POETICS| An Almost Heaven & James Brown Upbringing

WestVirginiaVille.com photo-illustration of photo from CBS Photo Archive

“The Peake: Childhood Pt. 2” by Doris A. Fields (“Lady D”)

I was raised on Almost Heaven and Hee Haw
Taught to love God and the UMWA
I was an odd little Black girl
Growing up in the coalfields of West Virginia.

The coal trucks would pass through
Our little town of Chesapeake
Many time a day
Leaving coal dust on the sidewalks, the cars …
On my bicycle
I would say “I wish those trucks wouldn’t cover my bike with dust!”
Daddy would say, “Hush up girl” “You wouldn’t have no bike if it wasn’t
For them coal trucks!” “You better hope they keep rollin.”

Oh, I was a little Black girl
A coal miner’s daughter.

WestVirginiaVille photo-illustration of Library of Congress photograph.

Oh, I was a little Black girl
A coal miner’s daughter
Television was my window to the world
And were it not for the images I saw in that tiny box
I might never have thought to … dream

My West Virginia childhood was filled with
Press and curls on Saturday night
Sunday school and church
Followed by the biggest dinners you could imagine

After dinner, if we weren’t porch sittin’ on own porch
Daddy would take us out for a ride
Usually to the South Hills area of Charleston
Or the back streets of Kanawha City
Because that’s where the big, beautiful houses were

We would ride … and dream

If we didn’t go to Charleston
We would ride to Cabin Creek and visit all our friends
We sit on their porches
Drink lemonade and eat whatever kind of
Dessert they had made for just such an occasion
The evenings were reserved for catching lightning bugs
And just when it would get dark
It was time for the Ed Sullivan Show

The problem was the record
“Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud”

WestVirginiaVille photo-illustration of James Brown

Oh, I remember a lot of things from childhood
I remember playing kickball in the second grade
It was so much fun!
And getting in trouble with my teacher
When I bought my close & play record player in for Show and Tell
The problem was the record …
“Say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud”
By my favorite singer at the time
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul
I didn’t know there was anything wrong with it,
But the teacher made me turn it off
And she sent a note home to my mother
It was sealed in an envelope so I didn’t try to read it
My mother never told me what the note said
But she did say that my teacher was rebbish
I didn’t know what that meant
But I also knew better than to ask
My mother just said,
“Keep your things at home from now on.”

I remember fourth grade was all about
The parachute in the cafeteria
Fifth grade highlighted by square dancing with unwilling partners
And I got my first clarinet
That’s when I learned to read music
This opened a whole new world!

Now, having literally been ‘round the world
I find myself
Reminiscing to myself
About the days when I was small
Just a little black girl
Playin’ in coal dust
And building doll houses
Out of pieces of shiny coal and rocks
That Daddy would bring home to me

It was a warm, safe place

Now, I can reminisce
And look back
And remember
The tiny town that was my village
Now I can reminisce fondly about that village
That had felt so much like a prison to me then
But I know now, it was an incubator
It was a warm, safe place
For little black girls and boys to grow up

Doris A. Fields—aka Lady D—was born and raised in the coalfields of W.Va. She’s a graduate of W.Va. State University with a B.S. in Communications. Residing in Beckley, WV, she makes her living as a singer/songwriter and has a passion for visual arts and poetry. Making music and expressing herself through other art mediums are the driving force in her life. “The Peake: Pt. 2,” is from her booklet “Appalachian BlueSpeak.” For more, see her website: musicbyladyd.wordpress.com/

NOTE: Ed Sullivan and Harry Belafonte image from CBS Photo Archive and the article: ‘Sullivison’: Doc Examines Impact of ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ on Black Entertainers

FREE SUBSCRIBE to WestVirginiaVille’s e-mail newsletter:

Leave a Reply