Lackawanna Blues Script - Dialogue Transcript

Voila! Finally, the Lackawanna Blues script is here for all you fans of the HBO movie starring Terrence Howard, S. Epatha Merkerson, Mos Def, Macy Gracy, etc.  This script is a transcript that was painstakingly transcribed using the screenplay and/or viewings of Lackawanna Blues. I know, I know, I still need to get the cast names in there and I'll be eternally tweaking it, so if you have any corrections, feel free to drop me a line. You won't hurt my feelings. Honest.

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Lackawanna Blues Script






I'm on my way.



Come on, Nanny.



Come on, Mama, please.



Come on, Nanny.

Please, Nanny, come on.



Come on, Nanny.

Please, Nanny. Come on now.



Mama, please!

Mama, please, come on.



Come on.



Come on! Come on!



Come on.

Come on, Nanny.



Come on, Nanny.

That's right, Nanny. Come on.



Come on, Nanny.

Come on.



Please, Mama.

Please, Mama. Come on!



Come on.



Come on! Come on!






You want these nice

and iced, Miss Samson?



Aw, he don't know

what to do with that!



Piss off now.

Come on!



Go on, man!



I better stop

before I hurt somebody!



Hey, baby!



In      Lackawanna, New York,



like all Great Lakes cities

was jumpin'!



- Where's your mom at?

- Back home in Tennessee!



And in the middle

of it all,



Rachel Crosby... "Nanny,"



that's what

we all called her.



Or just plain "Mama. "



I want you to hit me



like Sugar Ray Robinson

do a white man!



That's the only place he can

and get away with it!



You hear me!



Now seeing what

a colored person could have



if they worked hard

and was in the right place,



Nanny rushed back

to her home town... Farmville, Virginia



- in that old Buick...

- Y'all having a good time?!



- Yeah!

- All right then!


            bring more folks

up north.



Yeah! When I win this night,



I'm gonna send in some money

to the N.A.A.C.P.!



Help keep

Martin Luther King outta jail!



Hey, Mother!

Wish me luck.



Luck is you getting

outta Georgia alive!



Nanny was one of those country folk

to have a taste of the city.



Listen now, y'all, we've got to

get this food out of here!



We've got some

hungry people, baby!



And they partook

and they partied!



Here it comes!









Oh, this man!

I dreamed about you



last night

and here you come.



Let me get you your key

and a plate, all right?



- Hey, Pauline.

- Hey, Nanny.



All right, girl!






Yeah, Mama!



Pauline, come on,

girl, huh?



- You look so good tonight!

- Thank you, baby.



- You look so pretty!

- Thank you, Nanny.



Doll, how come you didn't

finish the back of your head?



I didn't want to be

late for the fish fry.



- You look pretty.

- Honey, I know I do. You do, too!



- Thank you, baby.

- All right, thank you.



- Where are you going?

- You know where.



You ain't gonna start

no mess up in here tonight, right?



- No, you know me.

- I know you better not.



Where are you from?



Segregation forced those folks

to make their own heaven on earth.



And Nanny's Friday night

fish fry was the place to be!



Hey, Daddy!



- Y'all like this new car, don't you?!

- Aha!



Now, for most folks, this was

just another Friday night.



But for me,

this night was special.






It was the night

my journey with Nanny began.



- Ma! Ma!

- Hey!



Ma, where's Ma?!



Whoa, whoa, whoa,

Hold it, Ruben. Calm down.



- She's going to have a baby right now!

- Oh my God! Okay.



Bitch, I will pitch it so loud,

throw it in your goddamn face!






Have you lost

your whole mind?



Please, Ma, you come, okay?

See the baby.



One minute. If you don't

straighten this out before I get back,



I'll do it for you! Bill, make sure

she stay out of trouble.



- Ma, come.

- Go, okay, okay.






Oh, Lord have mercy.

Ruben, get me some hot water



and all the clean towels

you can find.



You ain't leaving yet,

is you?



- Ruben, move!

- Yes, right now.



Ruben! Where's

that hot water, boy?



I'm going right now, Ma.



All right, this baby

ready to come!



It's me and you now, okay?



Come on, you can do it.

You can do it!



Yes, Lord, have mercy!



Push, baby. Come on.



- Yes!

- Yeah.



- Yes!

- Yeah.



- Yes!

- Yeah.



Yes, push!









- You're crazy!

- Jimmy Lee, I love you, baby!



Calm down!

Give me the knife!



- You've done lost your mind, Pauline!

- Jimmy!



Shh, shh...



It's okay,

it's okay.



Ooh, thank you, Jesus.

Thank you.



That wouldn't be the last time

Nanny came to my rescue.



By the time I was two,

Alean and my dad had split.



Clean sheets.



She figured she'd make a pit stop

at Nanny's rooming-house



- till she got back on her feet.

- Here you go, Einstein.



Why must we equate

intelligence with white men?



What of W.E.B. DuBois?



Alain Locke!

Alexandre Dumas.



Next you'll tell me

Jesus was a Negro.



And Jesus! Mohammed!



Dinah Shore.



Clean sheets.



Clean sheets.



Excuse me.



- Where is she at?

- At the Flame, she's a barmaid there.



Run over there,

tell her the baby with me.



- I wanna see her when she get off work.

- Yes, ma'am.



Hey, I'm headed over to Maxie's,

so don't wait up for me.



Have I ever?



What you doing with the little curly-headed

rascal anyway?



He's spending the night with us.

Want some sherbet, baby?



