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And Justice for All

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S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

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Hand over my heart, as a child, a white child in America, I pledged allegiance to the flag, reciting, “…and justice for all.” I believed those words, but now I’m an adult facing the truth of hollow ideals. My life’s work is to collect stories — I listen, process, write, read, and discuss. My platform is one I share with writers around the world to make literary art accessible. My white privilege is evolving into something I can use for good, but I’m still learning what that means.

This week, I invited writers to take on writing 99-word stories about justice for all. With a global community, the theme broadened beyond American civil rights. Each writer processed what the phrase means, or looks like, or how it is abused. This is a safe space for writers to explore, using literary art. Until all voices can feel safe sharing their stories, we’ll hold the space.

A long time ago in Montana, a young girl used to babysit my children so I could drive over a mountain pass to attend college classes for creative writing. When I’d take her home she’d chatter about the latest characters she was reading in a book. I was so proud of her when she moved to Minnesota to attend college, graduating with an English teaching degree. She now has a family of her own, and a masters, teaching college. She recently shared this with her students:

“All lives do *not* matter *until* Black lives do. {That’s how words work. “All” cannot be true as long as some are excluded.}”

The following is based on the June 4, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about justice for all.

Entitled by Anne Goodwin

They could’ve stayed in the apartment with their three sleeping children.

They could’ve grieved in private, they could’ve owned their guilt.

They could’ve recognised all families face tragedy and some tragedies loom larger than theirs.

They could’ve searched for ALL abducted children, campaigned for all victims of parental neglect.

They could’ve accepted police budgets have limits, that lost-cause investigations siphon resources from elsewhere.

They could’ve used their power, their professional contacts, their shiny media profile; they could’ve raised their white middle-class voices to shout for justice for all.

In their shoes – or flip-flops – would you have done the same?

🥕🥕🥕

Just Is by Bill Engleson

“S’not fair.”

“T’is.”

“Tain’t.”

Noisy kids. Neighbour’s grand-progeny. Visiting. Been a while. A Covid-19 while.

COVID?

DIVOC!

Hmm, need my morning cuppa…

Ready soon.

Sit on the porch.

Suck in the spring air.

“You’re hurting me. Get off!”

“Don’t be a sissy. And stop squirming.”

“I can’t…you’re hurting…”

What did Sam say? Oh, yeah; “Eight and ten-year-old’s…been cooped up in an apartment for months…missed seeing them…hope they don’t bother you.”

Right!

“Ear plugs, Sam,” I joked. “Ear plugs.”

“…under arrest…”

“Whafor…?”

“Being a brat.”

“Can’t brea…”

“Sure ya can…”

“Can’t bre…why?”

“Just is…is all.”

“Can’t…”

Kids, I think.

Kids.

🥕🥕🥕

Unrealized by D. Avery

“I think about Sofie’s Great Northern Migration project, how my grandparents’ dream is still unrealized.”

“It’s so sad, so scary, Toni; I have nightmares— it is a nightmare.”

“When my Joe came home from Afghanistan he had nightmares, haunted by what he’d experienced, but he went back, always a dutiful soldier. Said he fought for justice for all… If he hadn’t gotten killed over there, fighting against the Taliban— I wonder would he have been killed here in his own country? Here where it’s still the wrong time and place to be walking around in the ‘wrong color’ skin.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Injustice of Forgotten History by Charli Mills

Heat from the foundries blasted Big John every day. Sweat froze to his body when he walked home to Cliff where Sweet Mo had stew and thimbleberry cobbler waiting. He wore massive leather boots, tailor-made because he could afford them. Mo sewed colorful calico dresses and on Sunday they lifted the rafters with Jesus and friends at the African Methodist Episcopal. When the nation passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, escaped slaves and freed people knew slave-hunters would avoid the rough and remote Copper Country.

One day, when there’s justice for all, we’ll record these erased black histories.

🥕🥕🥕

Take It All Back by Jo Hawk

It should have been a simple assignment. A modest portrait of his patron’s daughter. While he didn’t like children as his subject, the commission promised to launch his budding career.

Except, when she showed for her appointment, she wasn’t a child. She was no blushing bride-to-be, but a temptress with a siren’s song. Engaged, another man’s prize, she exchanged the poor artist’s heart with her own. Forbidden love blossomed.

There was only one solution.

