Sunday, July 21, 2024

Idaho Stories 1965-1971

The most unracist white people in America grew up on military bases, where blacks and whites have lived next door to each other, gone to school together, and swam in the same pools since Harry Truman desegregated the military in 1948. There’s no unemployment in the military, so the street corners are empty. Everyone has both parents and free healthcare. The U.S. Armed Forces are set up as a socialistic utopia.
But the military didn’t give a shit about where we were in school when they transferred our parents, so we’d have to be the new kid in, like November. That first day was always a horror show for us gawky white kids. A day of staring and judging and pointing and laughing. But the new black students were embraced by the other black kids, didn’t matter what they looked like. Phoenix Blocker was, black or white, the most popular girl at Air Base Junior High in Mountain Home, Idaho. A cheerleader with a scarf in her hair, who could pull off white lipstick, Phoenix drove the GIs crazy and loved it!. One day the new kid was Manuela Carr- overweight, dark-skinned and unfashionable- sitting by herself in the cafeteria, and Phoenix went over and introduced herself and said “If you need anything…” I mean, she didn’t sit down with Manuela- this was still junior high for godsakes- but she made her feel welcome. And more importantly, she did it in front of the whole cafeteria. If she’s cool with Phoenix…
Later that year (1970), 15-year-old Phoenix Venita Blocker drowned in Strike Dam. The whole school went to her funeral, the cheerleaders wearing their outfits in tribute, and we all sat together and cried together. The liveliest person we’d ever known was the first to die.
Poem in the T-Bird Topics school paper, age 13

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