Don't put him in my bed.



He'll keep me up

all night tossin' and turnin'.



We'll you ain't

gonna be in it.



Bill was Nanny's husband,



a big ol' yellow Geechee boy,

   years her junior.



- I'll see y'all.









Show me how

what you do. Yeah.



Ooh, let me see

if I can do that.



He's sleeping good,

so I ain't gonna bother him.



- That makes sense.

- Nanny, we need to talk.



Yes, we do.



Just 'cause you

letting me stay here



don't give you no right to go

in my room and take my baby.



Alean, ain't nobody

took nothing from you.



You can't leave that child

in a room by hisself.



- That ain't right.

- It ain't right you invade my privacy.



Well, I'll invade Russia

when a baby is concerned.



Now, you ought to let his father

keep him when you're working.



Nanny, I can

take care of my baby.



I am working my ass off,



got two jobs, and I'm doin'

the best I can.



I'm just down

the street at The Flame,



and I'm running back and forth

checking on him every chance I get.



- He's asleep, Nanny.

- What if the child wake up?



- He'll be scared to death.

- Nanny.



Look, 'cause you and Ruben

can't make it,



don't mean the child

got to suffer.



Let me keep him

when you go to work,



that way you ain't got to worry about him

and I ain't got to worry about him.



- Plus, he'll get a nice hot meal.

- Nanny, I feed my baby!



You ain't got

to worry about him,



and I ain't got

to worry about him.



It ain't

no trouble at all.



Ricky come up in The Flame and she

putting my business in the street.



I know I'm a good mother.



We ain't worried about

what nobody else say.



This here is

between you and me.



Let me help you with this child

till you're able to help yourself.



Everybody need

a little help sometime.



Nanny, I appreciate

you trying to...



This my baby.



And I always...



Nanny, I love...



I take care of him.



Listen at me

good now.



We both want what's best

for this child.



I know how much

you love Junior,



but I also know you up



against a lot right now.



Now, I'm gonna always be here

for you and this baby,



you understand?



Now, we gonna try this.



See how it work out.



And things did work out

for a while.



See you later.



Can you wave

goodbye for me?



Yay, little man!



Hands up. Yay!



- Have you been practicing?

- Mm-hmm.



See you later.



That girl done gone and got

herself locked up again.



Alean? How come...



Hi, Nanny.

Hi, Ruben Daddy.



Breaking into some clothing store,

the policemen took them all downtown.



I went down there

and made bail for her.



- Where's Junior?

- He's upstairs getting his baseball.



- What she say to you, man?

- I didn't stay.



- I was too upset at her.

- How could she do something like this?



- Look, I want my son.

- Look...



No, how come she don't

give to me my son?



- That's his mother.

- You his mother.









go on to

the baseball game.



Try to have a good time and forget

about this mess for now.



- This is not right.

- I'll talk to her later.



She gonna be by here.




Hey, Junior.



We're going

to the game, man.



Going to catch a ball.






No, I got it, man,

for real!



You better look out now.



You better not be out here

smoking that stuff.



Go on now, Bill. Your seat's

getting cold up at The Flame by now.



Alean, girl, Nanny up there

waiting on you.



Ricky, do me a favor

and go pull her to the side



and tell her I'm out here.



I'll split the cards.



- Go ahead, come on, come on.

- King of clubs.



- King of clubs.

- What you got over there?



- Who's winning?

- I'm winning. Bam!



What you tell Junior?




I'm gonna let you tell him.



This is the second time I had to

come down there and get you out of jail.



I don't know what you be

thinking sometimes.



Just trying to provide

for my child.



I can't do that

if I ain't got nothing.



That boy has been bouncing around

since he was two years old.



That's just the path

I've been on, Nanny.



Wherever I'm going,

my baby's going too.



Now what sense

does that make?



You in a stew, so he

got to be in a stew?



Nanny! I won.



Nanny, I won, I won, I won.



- Ma, I won!

- You did?



That's my baby.



Now you go on back in the house

and we'll be in soon.



- Nanny, are you gonna play again?

- Do like your mama said.



Aren't we going

to play one more game?



Why you have to go

and steal, huh, Alean?



- Ruben, don't start with me.

- What is wrong with your head?



You're supposed to be this boy's mother.

You're like a child yourself.



- Don't tell me how to be a mother.

- Go in the house.



I want my son.

You won't be with him anymore.



Go in the house,

get your things.



Ruben, take Junior in the house.



- Come on, Alean!

- Don't you touch...



- You better not touch her!

- You better get right back in your car.



Nanny, I wanna

live here with you.



- Just go on, we'll work it out.

- No! No!



For real, Nanny, I just

wanna live here with you.



It'll be all right, baby.

We'll talk about it.



Ruben? Son?



- Leave us a minute.

- Okay, ma'am.



Come on, Junior.

Come on.



Nanny, you don't know

what I'm going through.



You're right about that.



But I know this:



It's hard on little

black boys out there.



Now that boy

is something special.



Whatever he wants to be, I'm going to see

that he gets that chance.



I can do that

for him, Nanny.



I just wish everybody

would back up off me



and quit trying

to run my life. I'm grown!



Girl, hush!



I done heard enough

and I done weighed in.



Now I'm gonna take Junior

and park him right here



until he finishes school or until

you or his daddy can prove to me



you can take care of him

better than I can.



- We got an understanding?

- Nanny, I...



It ain't about you no more.



When I get myself together,



and I am,



you're gonna have to let him go

because I'm coming to get my baby.



