My love for Disneyland goes back to 1975. That wasn't the first time I'd ever been there. I have a very slight memory of riding a church bus from San Francisco to Disneyland with my mother and sister when I was a very small child of probably about six years old. I remember that trip because the rundown hotel we stayed in had roaches crawling around everywhere, just like the building we lived in. I remember taking that in as evidence that roaches existed everywhere and must be the guardians of the universe. That's all I can recall from that trip. As mentioned, the first Disneyland trip I actually remember was the one in 1975 when my mother, father, sister, and I drove from S.F. to Disneyland in a rental car. I remember my father's excitement at being able to rent a car and a hotel room. I was undeterred when we arrived at the hotel at 6am, after driving all night, just to be told there were no rooms available. I was so excited I was unable to sleep during the all night ride. Back in those days most people used Highway 101 which took hours longer than interstate 5 today. Of course I knew nothing about hotel reservations, but I knew my mother had made one because I heard her and my father talking about it for weeks. They had planned this vacation for months and the reservation had been made months in advance. Today, I understand our family was racially profiled at 6am at that hotel that morning, but my parents didn't hesitate in finding us another hotel room at the Howard Johnsons close to the Disney theme park. I remember seeing the big Disney sign. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I still remember its image that first time I saw it. I also still remember how the European (white) people at that Howard Johnson's stared at us so much it became a joke between the four of us. In those days, Anaheim was a high priced European enclave like all of Orange County at that time. At least that's how it felt to me at 13 years old. I had just learned how to swim that summer at the Boys Club on Page Street in S.F. so I didn't waste any time hitting the pool at the hotel to show off my newly acquired skills. There was a European man there who started talking to me and my sister. She didn't swim. She still doesn't. She just sat by the pool throwing insults at me. I didn't mind. That's how we related to each other. And, besides, I was at Disneyland. I was too oblivious to comprehend anything beyond this seemingly "nice" man spending time with my adult attention starved self. That's why I didn't understand why my mother, never one to hold her tongue, went completely off on the man for telling her that we were "different" when she came out to check on us and questioned him as to why he was talking to us. I understand now that his point, whether he knew it or not, was that my sister and I, as polite and articulate as we were, seemed different to him than what he probably envisioned in young African people. I know my mother let him have it for that.
You probably wonder why I would love Disneyland if all that happened were those types of incidents. That wasn't all that happened. I just feel its important to always remember that no matter what we do in this society, we are always confronted with white supremacy and oppression. I did definitely have overwhelmingly positive memories of that trip, the only one our family ever made together. I remember my father, who rarely said much of anything to me, always telling my mother and others that he was a strong swimmer. As I was learning to swim at the Boy's Club, he did mention once that he never swam in swimming pools because there were no pools for African people in his native Streveport, Louisiana, U.S. He talked about how he learned to swim in rivers and the other assorted wild waterways in rural Louisiana. So the one day he joined me in the Howard Johnson swimming pool I recall his joke that as we went in, the white people would go out. He was right. I also remember him being the most crisp swimmer I had ever seen in my life before and/or since. Nary a ripple of water moved when he stroked the water comparable to me, where water went everywhere with every move I made. He was as graceful as an Olympic swimmer. Maybe, had it not been for Jim Crow segregation, possibly he could have been one? I thought about that a lot after that day. Still, him spending that 20 minutes with me was the first time I remember us ever being able to spend time together and having fun doing it. Other than the time he came to watch me play baseball my senior year in high school in S.F. and I smashed a double over everyone's head at "Big Rec" diamond in Golden Gate park. I heard him scream out when I didn't know he was even there. That baseball game and that day in Howard Johnson swimming pool were the only two times I can remember us enjoying a father/son moment together. Maybe that can help you understand why I love Disneyland and baseball to this day.
Also, once we made it to the theme park I remember riding the Tinkerbell ride with my mother and if I'm able, I'll ride that ride when I go there next week and I'll probably start crying when I do it because that was about the only time I enjoyed that type of moment with her ever. The absolute best Disneyland moment came at night. You see, back in those days, Disneyland always had concerts on Friday night. I remember because my parents picked the days we would go based on wanting to catch the Del Phonics concert. I was a little freaked out by the Del Phonics myself because they sang that song "Didn't I Blow Your Mind" and that song, with its unique synthesizers, was popular right at the time George Jackson was murdered at San Quentin prison. I recall my father watching the news coverage and I remember being traumatized by seeing the violence directed against those Africans. For some reason, that song always reminded me of imagery of comrade George getting blown to bits. So, I wasn't feeling the Del Phonics, but my parents were so excited. Placing the interests of others above me has never been a problem to a fault, so I had absolutely no issue forgetting my timidness about the singing group once I saw how into it my parents were. When the Del Phonics sang "La, La, La, Means I love You" my dad and mom danced together in front of me and that was the first and only time I ever saw them share a tender moment without concern for a bill needing to be paid, a problem needing to be resolve, someone needing to be confronted. Just the two of them, happy. That was huge for me. A kid who didn't understand that their lack of daily attention to me wasn't a reflection of them not loving me. It was because this backward system never gives people like them a chance to do anything except scrape, scrape, scrape. For that moment, during that song, I felt, at least for a few minutes, that my parents didn't consider me a problem and a waste of a child. I felt that they did enjoy being a couple. Being my parents.
I realize now that my parents loved me as best that they could, but I recognize that the moment during that concert was a glimpse for me to see that. Even as a 13 year old. The next year after that, I would experience being hospitalized by three deranged white men racists. That incident opened the door to me spiraling out of control for a few years. I won't ever forget that Disneyland trip though. It was my last summer of innocence. It was the first of only a few times I got to spend quality time with my parents and it was a time when I was able to see my parents get just enough space to enjoy each other. So, I love Disneyland for those reasons and I can't wait to get there and I'm going to enjoy every moment I spend there. When I come back, I'll continue dedicating my time, energy, and spirit towards doing work to dismantle this backward capitalist system that is the source of all the trauma everyone on Earth experiences every day.