By Marlene Lily
most clearly when I saw him with my sister-in-law in 1991 and noticed how she lit up: he was capable of giving another person his undivided attention. It was probably that quality that won the love of Christians and Mormons, blacks and whites, women and men. As for me, I felt that he knew me better than anyone I had ever known. I also loved his sense of humor, his imagination, and his ability with language. Every time I cut a watermelon, I still think of his answer to the question, “Where’s Eldridge?” from the Black Panther paper back in 1969: “He’s free, eating watermelon, and the pigs can’t get him!” No one else would have thought of adding “eating watermelon” to that statement.
moved on to the Moonies. Whenever we stopped at the Black Muslim Bakery for a carrot pie, my favorite, he was received there just as warmly.
I not tell him what to do. His other tenant was William Carlisle, a fortyish Black Muslim who made a living selling T-shirts at large events and peddling frozen meat and fish in the Oakland ghetto out of the trunk of his car. Eldridge trusted William because he didn’t use drugs or alcohol (and neither did I). And having all that protein in the house meant that if worse came to worst, Eldridge wouldn’t go hungry.
slavery that black men still carried, more than a hundred years after Emancipation. They wanted to share it, but just a little.
where he scored his crack at corner stores, homes, apartments. He wouldn’t wait to get home to light the pipe, even if a cop car was right behind us. His after-midnight friends were prostitutes and hustlers. I know because I sometimes drove them home. One of them,expecting me to be jealous, was afraid I was going to push her down the porch stairs.
lampshades to make the lights brighter. As I walked through his office to get to my room, he would point and say “Look at that! Do you see that?” And of course I saw nothing. He was seeing the monsters from a Bosch painting.
said “Still got your car?” when I ran into him on Telegraph.) Without a car I wouldn’t be able to work, and I was going to need some kind of work SOON. Once Eldridge told me I had better work habits than he did. As far as I could tell, he didn’t have ANY work habits.
It appeared to me he was brain damaged. But he refused to go to Delancey Street when a friend pulled strings to get him admitted, even though his son, Maceo, then about 24, pleaded with him to go. Instead, he went right back to his addiction. The last time I saw him, maybe 1994, it was midday, we were in my car on University Avenue, and I stopped to make a copy at Kinko’s. He was afraid to be left alone in the car for a minute or two while I went into the shop. The fearlessness I had so loved in him was gone. In the spring of 1998, I got a call from William Carlisle, who told me Eldridge had died in Southern California--on May Day. Despite Carlisle’s urgings, I didn’t go to the funeral.