Fair enough.



Nine of hearts.






But I'm gonna be

right there, Nanny.



I ain't going nowhere.



I'm gonna come

pick him up every weekend,



and I'm gonna help you

with his clothes and stuff.



I'm gonna drop you off

some money every week.



Do what you can.



I'll get myself

on my feet by the summer,



then I'll come get him.



I pray for you

every day, Alean,



and I know you can do



whatever you

put your mind to.



Despite all this other mess,



I'm proud of you



for doing the right thing

about this child.






He don't need this life

I'm living right now.



He don't need it.



My mom did come see me

every weekend for a while.



Then I didn't see her

for a long time.



Nanny told me

she had to go away.



Then one Christmas,

I got a big box.



Nanny said, "Look what

your mama sent you!"



It was    years later

that I found out



Nanny had

given it to me.



People used to say,



"   Wasson Avenue ain't

no place to raise a child...



all them fools Nanny

done taken in. "



'Cause see,

all of Nanny's roomers



were ramblers

or drifters of some sort



and they each had

some experience with prison,



mental hospitals, alcohol,

drugs, pimping, gambling,



or church.



And every one of them

had a story to tell.



Hey, Ruben, when I was playing

ball with the Negro league,



we used to travel all over.



There was Ol' Po' Carl,




and King of the Malaprops.



New York City,

now that's the city!



That's the city where they got

the Statue of "Delivery"!



Well, the French

give it to 'em,



deliver her, put her

right there in the harbor.



J., come on now!



I thought Ricky was

the coolest dude living there...



and she was.



Shakey Winfield

and Numb Finger Pete.



- Uh... Nile's the longest.

- Damn!



I told you, you ignoramus!



Shakey was Nanny's

second cousin.



Nanny brought his whole family

up from Virginia.



- That's a big river!

- Numb Finger Pete thought



he was smarter than everybody else

and was quick to bring up the point.



I spent more than a year

at Tougaloo College.



Yeah, what did they teach you?

How to be an ass?



- Pete got drunk and fell in the snow.

- You ain't got no education!



His fingers were frostbitten so bad, they

had to remove all of them,



except his forefinger

and thumb.



- Clean sheets.

- Jimmy Lee and Pauline.



One day they're trying to cut

each other's throats, the next day...



We're in love!



- Hey, Doc.

- That's Freddie Cobbs.



He was the first person I ever

saw signed his name with an "X."



And Mr. Paul.



Uncle Bill told me

he had killed somebody.



Doctor told me

to quit drinking.



He said I had

"roaches" of the liver.



I didn't know whether

to believe him or not,



but I did feel something

kind of moving around in there.



That's Lonnie.



Although he didn't

live at    Wasson,



he was always standing around

outside jangling his keys.



Lonnie, Lonnie, baby?



- Nanny used to say...

- Come on, let's go inside.



- All of him went to Vietnam...

- I've got some cornbread,



nice, hot cornbread.



...but only half of him came back.



That's an E  chord,



one of the first things

you learn about the blues.



Like John Lee Hooker say,



"You don't need to play

but one chord. "



See? This is our story.

This ain't in no history book.



- Mr. Lucius?

- Mm-hmm?



And just like me, they all had a story as to

how they ended up at Nanny's.



How did you

lose your arm?



I was just wondering.



I was courting

this gal named Annie Mae



for more than a year.



And I fully intended

to marry that gal.



One day she told me about

this ole white boy named Joe Tinsley...



who'd been picking with her



and saying things like,



"Well, you're

my little brown sugar. "



Now one day my uncle

gave me this straw hat



he'd brung back

from Cincinnati,



because he know

I love me some hats.



I put that hat on,

shined my shoes,



got my gal,

and we strut to church.



And on the way back home,

up comes Joe Tinsley



with his horse and buggy...



and he said something.



I act like I don't hear him.



So he stepped down and he

slapped my hat off my head.



- He slapped you?

- Mm-hmm.



Did you

hit him back?



Annie Mae was

holding on to my arm,




"It's okay, Lucius. It's okay. "



Joe Tinsley climbed

back up on his perch,



and said,

"You girls have a nice day. "



Haul them.



And when I dropped Annie Mae off,

I just kept right on walking,



picking up a tree branch

along the way.



He was sitting

on the porch,




a jar of lemonade.



But he saw me

stepping up to him,



opened his mouth up

to speak,



and I slapped him upside his head

with that piece of lumber,



just like you would a hog.



When his body

hit the ground,



seemed like he wanted

to get back up, but I...



I hit him again...



and again.



Then I just walked away.



I didn't run, Junior,

I walked.



Now I took and put

some turpentine on my shoes



so the dogs

couldn't follow me,



and I took off

for the swamp.



I didn't sleep

for two days.



I was so tired.



And I dozed off finally,



and I woke up to this

sharp pinch in my arm,



and then I see

this snake squirm off.



So I pulled out

my case knife,



and I try to open up

the spot,



so the venom could ease out

with the blood and the puss.



But it started

swelling and bleeding,



so I stuck it in there again

until I hit bone.



I packed it

with mud and leaves,



and I kept on going.



Through the grace of God,



I got outta that swamp.



I got to Augusta, Georgia

where this colored doctor



told me I was

lucky to be alive,



but he had to take

that arm.



Come here.



When I came up north, that's when

I first heard about Miss Rachel,



that she had given

so many people a start.



When we met she asked me,

"What happened to your arm?"



