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A Horse, a Wagon, A Man
—a Bill Curtis Book Review
In an age of capitalist-democracy when big-box discount warehouse superstores and food distributors occupy entire city blocks, a man with a horse drawn wagon laden with fresh fruits and vegetables looks like a thing of myth.
Representing self-reliance, total independence, business acumen, survival savvy, all attributes of the "American Way", next to a taxi driver an Arabber is a self-determination prototype. He is a merchant from another era, when people understood life was hard, not necessarily a convenient experience, and to make it in this thing called life, a man must use total wit. He made a paycheck happen, not happen to him.
Think about it. Have you ever seen an Arabber who looked directionally confused? Arabbers, as Monalisa DeGross tells it in her children's book Granddaddy's Street Songs, are men who celebrated their profession as an act of dedicated service to the people.
While DeGross tells the Arabber story, Floyd Cooper's illustrations bring Arabber lore to life on the page. The pictures, literally, ooze you into the story, transporting the vibrancy, color, and compassionate of urban true grit to the point of feeling. Cooper's drawings convey the pageantry of the profession, the elegance of friendship between men in service to the people. Before Kujichagulia, Nia, Kuumba or Imani came into the Black lexicon in 1965 with the advent of Kwanzaa Holiday, there were the Arabbers living Nguzo Saba principles
Although a children's book, "Granddaddy's Street Songs" is instructive as well to adults and projects positive values. Solid value concepts: self-determination, purpose, creativity in business affairs, and faith-in-self. These are the attributes of self-made-men and women, the courageous who give life color, expression and meaning, and show all the rewards of self-reliance, an African-American elder tradition. It appears every mom wants her son to live these values.
DeGross serves the story well. She gives Arabbing a dignity, a poise, a place in the dynamic, big American, free enterprise landscape. Cooper paints it to life.
Did I mention that the main character was a boy? Did I mention the grandfather? Didn't say anything about their relationship, did I? Ain't nothin' but love. Wholesome to the core. No Grimm's scary fairy German tale, Granddaddy's Street Songs is a Bill Curtis (MRR***1/2) Must-Read-Reading.
Bill Curtis' commentaries and reviews have been published in the Afro-American, The Baltimore Chronicle, The Baltimore Press, The Baltimore Times, The Baltimore Sun, Financial Independence Magazine, Every Wednesday, Blind Alleys, African-American News & World Report, and at Barnes and Noble on the internet. Contact Mr. Curtis at WebReady@theglobe.com or P.O. Box 2043, Baltimore, MD 21203-2043.