Study Guide

One Crazy Summer Friendship

By Rita Williams-Garcia

Friendship

The snappy N**** lady had been nice enough to smile but hadn't returned the look that Big Ma expected—and Big Ma had expected the look N**** people silently pass each other. She'd expected this stranger to say, as if she were a neighbor, "They're as good as my own. I'll make sure they don't misbehave or be an embarrassment to the N**** race." (1.23)

Big Ma automatically assumes that the other black lady on the plane is her ally. This is partly about race, but it's more about the sense of kinship she expects from people who have something in common with her. Delphine knows her grandma would be crushed if the lady didn't see this whole community-of-friends thing the same way, so she doesn't mention it when the woman just forgets about them.

Instead of going to the first cab in the line, Cecile ducked her head and searched every other cab. (3.41)

Cecile is looking for a cab driver with a black beret. That's how she'll know that he's a Black Panther, a.k.a. one of her buddies. Delphine doesn't really understand this… yet.

Then each of them firing off:

"The people..."

"The people..."

"The people..."

Against her:

"My art."

"My work."

"My time. My materials. My printing press."

"Me. My. No. No." (7.14-22)

It turns out Cecile isn't interested in helping out the Black Power movement with her printing press. Sure, she'll make a donation, and she'll write poetry and support the black berets all day long. But there are some things she's not willing to part with, and one of those things is her printing press.

"Like Huey said, 'We should all carry the weight, and those who have extreme abilities will have to carry extremely heavy loads.'" (7.28)

We're not talking about weight lifting here; we're talking about the idea that everyone in a community has to support each other. Some contribute by counting newspapers or coloring in signs, while others host a rally. As long as each person does his or her part, the community can thrive.

I felt silly and wrong calling a grown person Brother So-and-So or Sister Such-and-Such, but thanks to Cecile, we now had brothers and sisters we had never before laid eyes on. (11.2)

There are many things about the Center that makes Delphine squeamish—she's not used to talking about race or identity in the way people do at the Center. This doesn't stop her from trying, though. She realizes that if she wants to be a part of the community, she'll have to act like them.

Sister Mukumbu announced, "Today we're going to be like the earth, spinning around and affecting many. Today we're going to think about our part in the revolution" (11.22).

Check out that phrase, "our part in the revolution." Sister Mukumbu teaches the kids about how a community works. You can't get progress alone. If everyone works together, change might actually happen. If that's not friendship taken to an epic level, we don't know what is.

Sister Mukumbu was right there and ended it before into anything to stop. She reminded us we had greater causes to fight for than to fight with each other (14.30).

Let's face it: Kids bicker and argue from time to time (or all the time), so it's only natural that the kids at the Center pull each other's hair and don't want to share with each other, too. Sister Mukumbu is always on hand, ready with a reminder that no one can be selfish in a community. Sometimes friendships are formed based on shared interests, but at the Center, they're formed based on shared goals.

Sister Mukumbu said, "We look out for each other. The rally is one way of looking out for all of our sisters. All of our brothers. Unity, Sister Delphine. We have to stand united." (20.54)

Sister Mukumbu is full of wisdom about sticking together. Even though Delphine doesn't want to go to the rally because she fears it might be dangerous, she's warned about the benefit to the community. The group being united is more important than anything else.

Mrs. Woods said, "We know the same things. We have to stick together." (27.28)

Again we see acts of friendship playing out within the Black Panther community. Hirohito's mom puts the girls up while Cecile is in jail because that's what the members of this community do for each other—they help out.

I had been keeping a list of the east-west no sayers and put Safeway at the very top of it. My sisters, Cecile, and I would eat egg rolls, white rice, bean pies, and fried fish before we spent another penny in the stores of the no sayers. (28.21)

Even though Delphine has been buying groceries at Safeway every day for the past month, the owner won't help her out. Sure, the guy is willing to take Delphine's cash, but when it comes to returning the favor, he doesn't want to get involved.