He is from Ghana, he has been in the United States for years, he told me he lived in Missouri before deciding to come to New York where he has kinfolk.
He tells me that he has children in Ghana and so he has to work hard. He first came to see me with one of his kinfolk, a friend of mine from Ghana.
He wanted Cellphone service, he also needed a plan that would allow him to speak to his family back home. He is a pretty talkative guy, and so we talked a lot until he learned that I was born in December.
He told me that because I was born in December my Ghanian name would be (Kabra). He explained the reason for the name, but I have no recollection of those reasons, I’m horrible when it comes to long conversations, particularly when I make the decision that the information is not crucial. Except to say that I now feel like a [Kabra] whenever I see him, even though I have no idea what a Kabra is, or if [it] is even a thing.
I only know him as Mister Liat.
He did odd jobs for one of his relatives who operates a small used car lot outside the village of Pleasant Valley New York. And then he got a steady job in an assisted living facility in the town of Millbrook. He lives close to where I live with a relative I’m told, and so most evenings, rain snow, or shine, while I am driving home in the comfort of a nice warm car, I pass by him standing at the light post that doubles as an unofficial bust-stop.
Unfortunately, I cannot offer him a ride because my home is less than half a mile away. He works several miles away. Nevertheless, I always honk my horn to say hi, he waves back, even before I honk, no matter how dark it is.
Driving by mister Liat there almost every evening, always gnawed at my gut, being born and raised poor, I have no illusions about the things that God has blessed me with, I never take them for granted.
In fact, I harbor deep-seated feelings of guilt at the things that I do have, despite working as a slave to accomplish what I have.
I drive my wife nuts about vegetables going bad in the refrigerator, or some tchotchke that she buys when I consider that in some parts of this, the greatest country in the world, there are people who cannot source healthy foods, or worse, cannot afford to eat period.
One thing that consoles me is the thought that for most immigrants to America’s shores hard work and sacrifices are a staple.
Hard work, education, and good planning are the only true pathways out of poverty. America is still the last best hope for poor people to find their way.
This morning I saw mister Liat, he stopped by to pay his phone bill and we got to talking, he told me that on several occasions the police pass him standing there, they size him up and sometimes double back to demand to know what he is doing standing there?
At a bus-stop.
He told me that one group of cops stopped to question him in the snow, they ordered him to his knees in the snow.
At the bus stop.
No, this is not Minneapolis, not Texas, not in the deep south, not in the rocky mountains, this is the Hudson Valley New York.
One cop asked him if he was from Ghana, after hearing his still raw Ghanaian accent, he said he nodded in the affirmative.
The cop then proceeded to tell him that he had been to Ghana several times and how nicely the people treated him there.
The irony is palpable.
He told me that on another occasion a cop stopped to question him, he said he was scared that he would be murdered.
Imagine being scared of being murdered by the supposed protectors”?
“Kabra, I have my kids in Ghana, these people will kill you”, he reasoned.
He explained his actions literally supplicating himself to the cop, “you could do a great good today if you gave me a ride to my job”, he suggested to the cop.
The cop told him no…he could get into trouble for giving him a ride.
Imagine the reality that allows the police to stop and violate the rights of people without zero consequence, but if he dares give that person a ride in that luxury tax-payer SUV, he could be in a whole hell of trouble.
I thought about the thousands of dollars in taxes my wife and I pay so that cop and others may ride around in those luxury SUVs, then I thought long and hard about the kind of world we have created as a species.
Changing the lives of the very poor is a moral obligation that we all have, nevertheless, we can never have moral laws coming from deeply immoral law-makers.
And a tear came to my eye.….….….….….….…
Mike Beckles is a former police Detective corporal, businessman, freelance writer, he is a black achiever honoree, and publisher of the blog mikebeckles.com.
He’s also a contributor to several websites.
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