The assignment was it had to be 1500 words or less. Enjoy!
Vote With a Bullet
Based on a speech by Malcolm X and a song by Corrosion of Conformity
If we don't do something real soon, I think you'll have to agree that we're going to be forced either to use the ballot or the bullet. It's one or the other in 1964. It isn't that time is running out –time has run out!
1964 threatens to be the most explosive year America has ever witnessed. The most explosive year. Why? It's also a political year. The year when all of the white political crooks will be right back in your and my community with their false promises, building up our hopes for a letdown, with their trickery and their treachery, with their false promises which they don't intend to keep
~ Malcolm X: “The Bullet or the Ballot”
I shot some men once. I shot these men, to vote for Mr. Johnson, hell I hated him but I hated Mr. Goldwater too, but I only wanted to vote despite their lying and cheating ways. I knew nothing was gonna change, but how I hoped and dreamed it would. Now, I'm a fugitive running from Biloxi to wherever my feet can take me, if I’m lucky some place up North or the Midwest.
Another bloody day today in Atlanta, the white voice rang from the TV, ten dead after a riot took place near a bus station. The white face looked formidable and cold, like he was apathetic to what was happening to us, like he sided with those murderers and racists.
"Turn that TV off; you don't want to give them ideas!" Mrs. Clifton shrieked at the top of her lungs to her daughter Evelyn. I was working that day; I worked as a gardener for the Clifton family. They were wealthy and lived in a modest house on the outskirts of Biloxi. I always liked Evelyn, though. She had just returned from college in New York City and I could tell it made her grow as a person, a hippy as I overheard her parents call her as well as their wealthy neighbors—she was for us, she championed our cause. She was also a writer. I hoped and dreamed that she would write for us; write what we couldn’t speak, to make a difference in the world.
“Mama! This is national news!” Evelyn wanted us to stay, but the cooks and maids all walked away, afraid of being fired; I had no choice although I wanted to stay. I wanted my job—I needed this job and the Clifton’s were kind for white folks in this town. It didn’t cure a hardened heart, but it sure did take my mind off the pain for twelve hours.
I don’t remember how I heard on that cold day in March two years ago. It just blurs for me. I do remember a good friend of mine, the only cop I trusted, rapped furiously on my door. “Desmond,” he pants, “What is it, Edwin?” I ask. The look in his eyes were sad, my heart sank. I had a feeling what was coming. “Desmond’s been shot, I’m sorry Ned.”
They, the crackers, claimed that Desmond had a gun and was about to rape a woman. He resisted and attempted to beat a cop to death. He was beaten first, I could tell when I had to identify the body, then shot. I knew Desmond wouldn’t have done that, I raised him to be a good Christian man. He was only 17 years old. I had suspected he was chosen at random, some cop wanted to show off how he could beat an “uppity Negro “ that wanted to get ahead of the whites, or so the racists claimed. They always made me sick.
“Tomorrow’s election day,” Evelyn said as she came up from behind. I had gone back into the garden. Although it was November, the Clifton’s had me deadhead the summer flowers and had me do various things around the house. It changed from day to day.
“I know, ma’am,” I replied and looked away. I didn’t want her to see the devious look on my face. There was going to be a revolution tomorrow and I was going to make it happen come hell or high water. I had my gun ready; no one was going to turn me away. I had convinced a few men to do the same.
She saw right through me though, “don’t do something stupid, you hear? We need change, but we don’t need any more violence. We have men dying in Korea and Vietnam. We don’t need more violence. I’m just saying. I know you’ve been behind me that day watching Malcolm X’s speech. I know you know everything going on.”
“Ma’am. I was gonna go come hell or high water. Things are gonna change and we can’t help if it happens by bullet or by peace. “
I got on the bus by Strawberry Lane. Faces—white and black, men and women and children—stared at me. Some were businessmen getting done for the day and probably were gonna vote for Mr. Goldwater, white men seemed to like him, but they also seemed to like Mr. Johnson too. Women with children in hand, just sat there and were probably going to vote for the same person as their husbands did. It was an infection among housewives—they voted like their husbands, they voted to keep things the same. They didn’t want change. They didn’t want to stand up to the Man.
“Negroes, off the bus,” the bus stopped and a tall, brown haired man stepped on the bus. “There was an incident down the street and we need all Negroes off the bus now,” he added in a deep, forceful tone. Most of the women trembled in fear and the black women with their children all got off the bus. Blue and brown eyes just stared as they walked off the bus.
I decided I wasn’t going anywhere. “C’mon man,” the cop had said. “get off!”
“NO!” I yelled back, “I ain’t going anywhere. I came today to vote.”
“I said, get off. You can walk to the voting place.”
“I ain’t going nowhere. I’m voting today.”
“C’mon, Negroe” he had his Billy Club ready. I didn’t say anything and just sat there in that leather seat. He raises his Billy Club, but instead of beating me, he dragged me off the bus. I put on a fight, and this is where things get hazy. All I can remember was him beating me because I wouldn’t let him arrest me. I cried like a baby and he kept laughing and beating the crap out of me. I had blood flowing down my forehead and I could hear women begging him to stop. In a quick moment, he turns his attention to flailing women pouncing on him; I grabbed his holster and pulled out the gun. He didn’t even notice. I cocked the gun, fully loaded, to his temple and called out, “Hey, cracker!”
“What you call me,” he snarled, but then notices I have his prized possession.
“I told you I was gonna vote and now I’m gonna. You ain’t stopping me.” I pulled the trigger and he fell like a falling leaf. Silence. The women looked in horror and the whites on the bus looked shocked. Some men leapt off the bus, to get me I guess, but they couldn’t.
Malcolm X said there was gonna be a revolution that fateful day in 1964. I heard that night that there were riots in Atlanta and Birmingham, people, apparently white people too, were tired and had enough. And the marches in D.C. showed that Northerners did care somewhat. Mr. Johnson won that night, the night I chose the bullet over the ballot.