9. Amanuel's Radio Show

Claraberta held court in the teacher spot, waving a business card, surrounded by Lula and Ginny and Julita, even twins Alta and Asia who usually kept to their own better reader clique. Claraberta waved Marina over. She would make a good politician one of these years. “After you left the hearing you won’t believe what happened.” Claraberta grabbed Marina’s shoulders and brought her face so close Marina could smell her violet cologne. The scent made her giddy, reminded her of the agua de violeta girls of her childhood in Ventura, the ones with real mothers who scented their hair. As a girl she couldn’t figure out how to keep her own hair from smelling of sun and sweat. Ginny cut in. “Amanuel Cole gave her his card.” Marina was starting to hear them. Lula guided her to her table by the window. The fruitless pear trees in the Settlement courtyard were in full white bloom. “Let her sit and let Claraberta speak.”
Ginny brought over Marina’s cup of cafe con leche. The peace gesture didn’t go unnoticed by Marina or the women. “Amanuel Cole came over and was asking who we were.” Claraberta sat on the edge of Marina’s desk. Ginny cut her off. “Cut to the chase. He wants us on his show.” Claraberta nodded and handed Marina the card. “He told me to tell you to call him to set up going on his television show.”
The gods had delivered Marina the theme for the class. She’d wondered where to take things after the Ginny disaster. Should she talk about the problems of shitting where you eat, how it had been a mistake for her to cross boundaries, go to Ginny to get her hair cornrowed. Did she even believe that? Maybe she should talk about how being distracted with demon lover obsessions could lead to errors of judgment. When was it the right thing to let matters just drop, heal themselves? That had been the rule in her family. Speak not. She’d considered exploring family rules…What were the rules in the families where we grew up? She'd come with a stack of photographs from the library picture collection, of families at meals, at reunions in big dance halls, picnics in parks, even a couple of photographs of families on the steps of family court.
Instead she asked them, “What do we want the world, or the City at least, to know about us?
Julita spoke first. Seldom did she start the thread of a story and before Claraberta or Ginny could take over Marina walked over stood beside Julita and put her hand on her shoulder. “Let’s hear Julita.”
“We are not free loading welfare cheats.”
Alta nodded. “Who’s cheating who? We want decent work with a living wage. If they’ve got no jobs for us then we don’t want them to add insult to the injury of having to be on welfare.”
Lula slowly rose to speak. “We want them to know that we used to be ashamed to be on welfare, but we’re not anymore. We’re not on welfare because we don’t want to work. They can't blame us for being poor.”
Marina was writing fast on the board, barely able to keep up.
Claraberta walked to the bookcase, took a stack of their published and bound stories and put them on Marina’s desk. “We want to read from these. We’ve made them public here, at the Settlement in our Readings. Now we want the whole City to hear us.” She stood beside Marina facing the class. “The Wedding…How the woman has no choice but to marry even after she finds out her husband is about to have a child with somebody else… “The Welfare Face to Face…” How she has to hide that she has a husband because without her benefits they can’t make ends meet…not because she’s a cheat…No..because they don’t know how else to get health insurance for their girl…. The story of Iliana who didn’t know if Roberto wants to marry her for love or for the papers. “Who’s Cheating Whom?” where we figured out how many jobs that we might have gotten have left the City in the last ten years. Where we found out how it came about there was a welfare system, how capitalism needs us to consume, needs to make our labor cheap so that we are consumed...
“Or not…”Ginny got them all laughing.
They surrounded Marina when she made the call to the phone on Amanuel Cole’s card. “That was Cole’s producer. She’ll let me know tomorrow when she wants to tape the segment. She said adult education is hot.
“It’s not live?” Claraberta frowned.
“I was surprised too. But she said the show gets pretaped at five in the morning. They want the segment very soon.”
Together they read what Marina had scribed on the board. She got them writing in small groups by strand…more on the story of marriage, The Best Gig they Got…the Face to Face…Immigration….Welfare Rights…
After awhile Alta, who was lead scribe in the group on welfare rights, repeated loudly for the whole group a question that had come up in her small group, “What’s in it for Amanuel Cole? Why is he hot on this right now?”
“Gotta do with the election, bet you anything.” Lots of heads turned toward Ginny.
Alta's identical twin sister Gracia shook her head. “He’s not running.”
Claraberta interrupted, “He’s not running for Mayor but guys like that are always running.”
“They’re not that different than the hustlers on the block.” Ginny spoke fast with the delight and energy of finding her thoughts. “They’ve got an angle.”
Alta took from the bookcase the black booklet listing City Offices and Officials. She waved the book. “He could be running for one of these.”
Marina was intrigued. “Those positions are not elected, how might Amanuel be running for one of them?
“I told you,” Ginny slapped the table with both hands. “He’s hustling, getting seen, so whoever gets to be mayor’s gonna say, Amanuel he’s our man..”
“Amanuel.” Claraberta smiled and batted her eyelashes. “He could drop his shoes right by my bed anytime.”

Mutiny Over Amanuel’s Show