“I cannot do her justice,” he declared, “For all our sakes, take these godforsaken sketches, and I will try to forget I ever met her.”

🥕🥕🥕

Running Low by D. Avery

“Right there, Nard. Why mention that the new guy is black?”

“Just providing a picture. He probably refers to us as white.”

“He doesn’t need to.”

“Anyway, he’s got a good sense of humor.”

“Yeah? What kind of jokes is he compelled to laugh along with? Jokes like your anti-gay name calling?”

“I’m more sympathetic now.”

Kristof chuckled. “Now that his steering’s aligned.”

“What are you saying, Ilene, I have to monitor my speech, reconsider what I think is funny?”

“That’s what I’m saying. But no hard feelings. Help yourself to my cooler.”

“It’s empty!”

“Just ice. For all.”

🥕🥕🥕

Justice to a Little Girl’s Eyes by John Lane

Eight-year-old Shanice Imani watched the news. She saw people of her color get their necks crushed, tazed on their backs and dragged throughout the streets. All done by police. Whenever Shanice slept, she had nightmares of police taking her out of her home to beat her. She woke up with tears in her eyes, afraid to go outside.

Shanice’s mother took a long time to convince her, but Shanice eventually agreed to join the peaceful march. During the march on Black Lives Matter Plaza, she noticed a policeman. She cried.

The policeman said, “I won’t hurt you.” Shanice smiled.

🥕🥕🥕

Justice for All by Susan Budig

I can’t write about justice
unless I write about peace
repeat after me, I will write about peace

I can’t write about peace
unless I write about healing
repeat after me, I will write about healing

I can’t write about healing
unless I write about brokenness
repeat after me, I will write about brokenness

Broken by what we lack–
compassion for our neighbor
empathy for one another

Broken by what we need—
energy
direction and
focus to stay the course

Broken in our poverty—
deliverance from evil

Deliver me into the hands of justice
and then I will write

🥕🥕🥕

Building Over Bones by Diana Nagai

“Remember,” Jiichan* bowed his head, “ the local bank president and minister bought our farm for one dollar. When my family was released from the internment camp, we bought the farm back for one dollar. They felt helpless in stopping what the government did to us, but they showed up. Others, not as lucky, had their homes and businesses destroyed or stolen. White establishments rose from those Japanese boneyards. It is my turn to show up. Until graveyards no longer serve as the bedrock for white success.” In alliance, he fell silent for the full eight minutes, 46 seconds.

🥕🥕🥕

Will There Ever Be Justice For All by Susan Sleggs

Michael sat with his fellow bandmates discussing the Pledge of Allegiance. He asked, “Have you ever thought about that last line, ‘Justice for All’?

Colm McCarthy, first-generation Irish -American who served in Vietnam, said, “Only when I get mad about how hard it is to get an appointment at the VA.”

Colm’s son, Thad, a Vietnamese-American who served in Granada, gave a disgusted grunt. “Try being a 50-50 and see how you are treated by others.”

Tyrell, the band’s African-American drummer, and Iraq veteran asked, “Are we talking about justice or equality.”

Michael responded, “I don’t believe they’re separable.”

Author’s Note: A 50/50 was the term used to describe a Vietnamese child that was half American.

🥕🥕🥕

Dime-store Justice by T. Marie Bertineau

“You did WHAT?” Mama asked.

Helena wasn’t expecting that tone, that volume, the stern expression. Not of Mama. A moment earlier, the grade-school girl with the fiery red ponytail had bounced in the back door. She’d been eager to share the news, eager to tell her mama what she’d done. How she’d stood up for the little Black girl. How she’d seen with her own eyes the neighbor boy take the candy from the dime-store—not the girl. She felt she had done a good thing, a just thing, the right thing.

But Mama’s face said otherwise.

🥕🥕🥕

Crossroads by Saifun Hassam

Jalil gently covered his mom with her green shawl. She was asleep on the sofa, exhausted from cleaning up their Little Asia neighborhood, after last night’s violent protests.

Little Asia in East Newberry. People from all over Asia lived and worked here, before moving on to other American cities. Shoppers came from other neighborhoods for delicious international foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Little Asia. Brown, beige, ivory skins. Ancient Silk Road stories. Graeco-Roman features. Sky blue and hazel green eyes. Connections to North Africa, the Mediterranean, East Africa, the Indian Ocean.

