Evans D. Hopkins

Evans D. Hopkins

A weeklong electronic journal.
June 28 1997 3:30 AM

Evans D. Hopkins

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       I spend too much time on the phone today, getting help with the computer, and talking with editors. One conversation with a magazine editor lasts more than an hour, and I have to again deal with having my piece on innocent men "declined." But I am able to elicit some interest in the possibility of my doing a story about the 27-year incarceration and recent release of former Black Panther Party leader Geronimo Pratt.
       "Why do you care about his story, enough to make our readers care?" asks the editor. He says that while people should care about issues like innocence, in and of themselves, they generally don't. I explain to him that, having endured the suffering of imprisonment for something I did do, encountering men who've been locked up for something they're innocent of is most troubling to me. Moreover, as a former political activist, I see false imprisonment through government misconduct to be even more disturbing. I am tempted to add that a main reason people don't seem to care about issues, is because so much of the media only want to give folk what they want to hear.
       After getting a measured "we'll call you" response, I get out of the office as fast as I can, borrowing one of my father's trucks, and taking a meandering route home. I drive first through the community where my family lived until I was six. The area is even more depressed now, and our old home is boarded up. As soon as I enter the white community just above it, the contrast is stark, and I recall working on many of the well-kept lawns, when I worked for my father. I am pleased to note, however, that some black families do live in the area now.
       Driving on the narrow road out near my parents' home, I pass a young white man whose car has broken down, and offer him a lift. It strikes me that in years past, he'd probably never accept the ride. Nor, perhaps, would I have given it.
       After dropping him off, I decide to stop at the old abandoned grain mill, and walk through brush down to the narrow river which winds down behind our house--where my cousins and I learned to swim, as the lake and pool just above our home was (and remains) exclusively white. The onset of clouds and a drizzle has brought on an early dusk, and in focusing on the effect of light rain and wind on the water, I don't at first notice the thin rope, hanging from a limb, further along the bank of the river.
       My first, irrational thought is to cut it down, only to remember that I no longer carry a knife. Then I realize that the rope could only bear a child's weight, and recall how, as children, my cousins and I would swing from such "monkey vines," into the river, downstream. I am swept with emotion, to think of how darkened the imagery in my mind has become, since that simpler time. Then I smile at the memory, return to the truck, and make my way home.

Evans D. Hopkins now writes from Danville, Va. He has contributed reportage and commentary to a variety of publications, including The New Yorker and the Washington Post, and is at work finishing an autobiography/prison memoir and a novel.