I said, "I was defending

this lady's honor. "



Then she said...



"I'm just gonna

tell you right now,



just in case

you ever wonder,



I can handle

my own honor...



so your other arm

is safe. "



Now when folks got North,



Nanny would

find them jobs,



and if they

didn't have nothing,



she provided food,

shelter, clothing.



Nanny was

like the government,



if it really worked.



And she didn't just wait

for folks to come to her.



Mr. Taylor?



Mr. Taylor?



Oh! Miss Rae!



- How are you doing, huh?

- I'm fine, thank you, Mr. Taylor.



- How are you doing?

- Just fair to middling, ma'am.



- Just fair to middling.

- This here is my son Ruben.



He was a tall man with

a barrel chest and one leg.



I bet you're smart too, huh?

What's the matter?



You ain't never seen

a one-legged man before?



And with that tongue darting

in and out of his mouth,



- he looked like a giant Negro iguana.

- Huh?



Then watch this...



- Whoo!

- Whoa!



Now are you gonna stand there

and watch a one-legged man



throw a rock further

than you?



Try it.






Now, I don't allow no wild women

in and out of my place.



I don't do no cavorting,

no gallivanting



with none of these wild

and crazy women out there.



And your rent is due on time,

$   a week, room and board.



And when my rent come,

you know, I'll pay you in advance.



In fact...



I got me $    saved up.

You can have any part of that, ma'am.



No, Mr. Taylor.

You keep your money.



And you've got

to take your medication.



You ain't got no problems out of me.

I don't bother nobody,



I stick to myself, and take my medicine just

the way it says on the bottle.



Now, Miss Rae,

as long as I've known you,



you've been like a rock to all

the peoples that come to you in need.









I'm in need.



I'm just asking

for a chance.



And that's how we all

ended up at Nanny's.



Now there wasn't

a person dead or alive



who hadn't asked Nanny



"What are you

doing with Bill?"



But Nanny told me,

"Sometimes a man and a woman



have an understanding

that no one else understands,



not even their own selves. "



- Yeah!



All right, Ricky Girl!



- Yo, big one, girl!

- Girlie-girl.



Y'all know that's awful!



You all see them Negroes walking

around shouting, "Black Power"?



- The Black Panthers?

- Mm-hmm.



Hair as nappy as can be.



I need to get them up

in my chair!



I got all the black power

they need right in this hot comb.



- Yeah.

- I like their hair natural like that.



- I might get me one.

- What?



What's wrong with that?



- You don't like to use this?

- No, too heavy.



It makes me feel trapped.



Here's your sandwich, baby.

Now when we go out tonight,



Mr. Paul's gonna be here



- in case you need anything.

- Okay, Mama.



- Are you all right, Mr. Taylor?

- Yes, ma'am.



- Ow! Ouch!

- Pauline, I'm sorry.



You're gonna have me going to the party

all burnt up around the forehead!



Well, you can't be

fidgeting like that.



Pauline don't scream like that when Jimmy

Lee be going upside her head.



She'll be right out

by Maxie's for him tonight.



- Huh-uh, I'm going with Nanny.

- Yes, indeed.



The ladies are gonna

show out tonight!



Bertha, you know you're always

welcome to come along with us.



Uh, let me check

with Jabble



'cause you know

how I loves my piece of man.



Maybe we outta take

all these piece of mens



we got together

and make one whole man



and spread him around.



I know that's right, Nanny!



Y'all are over there laughing,



but Rae knows she ain't

going nowhere without me.



She's going to sit right there

till I say, "Come on. "






- Nanny did you hear that?

- I see his lips flapping,



and I don't feel

nothing but a breeze.



Okay, well, if that's the case,



maybe I'll go out and get myself

a new girlfriend then.



- Ooh!

- And when you're all through,



why don't you bring her

back here so she can help me



do some of this work

around here?



- What makes your big head so hard?

- My!



At Maxie's Bar and Grill,



the '  s dance

was the event of the year!



Everybody would show out to party

and reminisce about its heyday



when Billy Extine, Billie Holiday,

Lionel Hampton,



and Hot Lips Page

would perform.



They would laugh

about that night



that Wynonie Harris

got drunk and fell off the barstool,



or talk about that day that

Malcolm X stood out in front,



admonishing the liquor and gambling

that was always flowing inside.



It didn't matter how you were

dressed from the ankle up



because it was the shoes

that made you sharp.



- Yeah!



- Yeah!



- What makes your big head so hard?

- My!






And when folks weren't dancing,

they were dining



on Maxie's famous fish sandwich with

the special sauce and wilted lettuce.



They cook the lettuce

on these sandwiches.



Huh-uh, when they put the cold lettuce

on the hot fish, it's cooked.



No, the sauce is hot

and when they put that on there,



it wilts the lettuce.



And they were all there:



Sucking Finger Willie,

Buffalo Shorty,



Bo Jack, Big Wheel,



Pepper Red

and Dick Barrymore.



You know, my mama told me to leave

Caldonia alone, that's what she told me.



She said, "Son, leave that woman alone.

She ain't no good.



- Don't bother her. "

- Nanny, are you in?



But Mama didn't know

what Caldonia was hunting down.



I think I'm gonna let mine

ride on Dick Barrymore.



I'm going by Caldonia's house

to ask her



just one more time.






- Yeah!



- Yeah!



- What makes your big head so hard?

- My!






Thank you so much,

ladies and gentlemen.



Thank you.



While they were at Maxie's

listening to jump blues,



the blues I was hearing had

a whole different kind of sound.