Crossroads of ancient humanity written into their DNA.

🥕🥕🥕

Crossroads by Saifun Hassam

Jalil gently covered his mom with her green shawl. She was asleep on the sofa, exhausted from cleaning up their Little Asia neighborhood, after last night’s violent protests.

Little Asia in East Newberry. People from all over Asia lived and worked here, before moving on to other American cities. Shoppers came from other neighborhoods for delicious international foods, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Little Asia. Brown, beige, ivory skins. Ancient Silk Road stories. Graeco-Roman features. Sky blue and hazel green eyes. Connections to North Africa, the Mediterranean, East Africa, the Indian Ocean.

Crossroads of ancient humanity written into their DNA.

🥕🥕🥕

The Aftertaste of Language by Jeff Gard

Today his name is John. They want him to forget what he was called yesterday, to reject his past, his traditions. They cut his hair, gave him proper clothes.

Their government created this school with trees from sacred forests. Its limestone foundation violates land that birthed his nation.

Teacher’s bony hand squeezes his darker fingers into the chalk, which drags against the slate, crying the letters of her language. Spirals and swoops, lines that lean, trembling with meaning.

He repeats the lumpy, starchy words she gives him. Pruned syllables, flogged rhythms, distorted shapes with an aftertaste of blood:

“Lib-er-ty.”

🥕🥕🥕

In the Impossible Woods by Liz Husebye Hartmann

In deep woods, somewhere near the middle and the end, launching from the first and hovering near the last, always returning to the origin, is a clearing. Sometimes there, other times elsewhere, most often not present at all.

In that clearing, in a shaft of light that is frequently utter darkness, rests a statue, carved in stone but liquid as snow near the edge of wildfire. It’s a work of ultimate, unwavering justice.

She journeys there, rucksack over her shoulders, wooden staff ready, to support or fight. Mapped in a dream, sent by the Oracle, it’s her lifetime’s journey.

🥕🥕🥕

The Next Morning by Joanne Fisher

“Brian Kent?”

“Yes Officer?”

“Last night you were observed going on a killing spree leaving around 80 dead, judging by the number of corpses left. How do you plead?”

“They were zombies!”

“So you admit it?”

“Of course I do! They were zombies trying to eat me.”

“Zombies have a right to live too. This isn’t the 1980s. You just can’t go on a killing spree and expect there’ll be no repercussions. How did you know they were wanting to eat you?”

“I just knew.”

“You mean you assumed. Think about the effects your actions have had. Sandra, cuff him!”

🥕🥕🥕

Injustice by Eliza Mimski

When she was eleven years old, her mother married a man who didn’t want kids, at least not her and her younger brother. Her mother and this man who she hated and whose name she never said aloud, wrote down or thought to herself and refused to speak to had two children of their own. Two different sets of rules applied: one for her and her brother and one for the new children, the first treated cruelly and the second treated with respect.

It’s taken her years to find peace around this, to let go of her burning resentments.

🥕🥕🥕

Justice For All by Kathy70

These words were repeated by rote as a child and shelved as a busy new mom, single parent of 3 and older independent woman.  Now they shape all our worlds, force us to look at ourselves and everyone else.  No longer can we ignore or hide from them.  I am still learning and hope never to take them for granted, I may need help, so call me on it if you see it. I also hope we can all live and learn by this standard. Where we go from here could be very beautiful for all of us. I hope.

🥕🥕🥕

Bias Blinds and Binds by Reena Saxena

“Is the American story reminiscent of India against Corruption movement?”

“No. India against Corruption was an inorganic, planted idea, hence it fizzled out. It comes closer to the subversion of a particular community and their acts of rebellion.”

“The perception of justice may differ, but the ground reality remains the same. The people do not get justice.”

“There are predefined slots for problems – economic, racial, moral, socio-political…”

“Can I sum it all up? The fight is always put up by a minority against the majority. The majority view has become the norm. Confirmation bias blinds and binds the world.”

🥕🥕🥕

Misogynistic Scoundrel by Donna Matthews

That long-ago morning, Sue kicked Joe out. It would be the final time she bailed her scoundrel husband, drunk and violent again, out of jail for “disorderly conduct.”

It was 1955, and as she stood outside the Secretarial School, she didn’t know WHERE she was going, but she knew she couldn’t stay here.

