was
inside Carl's Jr., I stepped outside van to stretch my legs. Before we
left the restaurant, Joe gave me an idea: Take an icecube from the cooler
in the back of the van and swab it across my forehead, neck, upper back.
It worked. It may have melted, but it cooled me off better than those 2
Vitamin Waters from the cooler did.

5:20PM-9PM: Rode through acres of desert. Saw electrical towers with
white fan blades on them, lining both sides of the road. Wind
power-generated electricity.

9:30PM: We left California. We entered Arizona. The van stopped at the
state line. Ya-Ya busted out her camcorder just for the sign designed
like the Arizona state flag.

10:30PM: We stop at the Knight's Inn for the night, after stopping at a
Motel 6 at first. Motel 6 had one room available, with 2-3 beds; other
than that, no vacancies. The women & kids took a room, while the men had
the room next door. Ruyata & Arnolfo occupied the beds; Joe claimed the
chair with footrest; I claimed the chair with footrest; I claimed floor
space by the bathroom, under the air conditioner. Luckily, I brought my
sleeping bag & travel pillow. The motel was hella hot well into bedtime
[Kingston, Arizona]


PAST 10 AM: Our group leaves the Knights Inn. With a noticeable scrape on
one side of the van caused by a nearby car that long since departed.

10:20AM: We hit up Denny's for breakfast. The dining room was packed with
old cowboys, bikers & rednekkks. Needless to say, I did not feel
comfortable there. While the Poor Magazine crew ate at the dining room
table, I took my breakfast order to go. I ate my soy Boca burder,
pancakes in the van. Washed it all down with apple juice.

11AM: Stopover at K-Mart for more H2O. We ran clean out.

2PM: Ruyata & Queennandi had a heated argument over whether or not
Amerikkkan Blacks are ignorant of their history. Ya-Ya chimed in with the
history of Capitalism, imperialism & economic globalisation & how those 3
things affected Africa, North & South Amerikkkas & their peoples. I put
in my measly 2 cents into the big conversation by talking about the
Eurocentrism that passes for "history lessons" in grade school [in
Amerikkka, that is]. I thank Ya-Ya for inspiring my part of the

2:35 PM: We stopped at Chester's, a fast food restaurant that sold fried
chicken & doubled as a petrol station & convenience station.

3PM: We left Chester's and hit the road again, treated to a horrible
remake of " Love Will Keep Us Together " by Captain and Tenille. Yuck. I
hated this song when I was 7. My feelings about this particular song has
not changed with age.

4:30PM: Our group arrive at the New Mexico state line. Joe, Ya-Ya,
Ruyata, Arnolfo & Queen Nandi took the opportunity to take a picture in
front of a big orange sign: " Welcome To New Mexico, Land of Enchantment "
Corny poses & all.

5:30PM: We stopped at a Conoco petrol station. The cooler was quickly
re-stocked with ice & bottle H2O.

10:50pm: Stopover at Chevron petrol station in Tuquaceri*, New Mexico.
Picked up dinner at a Subway restaurant with Joe, Queen Nandi & Ya-Ya,
while Arnolfo & Ruyata pick up their dinner from the subject of " Fast
Food Nation " and " Super Size Me, " McDisease. Before hitting the road again,
Arnolfo gotten petrol for the van. Ruyate, little Marcos & myself cleaned
the van windows and windshield that had been caked with mud flecks. They looked hella
spotty. That changed immediately. Mutual aid put into practise.
*Translation: "The woman's breast". Language: Unknown, possibly some
Native Amerikkkan language.

MONDAY JUNE 25, 2007:

12:20AM: We reached the Texas state line. We keep ourselves entertained
with a comedy album by George Lopez. There's a lot of things in this life
that don't even make me laugh anymore, and when someone tries to make me
laugh, they only succeed in pissing me off. Not so in this case. I was
cracking up all the way through the Lone Star State, off of George
Lopez's hilarious take on La Raza life.

5:30AM: Stopover at Hinton Travel Centre-Sonic restaurant in Oklahoma.
Barely slept at all getting there.

8:45AM: We reach the Arkansas state line. Ruyate holds the camcorder for
the sign for "the natural state". [What the hell does that mean?]

9:10AM: Stopover at McDisease in Alma, Arkansas. Fucking rednekkk
central. I hate this state already.

1:16PM: Woke up to the sound of a politically-charged Rap song with a
dude slinging verses about Gulf War 2 Dolemite-style. Our group arrived
in Tennessee.

1:43PM: We finally spot a Tennessee state line sign. No pic was taken.

2:32PM: We roll into Mississippi----a lot quicker than I expected!

