This story is about YoungStar Malcolm Bakersfield, his mysterious new classmate and a pencil that changes everything!
If you don’t understand him at first,
Try reading aloud then you’ll have a thirst.
‘Malc’ has something to say about everything,
Even if no one’s really listening.
You might agree with him or have a different view,
It’s OK wit him if it’s OK witchu!
Now, read his story, then you’ll see,
Malc’s a lot like all, us, we.
Things are seldom what they seem–
once you see a pencil gleam!
Today is my brotha’s birthday. I’m gettin ready to look for him when my mother calls my name. “Yeah, Mom?” “I want you to call Martin and tell him I made his favorite cake. Ask him what time he plans to be here so I’ll know if he’s coming for dinner.”
“I’m just bout to go find him. He’s probly up an out by now.” It’s one o’clock in the p.m. I figure he’ll be at one hangout or another.
“Well, I guess you know better than I. If you can’t find him at a halfway decent location — don’t go looking for him anywhere else — all right?”
“OK. I’ll be back after a while. Oh, yeah. Is Jam gonna be home in time?” “He plans to be. He’s rehearsing til about five. Depends on the time Martin wants to come.”
“Bye-bye brover. I lub you!”
I pick up my lil sista, kiss her an put her back down on the floor. She grabs at my keys cuz she wantstuh see my plastic good luck star. I let her jangle it against the keys an say: “Bye bye to you too Jamilah Kibibi Hayes, and I love you!” Satisfied, she waddles back to our mother.
I get my bike from the basement an leave out on my way to Ole Jess Moon’s house. That’s usely the best place to find Martin. He’s practicly livin there now. I ride for bout ten minutes an turn a corner. There he is — standin like a prizefighter — lettin the sun hit his face. “Hey,” I say to him an Jess while bumpin fists together, “what up?”
“Hey, lil bro. Not too much. Jus chillin.”
I see they been workin on a car in the garage.
“Malc, you ain tryin to grow now is you?” Ole Jess smiles.
I am gettin a lil taller. It feels good to hear it. “Tryin to do as much as I can, my man!”
“The way you growin you might git taller’n Martin!”
“Ah’ight now. Whatchu doin lookin for me?”
Martin’s dark eyes are tryin to pick my brain. “Yeah, as if you don’t know. Mom wanna know if you comin for dinner.”
“She bake a cake?” He’s studyin me now like he’s givin me a physical.
“Ya know she did. Hey, you got a real mustache man!”
“Yeah. I’m growin too.”
He scratches his head. I notice he’s been to the barbershop.
“Tell Ma I’ll come roun six. My man Jam gon be there?”
“Yeah, he’s sposed to be. Aw, man, that reminds me! I had a dream that was off the chain last night! You know how I’m likely to fly an stuff in my dreams? Well, in this one I stay on the ground, an it happened round the time I started get-tin straight A’s at ole Gillespie Elementary. I hadtuh grab a notebook an write the main parts a it down while it was still fresh. Everybody was in it! It seemed so real — but magical too! Martin, I was wantin you to stay in school an stuff , man!”
“You must’ve been dreamin! But I have thought bout takin up a computer design or somethin. Jus thinkin now cuz you know I always an — all ways — got some bidness goin on! Why you laughin Ole Jess? Everybody ain gon work out they garage forever for a penny an a pint!”
“Man — I was laughin witchu — not atchu. Nothin but the best for you, Martin. You too Malcolm!”
“Well,” Martin chuckles, “c’mon Malc, out wit it. Tell us all bout this dream a yours. Seems it must be kinda special.”
I’m glad my brotha always takes time to listen to me.
“Whatchu say bout it, Jess?”
“I’m all ears.” Ole Jess grins.
“That’s cuz you a ole elephant!” Martin snorts.
“An I gon member you said that too!” Ole Jess laughs an winks at me.
“OK, OK!” I break in, “I’m ready to tell y’all my dream! Like I said, mosta it took place at Gillespie. I remember how crazy we was over pencils.
For social studies we havtuh do research an a report on somethin we’re interested in. I’m tryin to decide if I wanna write bout soccer or racin. I decide to pick racin cuz I know so much bout it. An, I still got the info I found while lookin up Willy T. Ribbs. My moms is right. I can use what I’d saved to do my paper. I’d already printed out most a what I’d need. I ask Nia what she’s gonna report on.
She tries to stand the way they drew theyselves back then. I have to laugh cuz she looks so clumsy! Then she says:
“Mayhaps I’ll write about Mr. Barack Obama instead. He might be our next president, you know.”
“I figure a lot a kids’ll be doin that. I’ve decided to write about the manly art of motor sports,” Nia has her mouth open to tell me something else but I beat her to it. “I know there’s women racers but my report is gonna be on African American racers an I ain seen nothin on no black female drivers.” I find my printouts an notes on racin an try to school Juan Lee durin Brainstorming Time in class. We got a week to do our reports an I figure he’ll need help. Juan Lee decides to write bout break dancin cuz he’s so into it. I start tellin him sommuh what I’ll use for my report. I play it like I’m givin a lecture so he’ll laugh.
“First African American driver I learned about was one my father told me of by the name of Willy T. Ribbs.” Juan Lee starts chucklin an says:
“Is that really his name?”
“Yes, young man, it tis. As I was saying, I learned from many sites on the Internet that he raced for almost 25 years and was the most win-nin-gest African American driver in history! He won Driver of the Year twice and was the first black man to compete in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series. Mr. Ribbs–for a long time–had been the first, and only, African American to test for the Formula One Grand Prix team in Portugal! He retired from racing and took up clay shooting because he had trouble getting enough sponsors. Advertising for their sponsors are the reason drivers and their cars have so many patches, painted words and symbols on them.
Hungry for more information, I put in a search for black racing car drivers. I found one site that mentions a Mr. Wendell Scott who was the first African American stock-car driver. He won the Grand Nationals in 1963!
There is also Mr. Morty Buckles who raced in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002. And, I discovered, on The American Racing Car Association site, a Mr. Herbert Bagwell, Jr., also known as The Hawk. He and his wife own and operate Bagwell Motor Sports. In an interview, Mr. Bagwell stated he could use a lot more sponsors and would like to see more black folk racing and watching in the stands.
And there’s Mr. Leonard Miller, co-owner of The Miller Racing Group. He was the first black owner in the Indianapolis 500! He wrote a book, Silent Thunder, that tells about his experiences in the business of racing.
As far back as the 1920’s there existed a heartland racing sweepstakes called The Gold and the Glory, formed by blacks because they weren’t allowed to compete in the Indy 500. You can compare them to The Negro Leagues of baseball that were also formed due to exclusion.
And, most recently, there’s a Mr. Lewis Hamilton whom I need to research further. Mr. Lee, are you taking all this down?” Juan Lee busts out laughin. He enjoyed my lil presentation an he wasn’t the only one. Nia is smilin an softly clappin her hands.
Juan Lee–still laughin–says:
“Watcher, you crazy! But seriously, man, you gonna havtuh help me out wit my paper. I don’t think I’ll be able to find much bout breakin, krumpin an steppin in books.”
“Not a problem, my brotha.” I smile.
“Brainstorming Time is over, class.” Ms. Winston announces.
I strut my way back to my seat.
ADDENDUM: Malc could have dug more deeply in his search for black female racers. He missed Ms. Nichole Lyons and Ms. Tia Norfleet!
The Magic Pencil is available in stores, through Amazon and other online retailers!