New York City hadn’t appeared yet.
On the surface, no one appeared to be worried. New Yorkers were busy enough without wondering what their City was up to. The US was a fairly new country, and Cities took time to shape and grow into personalities of their own.
That was the official story anyway.
Governers and senators were quick to dismiss the fact that, actually, New York was older than the US, and shouldn’t they at least have some inkling of what’s going on? Others began to mutter about Paris. The two nations were close, they’d even let the French build a monument in this city, maybe somehow their influence had leaked over. New Yorkers were proud and tough- but they didn’t want to be Cityless. That only happened to unimportant little places, not like here surely? Surely they’d done enough to be noticed? Even Paris had existed at one point, though no one was quite sure what happened to him.
Washington D.C kept tight lipped, the hypocrite. Austin fiddled with his fingers. Chicago, the white city, smiled lipstick-sweet, like she knew something they didn’t.
Because they did know. They knew their brother existed.
And they knew that the humans were covering it up.
And they knew they wouldn’t be able to do it forever.
Because every few years New York City walked into the governer’s office and introduced himself, and was promptly ignored, or insulted, or even laughed at before being told to leave. He wasn’t allowed here.
After all, the sign on the door was clear:
“No coloured people”.
It was March 1968.
A great man had a dream, and fell.
And America screamed.
Riots flooded the streets. Blood splattered on government steps and men in power were left cowering as the voice of the people battered their windows and called their brothers to arms because if you don’t let us dream we won’t let you sleep.
In the streets of New York, there was a cop called Jones. He was new to the job and nervous and the crowd was roaring like an animal let off its leash. He’d forgotten his gloves, his hands were sweaty around the gun and his finger just…slipped.
The shot sent the crowd scattering, bellowing, screeching. It hurt, it hurt all of them and they weren’t sure why.
Another black man fell.
But this one didn’t die. An eerie silence fell over the crowd, the pedestrians, those watching from the streets and the windows of their offices, because they all felt it. The jolt inside their chests, like a pain so sweet it took away their breaths. Trains ran underneath their feet and cars hooted in the distance and the heartbeat of New York still thrummed inside of them, despite the blood that now spread across the sidewalk.
The black man stood.
They watched him. Watched his sad, old eyes. Watched the shirt sleeve slip back to reveal that terrible brand on his shoulder. Watched the blood fade as the wound healed because everyone knew only fire could finish him.
New York City stood.
He looked back at them, the silent, the oppressed, the ignorant. The tired, the poor, the huddled masses who had come to him and who he welcomed. They followed him to the centre and for once all of New York city was silent as they watched him stand on the roof of a yellow cab and slowly raise his fist into the air.
“And now you will listen,” he said, with the cries of a thousand slaves inside. “Because now, we have a voice.”
(Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last)