4PM: Our group reached Alabama----in a matter of 88 minutes! Ya-Ya broke
out the camcorder & Arnolfo, his digital camera. To take pics of the sign
at the state line. " Alabama The Beautiful. "

4:15PM: Upon crossing into Alabama, the van gets treated to sudden rain.
Then fog. The inclement weather ended as quick as it began 7 minutes
later. This reminds me of rainfall in Atlanta.

5PM: Our group made it into downtown Brimingham. Ya-Ya parked the van in
front of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, across the street from the
Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church was
the building that had been bombed in 1963 by Klansmen. The resultant
blast killed 4 little Black girls and wounded others that weren't
fortunate enough to have evacuated.

When I stepped out of our white
rental van, I knew that I was staring Amerikkkan Black history in the
Giving our group of 9 a guided tour of downtown Birmingham was a thin, intelligent sixty-something dude named Juan. Juan began his
tour by walking towards Kelly Ingram Park, the site where 3,000
non-violent Black youth were brutalized by racist White Brimingham cops.
Juan had shown us the sole Black-owned radio station sign, the pharmacy
next to it, the old N.A.A.C.P. office---all across from Kelly Ingram

Our party of 9 was guided down a path of the park called the
Freedom Walk. We stopped at a statue of Martin Luther King, followed by
another statue featuring a White racist cop in sunglasses siccing his
snarling, aggro dog on a lone Black boy. The third statue consisted of 2
walls; one wall had a couple of Black youth [boy & girl] standing around
it, with the engraved slogan " I ain't afraid of your jail " the other
wall had iron bars in the centre, with the engraved slogan--upside
down--" Segregation is a sin. "

At the edge of Kelly Ingram Park, we
stopped at a few white stone pillars, each one contained an engraved
picture & biography of local Black civil rights pioneers, including an
early mentor of houseless Black youth and the the very first Black
registered nurse. [I need to get better at remembering names.] Juan
directed us to the last statue in the park: A stone assembly of 3 Black
Protestant ministers in robes kneeling. All of these Black Protestant
ministers particpated in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

Juan made a thought-provoking observation: Birmingham was in the national
" Bible Belt " [the Southern United States], yet there were no statues of
Christ or stone crosses anywhere in its downtown area. To prove his
point, Juan had shown our group 2 statues of Greco-Roman gods, 1 on top
of each downtown Birmingham building. Vulcan, god of fire. Electra,
goddess of light.

The statues that gave me chills the most [second to the cop and
dog-on-boy statue] was the one that had two water cannons aimed at a wall
with Black kids near it. Imagine being hit with 600 ounces of water
Once the tour was over, Juan asked our group for donations for his time.
Each of us gave Juan cash. I gave him a 5-dollar bill for his impromptu

I'd like to have see the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, but it was already

7:30PM: Our group stopped at the Relax Inn, a motel nearest to the
interstate. Arnolfo & Ya-Ya went to the front office to check prices on
hotel rooms. A few minutes later, we all found out that the rooms are
$55.00 each, same as the Knights Inn in Kingston, Arizona. Arnolfo used
his cellphone to call around for other hotels. Among one of them was
Motel 6.

8PM: We roll up on the Comfort Inn, across the street from a barbeque
joint, a Hardees & other motels. The kids & Ruyate got a big kick out of
the swimming pool. Arnolfo & Ya-Ya went to the office to check prices on
each room. Again, like at the Relax Inn, our group waited outside the
van. A few minutes later, Arnolfo & Ya-Ya tell us that the rooms at
Comfort Inn are hella more expensive than the last place.
Our group met, heard the room prices & we had to bring this thing to a
final vote. Joe and me wanted to go to Motel 6. I expressed my concern over
Poor Magazine's budget & opined that Motel 6 was reasonably priced
enough to be within our means. Everyone else wanted to stay at Comfort
Inn for the swimming pool, free complimentary breakfast buffet & its
nicer aesthetics compared to the other place we've stayed at in Arizona.
Comfort Inn became our motel for the night.

8:40PM: After dropping my big green duffel bag off in room 125--a
non-smoking room--and busting out a change of clothes, I went to the
barbeque joint across the street. Checked out their menu upon sitting
down at the bar. The only truly meatless options were baked potatoes,
cinnamon apples & salads. Side dishes. Not too surprising in a restaurant
that had majority meat items. I had to beg the bartender to make their
wood-grilled quesadilla vegetarian, a dish this barbeque place normally
prepared with chicken, beef or pork. Fifteen minutes later, the bartender
approached the bench near the front, where I sat, and gave me my meal in
a brown paper bag.