There were a lot of things

happening in     .



That's the year

I was born.



- You know who that is?

- No.



That's Nat King Cole,



one of the world's

greatest song stylists.



That's the night that he performed

in front of an all-white audience



and a mob attacked him.

See, he was black,



you know, black and shiny

and his hair



was always perfect,



not a strand

out of place.



Those white folks jumped

on that stage that night,



and old Nat King Cole

jumped the hell off.



His hair was

messed up that night.



Talk about getting

your kicks on Route   .



He got his kicks the hell

out of there that night.



When did you say Jimmy Lee

and Bill are gonna get here?



- I ain't studding Bill.

- Tell her. Ain't waiting for no man.



- Bertha, are we on?

- Come on, Bertha.



Come on, Pauline.



- I brought you your winnings.



- So, how've you been?

- Well, Miss Rachel,



I'm still vertical.



Now I know you're gonna

let me have one dance



before my bunions start

hurting in these Stetsons.



Damn Bill!



Girl, you and me, we go all the way back to

Farmville, Virginia.



In that same year,

they enforced



the Supreme Court decision



on mandatory segregation.

Everything's equal.



You can go

anywhere you want to.



My brother thought that...



and he got into a scuffle

with a white fella.



He ended up

breaking the guy's arm.



They took him to jail

and to court.



The judge says, "Second time

you hurt a white guy this year. "



My brother says, "I don't understand, Your

Honor. What you mean?"



He says, "The first time you hurt

a white man, you told him to go to hell.



You hurt his feelings.

Now you're breaking this guy's arm.



Two white men

you hurt in one year.



That's    years. "



You understand what

I'm saying to you?



You can't go around hurting

white folks in any form or fashion,



even if you're white.

Hey, ask John Brown.



That's history, son.

You look it up.



You better do it, Shakey!



- Jimmy!

- Hey, baby.



The Dodgers played the Yankees

in the World Series.



A lot of people say

I sound like Jack Robinson.



I always admired

him because he sounded bla...






I spent    years in jail



learning how

to sound... American.



All right now.

All right now.



All right!



Are you gonna sit down at the table

and have a drink with us?



Well, I gotta go back and finish

taking these fools' money,



but I'll be back to wet my whistle

in a bit, if the offer's still good.



- You know it is.

- All right.



Hey, Lackawanna!

Are you having fun tonight?



Well, all right.



Those two are about

to work my last nerve.



But Ricky do look good

in that suit.



Welcome to the stage

Mr. Otis McClanahan.



Lord have mercy.



You better give it up!



Come on now, please!



That boy on that ax, mm!






it was just

one of those years.



I had a gal...



that I was... in...



The hell with it,

I wrote a poem...



about it that can probably

tell it better than I can.



"Oh I loved,

loved that woman."



"When I'm with her,

I felt like a king."



- "When I'm with that woman,"



"I didn't need

a doggone thing.



Oh, Lord,



I went down to that

woman's house...



and knock, knock

on her door."



"She had the nerve to tell me

she didn't want me no more.



Oh, Lord."



Mmm, Lordy, Lordy,

Lord have mercy.



"As I walk away,

my heart in my hand,



I had the strangest feeling

she was with another man."



"I had the strangest feeling

she was with another man."



"I kicked down

that woman's door.



She was naked,

holding that man,



making love on the floor.



I lost my mind

for a time, Oh Lord.



I grabbed

that butcher knife.



He jumped up

in my face and I swung.



I swang

that butcher knife.



I dug it into his body.



I pulled it out.



I dug it in.



I pulled it out.



Oh, oh, Lord.



There was blood,



blood on my hands,

and there was blood,



blood on my face,



blood on the walls,

blood all over the place.



When I had finished

swinging that knife,



I had taken...



his... and her...



- life."



Otis McClanahan,

"Life stories." The blues.



Get off of him!

Damn it.



One, two, three!



- You want some of Jimmy Lee?

- You got to bring some to get some!



Bring it on, girl!

Come on!



- Bring it on, baby.

- Don't get that, girl!



Jimmy Lee!



I heard them fools

cut each other's throats.



I got drunk and fell asleep

at my sister Louise's house.



I'm gonna get me

a couple of hours of sleep



and me and Doc, we're going

fishing in the morning.



You can't hurt me

no more, Bill.



What, I can't go

to my sister's house?



I was looking for you

to show up at Maxie's tonight.



You're the one told me

you ain't need me for nothing.



That's a good thing



'cause when I do need you

for me... for me, Bill,



- you ain't nowhere to be found.

- Woman, what you talking about?



But you can't hurt me

no more. I'm numb.



Sometimes I look at you,

don't even see you.



You touch me

and I don't feel you.



But I can smell you

and I know I'm alive.



That stench ain't just some

other woman's cheap perfume,



it's your soul, Bill.



Your rotten soul!



- Morning.

- Morning.



- What happened to you?

- I had an accident.



What happened to her?



- Morning.

- Morning.



Doc, look what I got you.



Wow, a new fishing pole!



That ain't just no fishing pole,

that's a Zebco!



Come on if you're going.

They'll be done cut off the fish



if we don't get there soon.



- Take your sweater.

- Thanks.



Let's go! Boy, we're gonna

have ourselves a day!



Hello? Oh...



Nanny, it's Junior, collect.









Where're you at?



Where's Bill?



Say what?



- What happened?

- What do you mean?



You left here to go fishing with Bill and you

come back shivering to death.



