616, 616 East Lincoln Avenue, Abuse, Arguments, BET, Bob Johnson, Business, Business Proposal, Comedy of Errors, Domestic Violence, Dumb Ideas, Hebrew-Israelites, Judah ben Israel, Marriage, Maurice Washington, Mount Vernon New York, Parents, Poverty, Sun Lion, Sun-Lion Communications, unemployment, Vicks Building, Wilson Woods
Of all my one-time stepfather Maurice Washington’s get-rich-quick schemes, the one that was the most elaborate, most expensive, most ridiculous of ideas was one that initially had some promise. In the year after he and my mother reconciled while making us all into Hebrew-Israelites in ’81, he concocted the idea of beginning a media entertainment business.
His great vision was to start a business that catered to Blacks audiences in TV and radio land, one that would redefine how media would in fact reach niche audiences. Maurice wanted to call it Sun-Lion Communications, partly after his Hebrew-Israelite moniker, Judah ben Israel, a lion of Jehovah. Of course, the dumb ass didn’t know that he was following a combination of Babylonian astrological, Persian and
Islamic traditions in the process.
The plan grew from an idea at the end of ’81 into a full-fledged business proposal during ’82. So much so that my mother took $2,500 of the precious and pitiful few funds we had and bought a business license to incorporate this Sun-Lion Communications. In fact, she did that this time twenty-nine years ago. The one thing that my mother did right in doing so, that stuck in Maurice’s craw for years afterward, was to get a business license in her name, not my stepfather’s.
That was one of the underlying reasons for the Memorial Day ’82 incident in which Maurice drop-kicked my mother into unconsciousness — besides him being an asshole, of course. My mother may have made many dumb decisions over the years, but she wasn’t an idiot. Maurice had plenty of ideas before. When we first met the blowhard in ’77, Maurice told me and my older brother Darren that he was “a writer, a lawyer and a doctor.” All while driving a Reliable Taxi cab in Mount Vernon. Even at the age of seven, I wasn’t that naive. I knew enough to ask, “So how many books have you written?” But he did write. Street poetry and a few half-worked out plays. With time, focus and a lot of hard work, who knows?
Maurice, though, never wanted to work that hard. After losing his cab driver job on April 30, ’79 because he was literally caught sleeping at the wheel, he’d been unemployed for more than three years. At one point prior to him and my mother separating before becoming a Hebrew-Israelite, Maurice had the idea of starting a restaurant, to which my mother said, “Yeah, if you wanna eat us outta business!” in response.
I digress. After Memorial Day ’82 and spending most of June and July abusing me — I was a witness, to domestic violence, after all — Maurice finally got a job. It was as a part-time security guard for the closed Vicks plant in the middle of Wilson Woods (it’s a school now, I think). Within a few weeks of working the night and weekend shifts guarding the empty building, Maurice found inspiration. He had a “vision from God” that this empty shell was where Sun-Lion Communications would be headquartered, with studios, satellites, soundproofing, and so many other things a media business would need.
Although the idea still had promise (Bob Johnson had started BET only three years earlier, mind you), it was a high-risk business, with national cable in its early toddler stage. Not to mention our own growling stomachs, my mother consistently three weeks behind in rent, and us facing Con Ed’s warnings of our electricity being cutoff because we were $180 behind on that too.
That led to one of my mother and Maurice’s classic 616 arguments at the end of October ’82. In the living room, with all of our run-down furniture, Maurice was bellyaching about my mother’s refusal to put the business license in his name and her lack of emotional support. “I support a candy shop if we had the money, but we don’t,” she said. With Maurice yelling, demanding, “Give me the license, woman!,” I started worrying, as I was in the kitchen, drying dishes from the wonderful dinner of Great Northern Beans and rice. It was the standard meal when the idiot decided that he should play the role of stepfather and father and help feed us.
“How much you think this gonna cost?,” my mother finally asked.
“A hundred million dollars,” Maurice said.
“Man, you must be a fool!” my mother yelled. “With that kind of money, why would I need to start a business? You must think I’m pea-brained idiot!”
“You are!” Maurice yelled as he walked out the living room, went into the master bedroom, put on his clothes and coat and then came back up front, and left.
That was the last time I heard about Sun-Lion Communications. My ex-stepfather was and remains a dumb ass, never having found his way in this world, and about as good at business as he’s been as maintaining a proper diet and good health.