As the years passed, she discovered scoundrels didn’t always come in the form of drunken husbands. She found them in break rooms and later board rooms.

Now, spending time with these beautiful young Ugandan school girls, Sue realized the biggest scoundrel of all… a misogynistic culture.

🥕🥕🥕

Racism (Dedicated to George Floyd) by M J Mallon

Jordan vowed to protect his world from deranged, hate-filled people. He vowed to be a braver man, to speak up against injustice, standing unified with his loving wife beside him.

His words: “Racism kills. It divides and discriminates.”

Her words: “We are one, we refuse to let the racists win.”

After the protest, his wife’s creamy fingers cupped his obsidian skin. Her loving eyes filled.

They both wept, remembering George Floyd.

Their thoughts raged no more hatred, ever.

Denounce racism, curtail this relentless boot inflicting suffocating death. Stop it now, end the pain.

🥕🥕🥕

Here Ends the First Lesson by Ellen Best

‘Anne, What if we chose not to feed that bird,’ Daddy pointed, ‘because it has a yellow beak? None with yellow beaks.’ Mummy joined in, ‘We could tell everyone how wicked the yellow beaked ones were, they would copy, and soon there would be nowhere for them to go.’ Tears welled in Anne’s eyes, her lip trembled. She stood, her eyes swollen with unshed tears. “No! Everybody needs kindness, you always tell me that. I will be very cross and sad if you do. Please don’t.’ They hugged her, assured her she was right not to discriminate.

🥕🥕🥕

Just Desserts by Ritu Bhathal

She walked into the kitchen, sniffing around for snacks.

Always hungry, that one.

Could never resist my cupcakes. There she goes, into my cake box…

Ha! Go on, eat that old collection of My Little Pony toys!

All those years I craved ice cream, and would reach to the carton in the freezer, only to find another frozen curry, or opened the biscuit tin for a cookie, and instead, pulled out a sewing kit… typical Indian mum trick.

Wouldn’t buy decent Tupperware, instead using all the old food containers and fooling us.

Finally, Mum, you got your just desserts!

🥕🥕🥕

Choices by JulesPaige
(haibun pair each 99 words)

Part 1

How can we remain neutral to injustice? Some countries believed they could just so during some very horrendous warring.
But mostly they stayed neutral to keep their own productions and exports going to feed their own. Too many are taught to think individualistically. Where is peace for the greater good, the majority, who often do not have a clear cut voice?

there is a great veil
that blinds the eyes of justice
whose eyes are open?

who can holiday when cries
cast out of cold dark shadows

Today, our worst enemy is atomic in size, attacking the global community.

Part 2

I am not a scientist in a lab able to determine how to fight the unseen enemy. While I am an individual, I can be part of the greater good. I can contribute in the best ways that I can, without compromising my own health. It is a war of emotions that everyone must face. Just what can I do to encourage justice for all?

there is a great veil
that blinds the eyes of justice
whose eyes are open?

we must work together to
strengthen positive life force

A case of water was donated to first responders today.

🥕🥕🥕

The Wrong Lesson by Dave Madden

“Attack first, answer questions later.”

Sensei Rodrigo’s message was unorthodox, to say the least. Whatever his intention, the students’ aggression, both at home and school, slowly turned toward the red.

When Salvador got into a fight at school and repeated Sensei’s teachings, his parents decided to confront Mr. Rodrigo.

Sal’s Mom stormed through the dojo’s doors, “These kids worship you. Why would you encourage fighting?”

Sensei Rodrigo’s bark was worse than his bite because as he aggressively approached her, Sal’s dad responded with a hook across his chin.

While walking out, Sal suggested, “You should start a gym, Dad!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Thoughts of Wittgenstein by Paula Puolakka

All lives matter. This had been Golda’s guideline, and she had tried to make people conscious of environmental issues: clean water and oxygen were essential to everyone. Now, however, all the events had been postponed because of the riots.

“I’m glad I’m living in the world’s richest country. I’m glad I’m not the fair-skinned slave of the Egyptians,” she thought. For a Jew, the concept of justice was a joke.

To keep herself safe from both the protesters and the Covid-19 virus, Golda decided that it was time for a double-lockdown. She buried herself in the thoughts of Wittgenstein.

