When I first moved into what the locals call “The Eastside ” an area made famous by rappers like Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G, etc, , there were a lot of things that were new and very different from what I saw growing up in Orange County. This was Long Beach, and Los Angeles County. We lived on Olive avenue near New York avenue. When my own family had disowned me, my husbands family became mine. . My mother in law, lovingly called “Tutu” and my father in law, “Pops”, lived across the street. “Good Grannie Willie ” and Iverson (the grandparents) lived two doors down, we were close to Poly HIgh school, our church , the market and “Mickey D’s” (Mcdonalds for the uninformed).
The corner of Pacific Coast Hwy and California avenue was a hubbub of activity. There was a liquor store, Whistlers, (it is now VIP records) and later came P&G Restaurant. P&G had the best fried fish, “you buy, we fry” , and fried shrimp. And as far as I know the only place to buy fresh gumbo in the area. If you walked across the street, catty corner , you would be at the fence around Poly High School. They eventually renamed this part of California Ave. to Martin Luther King Blvd. But it only stretches through the socalled “Eastside”. MLK starts in the “Eastside” and ends abruptly in Signal Hill, and does not continue into Bixby Knolls, an upscale white area, where it again becomes California Ave.
Curous girl used to see a young man stand on the corner of PCH and California everyday, wearing a suit jacket and black bow tie. He was clean cut , slim and always immaculate. He sold a newspaper and bean pies. Of course, I had to know more, so I inquired and was told he was with the Nation of Islam and they made bean pies to raise money and of course the newspaper. A lot of people used to stop at the intersection and buy right from their car and of course passerbys and liquor store customers bought, all day long. One day I drove over , parked and went up to buy a paper. He looked at me very strangely and said, “You want a newspaper?”. Yes, I told him and he sold me a paper. Went right home to find out what it was all about. “The Final Call”, is still sold all over America and is published by the Nation of Islam, which is not to be confused with the religion of Islam or the beliefs of the Muslim nations, which follow the Koran.
At the time the Nation of Islam was still lead by Elijah Muhammed. As I began to read the articles, it became obvious now , why the young man was surprised by my purchase. The phrase “blue eyed devil” was used regularly in referring to white people in America. All references to us were linked with the word devil. It was very upsetting to me. I am neither blue eyed (mine are green), nor a devil. However I could relate to the anger and frustration spoken of in every article. Despite the hatred for white America, which I totally do not condone, I could understand the root of it and could see every day circumstances which would lead a person of color to be bitter and angry. Black Americans after having endured all that they have in this nation and yet rise above and overcome and smile are to me one of the greatest miracles of God in our history.
After reading the paper, I did study the Nation of Islam for awhile, I just wanted to get a better understanding of their history and of Elijah Muhammed and Malcom X. As time went by , I would see the young man selling his papers and pies. He was consistent and daily on the corner, from morning to evening. He became like the sign post because he was so familar. Then after awhile, I guess business fell off and he went door to door. One day he knocked at our house and he remembered me, “Oh you live here?”.. “Yes, I do.”… Just at that moment the Lord gave me a little insight about him, and I shared that .. He was quite surprised, because it was something only God could have revealed to me and he lingered for just a few moments and then left. That was many years ago and I had not seen him in a long time. Then one day I had to go pay a gas bill downtown and there he was, still with the suit, still selling the paper, but no more bean pies. I smiled and waved, he smiled back. I always wondered if he really believed I was a “blue eyed devil.”