Monday, December 7, 2009

Nike Chicken

I wrote this eleven years ago...not sure how to feel about it now....thoughts on Bermuda black youth...hmmmm

February 9, 1998

While walking my dog on a rural road in Smith’s a few days ago, I encountered the same group of feral chickens that frequent that road and noticed a hen of a totally different color. She was the usual burnished browns and reds that many of Bermuda’s feral hens display, but tucked neatly beneath her left wing was a collection of white feathers in the distinct pattern of what could only be described as a NIKE “swoosh”. I stopped. I looked again. There she was carrying the status symbol that has made millions and she carried on with no “attitude” and the other chickens treated her basically as one of the girls.

On my way home, I thought about the chicken and the wonder of genetics that caused her to have this birthmark. When I arrived home, I told my husband about her and said that next time I went down the road I might take a picture of “Nike Chicken”. But, my husband said “No! We’ve got to get the chicken. We’ve got to put her in a box and bring her home, because nobody will believe a photograph. They’ll think its fake.” And so we carried on for a time, joking about keeping “Nike Chicken” in the garage and then it occurred to me that she’d probably die from fright or loneliness if we removed her from her friends.

So, I came upon “Nike Chicken” again today. She was scratching away with the rest of the girls and under the watchful eye of two or three strong and well-plumed roosters. This past weekend we read in the Bermuda paper of the “inner city” attitude that apparently the youth of Bermuda are adopting from their American neighbors. They are taking lessons from television and movies and rap/gangsta music. They are spending their weighty allowances on baggy clothes and above all they have learned to worship the NIKE swoosh. Its everywhere; in their clothes and in their hair. Last Sunday, while waiting in line for tickets to “Titanic” my husband and I watched a handsome black Bermudian walking up the street with his little girl on one hand and his little boy on the other. This man and his children were dressed up for church and they were not a picture you see often in the fabled inner city of America. And then we noticed it, at almost the same time, my husband looked at me and I looked at him. The little boy, no older than 6 or 7, had a clean shaven head, except for a raised relief of hair that formed a NIKE swoosh over his left ear. Like a crucifix, like a tattoo in honor of “MOTHER”, like a scar, this NIKE swoosh was there to remind us what was important to the boy…what he believed in.

The trouble with the idea and the reality of Bermudian youth, especially, young black boys, imitating the inner city attitude of their American counterparts is that it lacks imagination and reason. The youth of Bermuda have never lived in the vast frontier of the American inner city. They may know the feel of drugs and of street fights. But they do not know the monster that inner city kids are trying to escape through drugs and gangs. Bermudian youth are surrounded by beauty: palm trees, hibiscus blooming in February, turquoise waters, and that sky, oh that beautiful endless sky. The elders of Bermuda are beginning to cry in unison that Bermuda’s children have nothing to look forward to and therefore they are sinking into despair and hopelessness. I'm not so sure.

With all this beauty around them, these children can only be destined to self-destruction, because they are so utterly spoiled and no one has taught them how to behave. Sure these children have problems, the problems of rich kids and not-so-rich kids. We all grew up with alcoholic, divorced, or troubled households. I, too, grew up in a terribly spoiled community where the kids behaved badly, because they could afford to. Real inner city kids are faced with the daily bombardment of the concrete jungle complete with garbage, decay, constant fear of being shot to death, 24-hour a day sirens reminding you that everyone around you is either going to jail or to the hospital, and many, many people sleeping in the streets strung out on one thing or another. Bermuda is not the hell of the inner city. Bermuda is blind to her affluence in relation to the rest of the world.And the adults of this island should not encourage their children to imitate the results of the awful desperation brought on by true down and out civilizations.

So, tomorrow I will walk down the road and visit “NIKE Chicken”. I will look upon her as though she is an apparition crying crocodile tears for the youth of Bermuda.


mutt pretty said...

No pictures of the actual chicken?

wolfy said...

Unfortunately the photo of Nike Chicken was confiscated along with several other significant items when I was Involuntarily Repatriated. You'll have to contact the Government of Bermuda as I am certain they are holding the photo and the hen in their national archives.