🥕🥕🥕

Justice by Simon

You are the talk on social media, this is so cruel, beheading, all these men? This is not a big crime, it happens everyday, why did you make such a big change in the law?
Which is not a big crime? rape, sexual assault, insult to modesty, kidnapping, abduction, cruelty by intimate partner or relatives, trafficking, persecution for dowry, dowry deaths, indecency, anything that hurt a women, will be beheaded! And I’m here to serve justice for all, because some of us don’t respect each other as a human. You must forget kindness to restore one being a human.

🥕🥕🥕

Justice for All by FloridaBorne

Grandpa Buckley had never tired of telling the story. “My Irish great, great, great grandmother was a slave in the south. My great, great grandmother was paired with the new black slaves. Her children escaped and Indians took them in.”

“I know,” I’d said, rolling my eyes. “Buckley means servant. The name was handed down by my great grandmother who was sold to a French fur trapper. She escaped. Their five sons became Buckley’s.”

I thought of him when I opened the results of my DNA test, and gasped: 2% Nigerian, 5% Cameroon, 4% Native American.

DNA doesn’t lie.

🥕🥕🥕

Pandemic of Fear by D. Avery

The older woman slammed the loaded clip into her semiautomatic rifle. “This is for if they come by.” She tucked the handgun into her waistband. “This is if they come close.”

“Aunt Fannie!”

“What? I told you when you came here from college I was ready for anything this pandemic had to offer.” She chambered a round. “I don’t claim to be colorblind, but this rifle truly is. It delivers justice for all.”

“Auntie! You don’t have to be afraid of them.”

“Don’t I? We all do.”

“Black men aren’t inherently dangerous!”

“No shit. It’s white men I fear.”

🥕🥕🥕

Destiny Dawning by D. Avery

“What’s the matter, Mommy? It’s still dark.”

“Move over?”

Marlie lifted the covers and made room. “Did you have a nightmare?”

“Actually, Marlie, I did.”

“Don’t be afraid. Teddy? Or Destiny?”

Liz took the Destiny Doll, but what she really wanted— needed— was this, to just lie close with her little girl.

“Mommy, tomorrow can you make a cape for Destiny? And one for me and one for Sofie?”

“Sure. What color?”

“Every color!”

“Like a rainbow?”

“Rainbow colors, brown colors, black colors, tan colors— every color. We’re caped crusaders. Justice! For all!”

“Marlie, I’m feeling less afraid now.”

🥕🥕🥕

Protest and Pandemic by Geoff Le Pard

‘Are you wearing two masks, Morgan?’

‘I’m worried.’

‘You’re indoors, watching from a window.’

‘There’s no social distancing.’

‘You don’t think they should protest?’

‘No, of course not. It’s just… with this virus… They could get ill, spread it…’

‘What would you do, Morgan?’

‘I’d keep my distance…’

‘There must be 20,000 people. Sometimes, getting involved means taking risks…’

‘But, Logan…’

‘What, then? Reschedule it? Book a slot for September? You have to grab the moment. Justice delayed is justice denied.’

‘I know… that’s why I’ve got two masks.’

‘?’

‘One for you. Come on, time we got involved….’

🥕🥕🥕

Fabric of the Nation by D. Avery

“Kid, what’re ya doin’ ta my fav’rite rodeo shirt?”

“Here, ya kin have yer shirt back, I jist wanted the fringe off it fer a flag.”

“A fringed flag?”

“Yep, represents fringe folk. An’ I gathered ev’ry kinda color an’ cloth imaginable. Gonna make a flag fer Buckaroo Nation.”

“Aw, Kid, let’s not be flyin’ flags here, not even thet inclusive one. Let’s take all thet cloth ya gathered an’ make quilts instead.”

“Quilts!”

“We kin give ‘em ta displaced folks, ta them thet’s on the streets an’ them who’ve taken ta the streets.”

“That idea warms my heart.”

🥕🥕🥕


14 Comments

  1. Ritu says:

    Yup, I’m reckoning a good dollop of justice has been served here!!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Norah says:

    That quite a collection of thoughts, all in favour of justice for all. Funny how the words (recited from childhood) can echo their hollowness without the foundation of actions. Actually, not funny at all. Sorry I didn’t get my story finished for this one – still working on it. A great result, everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Powerful collection. You’ve done us all justice gathering them in.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great collection again.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haven’t been around much lately, but this is an excellent group of stories. Great job, all. ~nan

    Liked by 1 person

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