CONFESSIONS IN B-FLAT
BY DONNA HILL
Essence bestselling author Donna Hill brings us an emotional love story set against the powerful backdrop of the civil rights movement that gripped a nation‹a story as timely as it is timeless…
The year is 1963. In Harlem, the epicenter of Black culture, the fight for equality has never been stronger. The time is now. Enough is enough. Yet even within its ranks, a different kind of battle rages. Love thy neighbor? Or rise up against your oppressors?
Jason Tanner has just arrived in New York to help spread the message of his mentor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., of passive resistance, while beat poet Anita Hopkins believes the teachings of Malcolm X with all her heart: that the way to true freedom is “by any means necessary.” When Jason sees Anita perform her poetry at the iconic B-Flat lounge, he’s transfixed. And Anita has never met anyone who can match her wit for wit like this…
One movement, two warring ideologies—can love be enough to unite them?
Confessions in B-Flat is a celebration of the hard-won victories of those who came before us, and a stark reminder of just how far we still have to go.
When Jason returned with the supplies, he and Michael got to work. Jason ditched his shirt, tie, and jacket; filled a bucket with hot, sudsy water; and began washing the storefront windows until the sun bounced off them like a new penny on a hard mattress.
While he worked, he took the opportunity to watch the comings and goings on the street, sharing greetings with the array of folks who came and went. There were parents pushing baby carriages, delivery men, toddlers with grandparents, students on their way to Columbia University—not too far away—and a cluster of young men who hung on the corner smoking cigarettes and swapping stories about their sports heroes’ latest feats. He smiled. How many corners had he and Jeff hung out on, just shooting the breeze and enjoying life? He wiped the perspiration from his head with his forearm, gathered up his cleaning supplies, and was heading back inside when he glanced up and stopped short. His heart raced. She was coming across the street.
He’d only seen her once, but he’d know that halo of hair and that face anywhere.
As she drew closer, he watched as her expression changed from determination to shock. She tipped her head a bit to the side, squinted with a half smile on her face.
Anita stopped in front of him, adjusted her tote higher up on her shoulder, and stuck her hands in the back pockets of her capri pants. “Do-gooder! I’ll be damned.”
She was shorter than he’d thought she was on the bus, came somewhere under his chin, but she was still larger than life. Vibrant energy flowed from her.
“Fancy seeing you here,” he said and knew he sounded ridiculous.
“Not really. I live around here.” Her smile showcased the tiny dimple in her right cheek. “Fancy seeing you here, though.” She adjusted her weight to her right leg, jutting out a round hip.
Jason grinned and nodded sheepishly. “So do I. Well, not right here exactly, but close.”
She lifted her chin in the direction of the storefront. “What’s going on here?”
He cleared his throat, remembering her heated remarks on the bus. “Actually, I’m opening a local office for Dr. King.” Her brown eyes widened, raising her thick brows in the process. “Really?”
“So what are y’all gonna be doing exactly?” She squinted at him.
“Training. Recruiting volunteers. Spreading information…”
“Hmm. Well, good luck with that.”
“Thank you, I think.”
“Look, do-gooder, I admire what you’re trying to do. But look around you.” She waved her hand. “These people need more than platitudes and marches. They want respect, dignity of work, to be treated like a human being and not by bowing their heads, turning cheeks, and accepting what ‘they’ decide they want to give us.”
“Dr. King wants the same thing,” Jason insisted. “But violence is not the way to get what we want.”
“Guess we gonna have to agree to disagree, do-gooder.” He tucked in a smile at the barb, which he’d gladly wear as a mantle. “It’s Jason, by the way. Jason Tanner.” He wiped his hand on his pants leg and extended it to her.
She pursed her lips, paused, then accepted the olive branch. “Anita Hopkins.”
“Nice to meet you—again, Anita. Looks like we keep meeting under strained circumstances.” That seemed to let some of the steam out of her. Her slender body visibly relaxed, even as a shadow of something he couldn’t define passed across her eyes.
She shifted her weight again. “How long you been in the city?”
“Couple of weeks.”
“How long you staying?”
“As long as it takes.” He watched her throat work.
“Guess you haven’t had a chance to see much of Harlem.”
He wasn’t sure if that was a question or a statement. “Uh, not really. Takes a bit of getting used to.”
She licked her bottom lip, then dug in her tote and pulled out a stack of papers. She peeled one off and handed it to him.
“Friday nights at B-Flat Lounge.” Her eyes picked up the light, turning them a brighter shade of brown. She shrugged slightly. “You might like it. Give you a real feel for Harlem.” She smiled.
He took the flyer. “Thanks.” He paused. “Will you be there?”
She shoved the papers back in her tote. “Guess you’ll have to stop by and find out. Take care, do-gooder.” She breezed by him and started off down the street.
Jason turned to watch her departure and wondered if she always swayed her hips like a metronome or if it was purely for his benefit.
She turned the corner and was gone.
He took a look at the flyer. B-Flat Lounge. Hmm. Maybe.
ABOUT DONNA HILL
My official writing career began in 1987 when my first short story was published. My first novel, Rooms of the Heart was published in 1990. Since then there have been a slew of books and short stories that I’ve had published, from romance to women’s fiction, chic-lit, erotica and mysteries. I enjoy them all. Three of my novels were adapted for television so that was exciting. I’ve had the honor of conceptualizing and editing several collections: After the Vows, Midnight Clear, Where There’s a Will, Indecent Exposure, and The Hot Spot. I currently teach at Medgar Evers College and live in Brooklyn, NY with my family.