Strangers Project #17

Finding Marion is certainly not the hardest of tasks . Savannah has been his home for what I'd have to guess is 70 years or so . These days you'll find him in one of the Squares that this city was built around . Listen for the simple melodies that his flute plays and follow the sound , there you'll find Marion . Sitting on a bench in the shade , tip can in front ready to handle the hoped for donations  , He also has a music stand but I've yet to see any sheet music there it sits empty , a fantastic prop giving himself a more refined musical look . I could only imagine Marion in his younger days , he had to be the "coolest of cats" . Even today he sports sunglasses with rhinestones and those bright orange pants , he wears the same hat and it's beginning to show the wear the years have taken . You'll have to look close to notice these things because what immediately takes your eye is that white beard and when I say white I'm not talking some shade of gray , It's brilliantly white . So much so that he's been difficult to photograph , that brilliant white contrasting his dark skin is a transition that no camera can make .  

       On the bench next to him always sits a bread bag with food for the birds and squirrels as well a white bread sandwich for himself and some water to wash it down . He's a soft spoken but not shy , a gentleman in the truest sense . When I asked " live in Savannah your whole life ?" He replied quietly " Yup , been here the whole time" . The "whole time" got my mind going and I followed with "so you grew up here huh ? " his answer didn't change " Yup , been here the whole time" . " Was raised just a few blocks from here " . Trying to get information without seeming nosy at best or like a police interrogation at the worst . I wanted a story of the old south , of being a black man in Georgia in the 50's , of the changes that he had seen .......or perhaps hadn't ? Maybe not being as subtle as I would have hoped I asked " Marion , what was it like to grow up a black kid here ? " He turned and looked at me . My first thought was that I had offended him . He looked upward as if he was trying to summon his memory , he stayed in that position long enough that my head and eyes followed , but all I saw was the spanish moss and the sky . Marion saw something entirely different , " I was about 8 and I was playing with my friend Sam , we were up on Broughton" his speech slowed and I could tell he choose his words carefully " Ah heck we were just kids havin fun , then I turned and saw my mama running towards me and she had that look as if I was goin to get a whoopin " Even now his eyes got big , " You get home now " was all she said and then he described how she grabbed him  by the back of his shirt . " I was barely able to keep up , I'd be fallin down but she didn't stop , dragging me til I could get back on my feet . I just couldn't figure out what I had done . She cut through the neighbors yard and I didn't understand why" He paused , shook his head as he relived the memory , then he went on  "My oh my when we finally got to the front door she flung it open and threw me in " I looked up at her and asked Mama "what I do ?" She just pulled the curtain aside and pointed . "Thats when I saw them for the first time The Klan was marching , they were turning the corner"

    I sat enthralled by the tale happy to hear it , this is what I wanted . There was however a bit of sadness . Sensing that I reopened an old wound . The look on his face was all I needed to tell it was the truth , never a doubt .  We all have stories , some more dramatic than others . I don't think  there is anyone that doesn't have a least one of these , a life changer . A moment or experience that forever changed the way you looked at the world . I could tell by looking at him that this moment was one of those for Marion , the innocence of childhood gone .  Mr. Marion May you've been terrific , this encounter more than I had hoped for . May I introduce myself again , I'm Bob Gala photographer and Sir it was my pleasure to meet you today .