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The African American Connection to the Black Dahlia
Race, skin color, with all its complex layers of divisiveness and entanglements is ingrained in the social fabric of America. For more than two centuries we have struggled between embracing it unscrupulously and condemning its inhumanity. We used it for profit; imputed our misfortunes to him; massacred themselves for the right to enslave and passed on their prejudices from generation to generation. It’s been so entrenched in our philosophy that race has become synonymous with the word “America.” Even now, at the dawn of the 21st century, we cannot let go of our racial ties.
This true story, One Day She’ll Darken, is not about America seen from the outside, but about America seen from the inside – from the inside of a child who saw things differently.
It begins in the early 1950s in San Francisco, before Fauna Hodel was born. The 16-year-old daughter of a prominent white California family has fallen pregnant, insisting the father was “nigger”. Outraged by their daughter’s boldness and the stigma attached to a mixed-race child among them, the family quickly arranged to have the baby adopted by someone so removed from their social footprints that even the shadows disappeared.
Jimmie Lee Stokes, a simple black cleaner working in a Nevada casino and her common-law husband, Chris Greenwade reluctantly agree to become the beneficiaries of this new life since “all the arrangements have been made”. They quickly travel to San Francisco to collect the baby from the hospital and discover that the unwanted mulatto baby girl is pinkish-white with blue eyes – not what they expected as the offspring of an African-American father. American and a white mother. However, the birth certificate clearly indicates that the father is “nigger”.
Chris persuades Jimmie to accept this “angel of God”. Soon, however, she is resentful and overwhelmed with the problems of raising a white-skinned baby in her black community. Jimmie begins to drink heavily and is quickly abandoned by her husband. Alone, poor and black, she is forced to turn rounds to provide for her baby. The black woman and her white child spend the next twenty years battling extreme poverty, alcoholism, sexual abuse, pregnancy, marriage, and death, all bound and knotted by ruthless prejudice.
The only world Fauna knew growing up was the one she didn’t belong to. She was a white-skinned girl in a black world with only her birth certificate to confirm her authenticity. Racism on both sides dominated his life, but not his mind. His only salvation was to find the truth about his mixed race from the only person who knew for certain – his biological mother, Tamar – the woman of his dreams.
Fauna set out to uncover the story that created this bizarre life and the reason it was given. His search ends abruptly with a phone call from Tamar informing Fauna that her real father wasn’t “nigger” at all. Having spent her life defending her African-American roots, Fauna is traumatized. Her life has been a lie and now she needs to know why.
Her journey takes her from the backwaters of Reno to the island of Oahu, where she finally meets Tamar, who explains her decision to have her first child raised by blacks. “In my little world, I believed that black people were made of far superior material than the white people I knew. I was embarrassed to be white.”
Dissatisfied with such a simple answer, Fauna goes further. Tamar reveals the secrets of her rich, powerful, and dark and mysterious family and a story so incredible it makes Fauna’s own story pale in comparison. She discovers that her grandfather was involved in a sensational incest trial which may have resulted in his own birth and the murder and maiming of many young women, including the now infamous case of The Black Dahlia. .
Meanwhile, Jimmie’s health deteriorates; she can’t let Fauna go – neither for her real mother, nor for Fauna’s new husband. Forced to choose, Fauna returns to Jimmie. In the final hours, before the old woman dies, they both discover that the knots that bound them together have grown in their hearts and cannot be undone by ignorance, prejudice, or hatred.
One Day She’ll Darken is a story about conquering bigotry with unconditional love – limitless love, colorblind love.
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