Many of you recall reading about the ship, Amistad. In 1839, in violation of all treaties then in existence, Portuguese slavers abducted a group of Africans from Sierra Leone and set sail for Cuba. Some of these captives rebelled, seized the ship, and ordered the crew to return to Africa. Instead of sailing West, the Amistad turned North and was captured off the coast of Long Island, New York. All aboard were taken to New London, Connecticut and jailed. A protracted trial during which the Africans were represented by a team of Northern white abolitionists, resulted in the abducted souls prevailing and winning their freedom.
This blog is not about that Amistad.
In 1971 Random House published a book titled, Amistad 2. The anthology was a powerful one, filled with the words of Richard Wright, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, John O. Killens, Paula Giddings, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Mel Watkins, and other writers of the Black Arts Movement.
Although Amistad 2 remains an important and instructive piece of literature, it is not the topic of this blog.
Amistad is the Spanish word that means friendship.
Friendship is on my mind. Triggered by a lovely lunch Viv and I experienced with friends recently, I’ve found myself deep in thought about the importance of friends in one’s life. Perhaps the isolation of the Covid years has transformed any time spent in person with friends to an event we no longer take for granted.
“I WOULD RATHER WALK WITH A FRIEND IN THE DARK, THAN ALONE IN THE LIGHT.”HELEN KELLER
During my growing-up years I witnessed the ties of caring that bound my mother and father to certain people. There were my mother’s childhood friends… the seven Riders who considered my mother their eighth sibling, Connie Mason Pierce, Elaine Dart Barnes, and Florence Johnson. There were friends she met at the beginning of her teaching career, Naomi Hamilton and Leerma Doman, and held close until one by one, they passed away.
As for my dad, there was his work colleague, Norm Kutner, his PA National Guard friends, and his social buddies, “Ham” Hamilton, and Hank Johnson. I grew up with the comfort of my parents’ friendships always in the background, an unspoken presence ever ready to step in if anything catastrophic were to occur. And indeed, a catastrophe did occur. Neither of my parents had sisters or brothers, but their friendships gave my sister and me a ton of “aunts and uncles.” To this day I give thanks to Aunt Jean for holding my hand when I needed comfort and strength and to Uncle Hank for his dinnertime check-ins.
The two women with whom Viv and I enjoyed lunch a week ago have been our friends for more than forty years. During that time, we’ve shared more meals than we can remember. We’ve vacationed together in the Poconos and Provincetown. We’ve camped in Maine and driven/lived in a rented RV as we navigated Nova Scotia’s roads.
We’ve traded stories of our travels to Alaska, the U.K., Ireland, Israel, Canada, France, and the Caribbean. We’ve held hospital Waiting Room vigils with each other when surgeries were necessary. We’ve shared tears and hugs as we made our way through the sadness of our parents’ illnesses and deaths. We’ve walked away from one another in pain and returned to each other hopeful we would heal. We’ve laughed with and at our foibles, of which there have been a few. Despite our differences in personality, temperament, and race we’ve had the good sense to honor those differences and not let them weaken our bonds. We’ve shown each other understanding, compassion, and as much wisdom as we’ve been able to muster during these many years of our friendship.
Dear readers, my thoughts have led me to believe that anyone who can include an important friendship among her life’s treasures is blessed with good fortune.
That is all.
Renée Bess is the author of five novels and Between a Rock and a Soft Place, an anthology of her poetry, short stories, and essays. She and author Lee Lynch are the co-story collectors of the Goldie Award winning anthology, Our Happy Hours, LGBT Voices From the Gay Bars. http://www.reneebess.com
©Renée Bess 2022