9:25PM: Back at Comfort Inn. I dust off my spicy dinner, take a
much-deserved shower, shave, right before Ruyate returned to room 125
from the swimming pool. Once he came back, Ruyata managed to successfully
irritate me and Joe before I switched resting-spaces [from near the
bathroom/sink to near the front door] and pass the hell out.

TUESDAY JUNE 26, 2007:

8AM TO 11AM: Ate 2 raisin bagels & drank horrible orange juice, hit the
exercise room and sat through a couple of " I Love Lucy" reruns on TV Land
in preparation for our departure from Comfort Inn.

11:30PM: Our group returned to the 16th St. Baptist Church; this time, we
toured the inside. The 16th Street Baptist Church tour began in the
basement area. It was a museum of sorts, filled with an array of
photographs of past ministers, the Civil Rights Movement in action and of
course, the 4 Black female Sunday school students--Addie Mae Collins,
Carol Denice McNair, Carol Rosamond Robertson and Cynthia Dianne
Wesley--who were killed in the explosion of a bomb planted by Klansmen.
There were dioramas in memory of the slain 4 Sunday school students and
the Middle Passage, complete with a model slaveship, Black slave
figurines & a lone White ship captain figurine. Those alone gave me

For a moment, I broke away from our group and did some exploring
of my own. I continued my tour of the chapel on the upper levels by
taking the elevator. In the sanctuary, there were high school-aged
children sitting in the front pews, along with a female adult tour guide,
watching a VHS documentary about the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church
bombing on a steel cart-held television. I took the stairs to the balcony
and confronted the famous " Wales Window For Alabama. " The beautiful
stained glass window was created in 1964 by Welsh artist John Wetts and
donated/dedicated to the 16th Street Baptist Church on June 6, 1965. The
stained glass window depicted a crucified Black man with a rainbow halo;
below him are the large slogan: " You Do It To Me. "

Meanwhile, Joe was conducting a one-man tour of his own: At the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute across the street. Dude's lucky. I never went inside of that place, at least not after Ruyate said that the admission price was $10.00. I was hoping to get in for free. Oh, well.

After touring 16th Street Baptist Church, I walked towards Kelly Ingram Park. There, I met Arnolfo, Ya-Ya, Ruyate and Queennandi. Much to my own disgust, I saw hella White juniour high and high school-age children lounging around and clinging onto the statues as if they were jungle gym items. They totally disrespected the memory of those who lost and risked their lives confronting racist Southern White cops in the name of Black Civil Rights. This was total disrespect to me and my people.
Our group reconvened at the white van and drove away from Birmingham, for the second and final time.

3:30PM: We finally smash through Georgia. I never thought I'd come back to this state. Or return to the East Coast. When I started seeing licence-plates on cars with peaches on them, kudzu on trees and bushes and red clay instead of dark-brown topsoil, I knew I was home. Next destination: Hartsfield Airport.

4PM: Hartsfield Airport in Clayton County, one of thirteen counties that make up Atlanta.
We've made it. Ruyate, Joe, Queennandi and me stepped out of the van to meet someone who used to roll with Poor Magazine ages ago. All 4 of us was to look out for a half-Pacific Islander, half-Native American woman, her name was Mariposa. Until that point in time, the only Mariposa I knew was a street in Potrero Hill. We don't even know what gate she disembarked from the airplane at.

While waiting for Mariposa to show up, Ruyata, Queennandi and me ran into a celebrity. We met comedian Bruce-Bruce from B.E.T., by himself with no bodyguards or paparazzi. Sweet. My little brother is not going to believe this!

Queennandi and me occupied our time with talk about interracial sex, blood diamonds, hate crimes from the Jim Crow era, the police, our childhood friends and some black market documentary on Gulf War 2, where 2 Amerikkkan soldiers in the field equate shooting innocent, unarmed Iraqis to wild game hunting. We return to the airport, no sign of Mariposa. Queennandi and me wound up getting something to eat in the food court. I pick up a vegetarian bag lunch from the Atlanta Bread Company restaurant. A portobello mushroom club sandwich, apple juice and plain cheesecake.
Ruyata and Joe found Mariposa and the van left for Fulton County. Inner-city Atlanta.

Being on I-85 brings back memories. Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, with the revolving Sundial restaurant on top. Coca-Cola. Turner Field. Olympic Park. The Underground. C.N.N. North Avenue.

5:30PM: Atlanta International Hostel. The three-story house with the old heart-shaped Woodruff Inn sign in front. I've been here once before. This place will be home for 5 days, while me and the Poor Magazine crew are in town for the United States Social Forum. I really knew I was back home when that oppressive 100-degree heat hit me upon leaving the white rental van. Extreme humidity. No bodies of water nearby. Among two of several reasons why I left Atlanta in November 2002.

Our cross-country journey stopped here.


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