I must relate that although I was not surprised by the call, I was a bit startled. I, a copy editor for a national-level African-American newspaper, was sitting at my desk in the midst of conducting research for a planned story focused on the Huey P. Newton Gun Club when my phone rang.
After picking up the receiver, an automated message came across, “You have a collect call from the Harris County Jail. It is…” after a slight pause, a familiar human voice came over the line and filled in the rest of the sentence, “Floyd”. The automated voice then asked, “Will you accept the call?”
Without a second thought, I stammered, “Yes, of course I will.” In moments, Floyd, an individual who had swiftly made the cavernous jumps from stranger to acquaintance to friend, began speaking in a cadence that was unlike any I had ever heard. Through a thick Southern-drawl that seemed to hold the linguistic peculiarities of Black southerners from several Southern states, Floyd hurriedly stated the following,
“Brother, I need some help. They got me down here at the county jail! And you know that Floyd don’t belong in nobody’s jail.”
I quickly interrupted what I feared would turn into one of Floyd’s indecipherable soliloquies that only he held the key to unlocking, “What is the charge?” I inquired.
To my shock, Floyd related that he was being charged with a ‘Hate Crime’.
My mind ran through every possible scenario it could conceive that would have led Floyd to be the perpetrator of a hate-crime. I came up with no plausible scenario. If nothing else, Floyd’s present predicament piqued my interest in a manner that few things ever did. However, before I could inquire about what happened, Floyd issued the most pressing and pertinent question facing him,
“Brother, will you come and bail me out? I don’t have anyone else that I can call.”
Without hesitation, I told Floyd that I was on my way…
It was not until his entire meal, including the Sweet Potato Pie dessert, was consumed that Floyd acknowledged my presence with a hearty sigh of “Well, Well, Well!!!!”
Floyd’s sigh immediately closed the cavernous separation between us and allowed him to sarcastically remark, “I know that you want to know why I was arrested.”
I nodded my head affirmatively, yet was unwilling to speak and risk Floyd retreating behind his self-imposed wall of silence. Fortunately, my patience appeared to be paying off as Floyd began sharing his story.
“Do you remember my lady friend, Cookie?”
I nodded my head affirmatively.
“Well she, like the sister who you wrote about in your paper that started Creative Gifts by Shawna decided to start a convenience store selling stuff that we all need. You know stuff like bread, soda, sandwiches, candy, chips, etc. Although this may be difficult for a man like you to understand, however, I do volunteer my services to worthy causes. As you well know, I’m retired so I have the majority of my days open.
Well to make a long story short, I went to work at Cookie’s Corner Store and things were fine at first, however, they eventually took a turn for the worse.”
I knew that there was most definitely more to the story, however, I knew not to push Floyd out of fear that he would clam up. I simply inquired,
“A turn for the worse?”
“Yeah, brother, things definitely took a turn for the worse. At first things were going really well. People were coming in to the shop, all of them white I might add, a few of them bought items and Cookie was really excited about the way things were going.
I went to retrieve some lunch and it was while I was on my way back to Cookie’s Corner Store that things definitely took a turn for the worse. As I turned to walk up the block where the store is located, I stopped to tell a bunch of Black people about the store and even told a few of them that the store was FUBU, meaning ‘created For Us, By Us’.
I will be absolutely honest with you, the real trouble began when I saw our people, walk past our shop, and go buy items that they could have gotten at Cookie’s Corner Store from an Arab store. The ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ was when I saw this fool that I had ‘previous dealings’ with walk into the Arab store with his ugly wife and come out with bags and bags of stuff.”
I knew by the rising tension in his voice that Floyd was on the verge of revealing how he wound up being arrested.
“So when this fool came walking down the block, with his ugly wife, I spoke on how stupid he was to go and give that Arab his money when we now had our own store. And that’s what happened!”
It was obvious to me Floyd was telling at best a half-truth, particularly offensive to me was that he knew, that I knew, that he was lying. I refused to remain silent for another moment and called Floyd on his omissions.
“Floyd, if that was all that happened, how were you arrested? When did the police arrive on the scene? Why did they charge you with a hate crime? You are most definitely not telling the entire story.”
“That is the entire story. The police arrested me because I ripped their bags away from them and then proceeded to break my foot off in both of their asses. Hell, I feel that I deserve an apology because I wasn’t doing anything other than educating that fool and his ugly wife. The ‘hate crime’ charge came because the police heard me call them stupid ass nigga’s for giving their money away to the Arab’s. Do you believe that someone had the nerve to call the police on ol’ Floyd?”
I had nothing to say other than, “The nerve of some people.”
“Now you can’t tell me that I was wrong on this one. They should have been spending their money at Cookie’s Corner Store instead of with them damn Arabs who won’t even hire their black asses, hell, they act like they don’t even want to take our money when we approach the counter.”
Although I understood Floyd’s position, I didn’t agree with his methods of ‘educating’ people regarding Black economics.
“Floyd, I don’t dispute what you are saying, however, you can’t go around attacking people because they decided to shop elsewhere. They have every right to spend their money with whomever they choose; we can only hope that they see the logic behind spending their money with Black businesses and circulating the dollar within their community.”
As with most things, Floyd’s view and analysis was well-intentioned yet unrefined. However, I had long ago realized that I would have to learn to deal with such matters if I wanted to keep Floyd as a friend. He was just, a little off and very set in his ways.
“Man, I’ll tell you what. Some of these niggas out here need to be educated on what they need to be doing. And trust me when I tell you this. Your, Mr. Nice Guy, talk it out approach will never, never, never get these fools to do right. Some of them need to have some ‘act right’ put into their lives. And that is just what I did for that fool and his ugly ass wife.”
I could do nothing other than shake my head at Floyd because he truly believed that he had not done anything wrong.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
Excerpt from ‘Foolish Floyd’: The Life and Times of an African-American Contrarian.