Bella Maps the Road to Freedom
Here’s to the pioneer spirit of Marian Anderson and Leotyne Price. Enjoy this excerpt from Bella Maps the Road to Freedom. Artwork By Jo Scott.
“Constance smoothed her black recital dress. Leaning over, she dusted the grime from her patent leather pumps. First impressions were everything.
“Ms. Garner, you may enter,” a voice announced.
The auditorium was darkened. She couldn’t see the judges. Then she stumbled over a loose board but found her composure. The stage lights almost blinding her.
“My selection today is “Bizet’s Carmen.” She briefly nodded to the pianist who would accompany her. Her hands twitched from anxiety, but when she heard the first note of the concerto, her nerves settled.
She opened her mouth, and the aria took wings,” Aunt Connie Rae cheered.
In the back, the judges bent their heads and fingers moved, scoring her performance.
“When she finished and stepped to the front of the stage, she leaned forward. In unison, the judges said, “Ms. Garner, that will be all. We will be in touch.”
“Wasn’t she afraid to sing? My throat tightens and the sound comes out all strangled,” Bella admitted.
“Like an old cat being strung up,” Peanut mocked.
At that moment, Aunt Prudy popped him with the rolled newspaper and instructed, “Hush Peanut. You might be 22, but you’ll always be a child under me,” Aunt Prudy reprimanded.
Matthew laughed so hard he had to hold his stomach. “Oh, that’s rich. Somebody just got schooled,” Matthew threw out, cupping his hands over his mouth like a disc jockey.
Bella didn’t crack a smile. She just pretended neither boy was there.
When the hubbub stopped, Grandma explained, “My sister Constance had to overcome a lot of fears. The singing came easy. It was the living that was hard. She was accepted into Manhattan School of Music. She had a lot of adjusting to do. She and my brother Roosevelt were true pioneers.”