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I live in the middle of Harlem. The Black Panthers are just around the corner, the Marcus Garvey Foundation is just down the block, Nation of Islam’s headquarters are to the east and NAACP has offices a few streets down. Harlem is not the hotbed of social activism it once was, but while standing in the Laundromat I noticed a flyer tucked in the crack between the high capacity clothes dryers. On the flyer was picture of a man with a hand plow and a mule. The man was in overalls and a straw hat circa 1890, above him in big black letters it read “Millions for Reparations!” Washing DC August 17th, 2002.

That was it: just the picture and the slogan. Of course, the man in the field with his mule represented the 40 acres and a jackass that my granddad had always joked that we were owed. But honestly I was disappointed that there was no more information on the poster. It was very confusing. Seriously, I thought, they couldn’t really expect to get 40 acres out of uncle sam—there is not that much federal land left. Also, what do you do with mixed kids? Give them half a mule? Who are these people?

It was printed on thin poor-quality recycled paper. The ink seemed to be the kind used with hand crank copy drums. I envisioned a basement workroom that smelled like ink—there the would-be revolutionary cranked out flyers one by one. It was a mystery. So, I vowed to dig deeper.

After searching around the web for a bit I was able to find a bit more info. They seemed to be planning to run a bus from most major cities in the east to Washington that day. No single organization seemed to be behind the event—I wondered if anyone would show up with a mule—

I wondered who had started making the posters. How many people were behind this?

If it works I plan to use my mule to pull a buggy around Central Park. I’ll be like those carriage drivers with their horses, but I’ll be able to charge less since mules don’t eat as much as horses. I was thinking of getting a rickshaw, but a mule would be much more fun. Anyone who could prove that they were a direct descendent of John Brown or Nat Turner would get a free ride. . . .

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