I wanna know what happened.






Uncle Bill and I left



and he had to make a stop.



- Morning, sweetheart!

- What kind of stop?



- Just a stop.

- Then what?



Duke and I decided

to go swimming.



Here I come, Duke!



- Where was Bill?

- Huh?



Where was Bill?



- Busy.

- Then what?



We finished

swimming and...



Doc, what do we got?



- Boy, where are your clothes?

- I tell him I can't find them.



- What do you mean you can't find them?

- Then he starts yelling.



Where're the reels? Boy, that's

$    worth of good fishing gear,



you didn't watch them?

What else you have to do?



- He kept on yelling.

- Don't talk to that child like that!



Shut up. You don't know

nothing about this.



You find them reels and call me,

or you find another way home.



Bill, you just can't

leave this child!



I'll leave you!



Give me some

of that soup, woman.



If you ever mistreat

this child again,



man, I will blow

the back of your head off.



- You ain't the only one who got a gun.

- I ain't gonna say it no more.



I don't care. You can say it

as many times as you want to.



You could go pull out that

old gun of yours if you want,



- but I tell you, be ready to use it.

- I know the rules, Bill.



I'm supposed to be scared now?

Is that what I'm supposed to be?



I ain't no playtoy.



Better off going bear hunting

with a toothpick



than messing around

with me, huh?



Blow the back

of my head off. Shit.



- Nanny?

- Mm-hmm?



I'm not gonna be

Uncle Bill's friend no more.



Uncle Bill loves you.



He just...



He just act

the fool sometimes.



Bill knows he did something

silly and hurt you.



Nanny, I'm mad

so you should be mad too.



Child, I done had my share

of kicking ass,



kicking down doors, breaking out

windows, and acting the fool,



but that

didn't suit me.



I'm a lady and I'm

gonna conduct myself as such.



But I ain't no lady and when Uncle Bill

hurts you, I want to hurt him back.



Sometimes I hate him.



I don't ever want to hear

that word out of you. You hear me?



I done had to deal

with that poison my whole life.



It's all right

to be upset,



but not hate.



Now I know you're just

trying to help Nanny,



and I thank you.



But I've been taking care of myself

for   -some odd years just fine,



and ain't had to hate,

nor hurt nobody to do it.



Now, you know Uncle Bill

loves you, right?



- Mm-hmm.

- Mm-hmm.



Are you gonna

give him another chance?



I'll tell you something,



if he do something else,



I'll hold him down

and you slap him!



After you blow

the back of his head off.



Oh, Lord!

You go to sleep, boy.



- Good night.

- Good night, Nanny.



Things between Nanny and Bill

were calm after that.



But everything came to a head the day

the social worker showed up.






Don't give me that shit!



- I'm gonna learn you something.

- Go to hell with it.



I was in World War II

when your black ass



was still in Alabama

picking cotton.



Fought for my country,

stood on the front line



with bullets

whizzing by my head.



Don't tell me shit!

Come here, Doc, read it.



- Tell him what it says right there.

- "The United States Army     .



Corporal Fred J. Cobbs,

honorable discharge."



- Shit!

- Did you hear him?



Did you hear him, ass?



That piece of paper

don't mean a damn thing!



You still wasn't nothing.




They ain't let you have no gun!



I knowed my job.



And I did my job.



Stacking bodies.



I was stacking them

one on top of the other,



just like you would

a   -pound sack of potato.



Freddie, I got some

people here to see...



So I could take them and bury them

with some kind of dignity!



Something they couldn't get

over here and I'll be damned



if they weren't gonna

get it over there! I'm a man!



- Freddie!

- And I buried men



and I watched, they're

standing right there grinning.



No, they ain't give me

no gun to shoot at them,



but that ain't stop them

from shooting at me.



So don't you...



What on earth is going on?



How far did you go

in school, Mrs. Crosby?



Well, I had to start working

after my mama passed.



So... I went

to third grade, but...



Bill here, he went

all the way to sixth grade.






I've been looking after

children my whole life,



whether family

or somebody else's.



Junior is closer to me

than my own family.



Ruben, do you mind

if we ask you a few questions?



If you want to.



- You have excellent grades.

- Thank you.



Excuse me, would you like

something to drink?



No, we're fine, thanks.



- Do you like living here, Ruben?

- I love being with Nanny.



But are you happy here?



- Shh, quiet!

- Mrs. Carmichael asked you a question.



I have a lot of fun here.

Everybody is my friend.



They teach me stuff.

Sometimes I teach them stuff.



- Stuff? Like what?

- Like how to play Pokeno,



and the harmonica,

and history stuff too.



Like about

the Negro Leagues,



or like when the white people

beat up Nat King Cole.



Would you like to live

in a regular house?



- What regular?

- You know, a regular old family,



with a big yard

and a garage...



We have a yard

and Uncle Bill has a garage.



Think you'd like to look at

some of these other places?



No thank you.



- I'm happy here with Nanny.

- Doesn't hurt to take a look, Ruben.



- All right, come on.

- I beg your pardon?



- Let's go.

- Bill.



- Let's go, I say!

- Bill.



- Mr. Crosby, we're just...

- Get your ass outta here!



- Move!

- I'm sorry.



Bill gets a little wound up.



We'll definitely talk to you,

Mrs. Crosby.



They must be crazy

talking to Junior like that.



They ain't taking

that child nowhere.



See, that's what's

wrong with your brain.



They're liable to come back

and snatch him up



- 'cause they think you're crazy.

