On the A Train, New York, New York.
The corner of Jack London Alley and South Park Street.
I’m not one to believe in conspiracy theories or hidden organizations that shape the trajectory of all of our futures. Recently, though, as I’ve gone about my errands on both sides of the Bay, I have noticed what, if I was given to such thoughts, would look an awful lot like a secret network of sentries. They stand on street corners in all kinds of neighborhoods and business districts and keep silent watch over the areas in which they live, neither intervening nor abandoning the rapidly changing communities around them.
It seems that everywhere I’ve gone during the last couple months, there is an older Black man standing on a corner somewhere, not hanging out with friends or waiting to cross the street or even talking to himself. Instead, he’s just staring at the people and the cars who pass by, his expression inscrutable.
They wear full beards and close-cropped haircuts, polo shirts and jeans. Their snow white hair suggests a lifetime of wisdom; their quiet stare suggests neither enthusiasm nor judgment, but simply acceptance.
World Ground, MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, California.
Observation: Dreadlocks are kind of like the rings on a tree. You can see a lot of the history of a person’s relationship to their hair in the color and texture of them. For example, if a brotha’s locks are reddish on tips, black for 12 inches or so, and then gray at the roots, then he was probably dyeing his hair when started them. Then, along with his natural hairstyle, he also went back to his natural color, which began to shift from black to gray as the years wore on. If his dreadlocks are gray (or white) all the way from the roots to the tips, then his hair must have been gray for a pretty long time.