- No, that's why



they ain't coming back,

'cause they know I am!



And before I let them

take my best buddy out of here,



they're gonna have to

take me outta of here first.



'Cause we got

some more fish to catch.



Right, Doc?



I never heard any more talk



about me moving away

ever again.



I guess it's just

like Nanny said...



sometimes a man and a woman

have an understanding



that no one else




Nanny gave every drop

of herself to people.



Outstretched arms

reaching for her,



expecting Nanny to put

a stop to their fall.



Who knock?



Who knock, I say?



Nanny, it's Laura.



Laura, what you doing with them babies

out here this time of night?



- Mom.

- Come on.



You're gonna

catch your death.



Come on.



My biggest fear was that Nanny

would give all of herself away...



Let me look at you.



...there wouldn't be

anything left for her.



Let me see.



Come on, baby.

Let me see.



Lord, have mercy.



Jesse keeps

beating on me, Nanny.



I can't take it anymore.



He slapped me

with the back of his hand.



- I'm a mess.

- Here.



Put this ice

on your mouth.



- Want me to take you to the hospital?

- No.



Well, I could make a bed

for the kids right here on the couch,



and y'all can just

stay right on up here with me.



He'll come looking for us tomorrow,

Nanny. He knows I'll come here.



You let me

take care of that, hmm?



You just hush and keep

that ice on your mouth.



Your babies have got

to get some sleep.



- Nanny, what's wrong?

- Get back in bed, boy.



- But what's wrong, Nanny?

- You hear what I say?



Go on, get back in bed.

Go on now.



I'm just so tired

of this, Nanny.



L-I can't...



- I can't.

- I know.



Nanny got you. Come on.



Come on,

let it out.



It's gonna

be all right.



That's some pretty catfish.

That's a pretty catfish there.



Oh wow!



Junior, skin the catfish.



Snapping peas,



now these idiosyncrasies

are strictly Negro custom...



Man, go on away from here

with that silly talk.



- "Go on away"?

- Go on away.



- I live here.

- Go on away.



"Go on away"? That isn't even

a proper sentence.



See? I spent

more than a year at...



- "Boogaboo" College.

- Tougaloo College.



I'm not afraid

of my education!



I understand the psychological

workings of animosity.



Shakespeare called envy...



the green-eyed monster.






Nanny! Nanny!



Ryan and Crystal's

dad just...



Miss Rachel,

I come for my family.



Sit down, boy.

Are you hungry?



I don't need

to sit down, Miss Rachel.



Just tell Laura

I said to come home.



I got a fresh pot of neck-bones

back here and some...



Where's she at?!



Wherever she at,



you're gonna have to go

through me to get to her.



Now go on,

knock me down.



Go on.



If that's the only way

you know how to do things,



knock Nanny down,

'cause I can handle it.



I ain't got no beef

with you, Miss Rachel.



With all due respect, you all up in-between

me and mine.



No, what I'm up between,



is right and wrong.



Now when that gal

come up in here



in the middle of the night,




with her babies in tow,



blood all over

her swoll-up mouth,



I was there for her

and I ain't gonna turn back now.



So if you wanna give me

a dose of what you give her,



bring it on



'cause if you ever

touch that child again,






we gonna dance.



Now, when she's ready,



she'll call you.



I'll tell her

you was here.



Laura decided she didn't

want to go another round



with the Golden Gloves champ.



So that winter, Nanny huddled them

all in her Lincoln



and took them to Toronto

to be with Laura's mother.



And of course, Nanny took me

along for the ride.



I was nervous

the whole way thinking,



"Man, Nanny don't know how to act

in front of no rich white folk."



- Tea?

- Yes, thank you.



Thank you for saving

my daughter's life.



Anybody would have

done the same.



Young man?



You got

a cold Pepsi cola?



Tea. Yes, thank you.



Miss Rachel,

I understand



that you're the mother

of the community,



always an open hand,

and an open heart.



Thank you.






These are delicious and you

don't skimp on the butter.









These cookies are delicious

with lots of butter.



Come on, I'll give you

my secret recipe.



It was almost like

a fairy tale.



Laura's mother

treated us like royalty.



It was the first time

that I thought about



how tired Nanny

must really be.



And I couldn't help but think,

"In a couple of hours,



Nanny's gonna be right back

in the middle of whiskey and piss,



vomit and blood,



madness and mayhem.



They gonna give me

my goddamn keys!



They're mine and I want them.

I ain't afraid of no Viet Cong.



They're gonna give me my keys

or they're gonna have to kill me.



- What's the matter, child?

- Oh my God, he lost his mind!



Nanny, I'm gonna

call Bill.



I'm gonna

go get his sister!



Revolution is

your every action.




is your every word.



They gonna give me

my goddamn keys!



Damn it, boy!

I'm gonna call the police!



Shakey, let me talk to him!



No, I ain't gonna

leave you in here with him!



Go, I say go!



- Nanny, go on!

- V.C.'s got my goddamn keys!



I want my goddamn keys.



Baby, now come on. Sit on down.

Them beans are almost ready.



They're gonna have to give me it

or I'm gonna have to kill somebody!






I want my goddamn keys!







revolution or war...



There go your keys.



Okay, now sit on down, huh?



Sit down, now, and they'll

shut up all that noise.



Here, come on.

Sit down.



Eat that cornbread

till them beans warm up.



Hey, baby brother.



- Are you all right, Nanny?

- I'm all right, baby.









- Son of a bitch!

- Bill!



Are you all right, woman?



I'm all right, Bill.

I'm all right.



- Nanny?

- Hmm?



Do you ever get

afraid of death?



Death is your friend.



When this long

hard journey is over,



and I'm too tired to go on,

Death will say, "I understand."



Then there'll be no more

trouble, no more pain.



How long have you been

taking care of people, Nanny?



Since I was a child.



There's always been a part of me

that wanted to try to fix things...



and people, try to make them

feel whole again.



- That's why you got this rooming house?

- Not exactly.



That just kinda

come to me.



I was working out at Woodlawn

for this white couple...



had two beautiful boys.



On Saturday before my day off,

I'd bake cakes and pies



so they'd have some sweets

after their Sunday dinner.



The lady of the house

was so impressed, she said,



"Rachel, you don't have to do this.

You could be home.



This is so nice!"



I said, "Well, I'm just

looking out for my boys."



Then she told me

if I was gonna make cakes,



I had to make one

to take home to my family.



Well, one Saturday...



I'll never forget it.



She lit into me.



"Where're you going

with that cake?!



I can't afford

to feed you



and your whole family

every week!"



Then she stormed off

one way,



and I dropped

that cake on the table



and stormed off

the other.



On my drive home, there was

so much turmoil inside of me.



I could... I could

still feel the warmth



from the goodbye hug

them boys give me,



and I held on to it



'cause I knew that'd be the last hug

they was ever gonna give me,



'cause from that day forward,

I was gonna be my own boss.



And that I was.



Bought me a little place

on Simon Avenue.



The place had

five bedrooms.



I rented four of those out,

took my car,



started a little shuttle.

That lead to a cab stand.



Then I got this place here.



That made two roomin'-houses,

a cab stand, and a restaurant.



God has truly blessed

this little ol' gal



from a tobacco farm

in Virginia.



- Why didn't you ever had any kids?

- Oh, I had 'em.



- I had a little girl.

- You did?






With my first husband

Dick Johnson.






She was my heart.



I named her Lillian.



But God took her

early on.



She wasn't no more than

three years old.



Had a bout

with that pneumonia.



- You never talked about her, Nanny.

- No.



That was

the hardest thing



I ever had to face

in my life.



You know, they say



God don't make

no mistakes.



I know one thing:



It took me a long time to get on speaking

terms with God after that.



But, you know,

then I came to realize



that even though

God took that one



that was

so special for me...



He filled my life up

with so many others.



But most of all...



most of all,



He give me you.



Now get back

on that job, mister.



Don't wanna leave

them kitchens undone.



When Nanny first took me in,



she made a vow

to see me through school.



Little did I know

that going into one world



would signal

the end of another.



My father went

to have a simple bypass



and never made it

out of the recovery room.



He had always

been there for me.



Alean was still

battling her demons.



When it finally looked like

she might be winning,



she was gunned down

in a drive-by and killed.



My sophomore year, Nanny was

diagnosed with breast cancer.



When Death came by

to visit Nanny,



she told him,

"God ain't done with me yet,



so move on

down the line."



Stay on the speed limit.



The year I graduated, we found out

that Uncle Bill had lung cancer.



Within six months,

he was gone.



Businesses all up and down

Wasson Avenue started closing down,



'cause for every door

integration opened,



it meant the closing

of another in the community.




The Flame, The Rim...



the vibrant world

of Lackawanna I'd always known,



started to fade away.



Come on.






Thank you, sir.



That's fine indeed.



Fine indeed.



- Come on, Nanny.

- Mm-hmm.



We better get you home.

You know they're waiting on you.



- All right.

- I'll get you over there soon.



Probably start

marching over here for you.



Yeah, come on, come on.



- Let me get your cards here.

- All right.



Here she come!



- I want some tea.

- I'll get you some tea.






Y'all trying to give me

another heart attack?



- How're you doing, Nanny?

- Hey, baby.



- Nanny, you look good.

- Thank you.



Welcome back

to your palace, madam.



Told y'all

she was coming home.



Where else was I gonna go?



Anybody check on

Miss Francis lately?






Oh Lord...



Boy, you know who

I'm talking to.



Uh, uh... Junior,

come here.



Stop by there

and take her a plate.



Pauline, Miss Madeleine,

her wake tomorrow, ain't it?



- Mm-hmm.

- So while you're out there...



Nanny, you can't

take care of these people.



- You're sick yourself.

- Baby, go and do what I ask you.



I'm all right.

This is what I do.



- Hmm? Go on now.

- Yes, Mama.



Ooh, Pauline what you got

over there smelling so good?






I know how you like

the chicken and dumplings,



- so I got that.

- Mm-hmm.



- And I fried up some porgies.

- Ooh...



I got us some greens

and some turnips, and some mustards,



and some macaroni and cheese,

and for dessert,



- your favorite!

- It is.



Coconut layer cake!



Girl, you done

outdone yourself, baby.



I'm gonna go check on

something in the kitchen...



- Mother.

- Yes, baby.



- Come here.

- What?



Thank you.



Thank you.



Thank you.



Thank you, Nanny.



Thank you, Nanny.



Thank you.



To take fragments

and make them whole,



that's what Nanny did.



Piecing together,

pulling together



a community.



The people of    Wasson Avenue

wanted me to have more,



amount to more

than they did.



So they gave me

that bit of themselves



that they felt was their best.



And the blues I heard

and the stories they told



will live

inside of me forever.



Lord, have mercy.

Special help by SergeiK