MICHAEL DAVIS: A Letter To Sharon
Happy Birthday, Sis!
I know I know I haven’t written to you in years and this is reaching you a dozen days after your birthday Nov. 10th. That’s not really that bad if you consider you’re been gone 35 years and change. Before you get all bent out of shape you’re not doing so well in the- keep in contract with your brother department either.
Even when you were alive you weren’t much of a letter writer, but you have not visited me in my dreams in well over a year. In fact the last time I talked to you in a dream was the day Jean died. I’d like to think you have been busy catching up with our 26-year-old mother. You remember the day she came home on her 26th birthday and declared loudly so the entire neighborhood heard, “Sharon, Michael, this is my last birthday! From now on I’m always 26 years old.”
She meant that too.
For the rest of her life each and every birthday card I gave her had to say “happy 26th birthday!” She picked the right age because her 26th birthday was magical. Robert actually showed up and showed up sober! He was taking us to Palisades Amusement Park and everyone including mommy was excited. Oh, tell mommy she’s been lax in the visiting her only grandson department also. It’s something how we call our grandmother Lenard, ‘mommy’ our mother ‘Jean’ our great-grandmother Sophie ‘grandma,’ our step father Robert, Robert and each other, ‘High Yella’ and ‘Dark Side.’
Dark Side, my name for you was so cool even you said it was. You asked me a zillion times where I got the name from and I never told you. still the longest secret kept beating yours by about 34 years 11 months, three weeks and 23 hours. I loved that-who can keep a secret longer- game Jean invented. Ya know, I should just tell you where that name came from…but I won’t and you know why.
I have not forgotten that long ass car ride on Jean’s birthday where everybody was so excited but nobody found the time to tell me why. You did find the time and the ideal way to torture me. I really thought you were serious when you whispered “They’ve taking you to New Jersey to leave you there.”
“That’s not true!”
“Oh yes it is. What other reason would we be going to a park in New Jersey at night?”
You knew I had no concept of any other kind of ‘park’ besides the park I played in and never ever would I be allowed there at night. You got me good that night because I absolutely stopped reading (more like stopped looking at the pictures) the Long Ranger Big Little Book I loved so much. I pleaded with you to convince everyone to keep me.
“What are you telling that boy?” Mommy snapped at you. Then I thought… wait a second…mommy loved me! Every morning she would make my cereal (sometimes with water when there was no money so no milk) and she’d tell me how much she loved me at dinnertime. Some times no one would eat dinner but us, which we both found curious. That is until you figured out why it was OK if we didn’t ‘clean our plates.’ It was because Jean would finish what we left.
“Sharon said you all were going to leave me, that’s why we’re going to New Jersey and a park at night!!”
“Sharon Davis!!” Jean yelled at you “Why you go and tell that boy that?” I was feeling pretty darn good and about to get all up in your face then Jean said, “We’re not leaving him in the park, we’re dumping him out on the highway. That way we don’t have to stop. Michael, remember, tuck and roll, tuck and roll.”
For a very very, very long moment I was scared shitless. Then I started to cry like I’d never cried before…then everyone started laughing. Which made me cry even harder. Funny Dark Side, real freakin funny.
Ha. Really funny, ha.
I remember how you kept telling me, “We’re here! Highyella, look!” I didn’t budge I was determined not to get out of the car despite everyone saying they were sorry. Nope, I didn’t need to see some park after dark I had a real good mad on and I was going to keep it and yeah, I know the story so well because you and Jean took turns telling it for years.
Then Robert opened the back door and the lights of the Ferris wheel hit me…
Wasn’t that a magical night?
It was the most perfect night ever. We were all together, Robert and Jean were getting along and Palisades Amusement Park was beyond anything we’d ever imagined because we had no concept (I didn’t) such a place existed
It was a dream comes true but the better dream was Jean, Robert, mommy, you, and me a family just like the Brady Bunch…and just like the Brady Bunch our ‘family’ was cancelled.
I don’t think as a child I ever saw Robert sober again did you? That was the year we moved from mommy’s house to the projects in Rockaway and that was the Christmas Eve when Robert, drunk out of his mind opened Jean’s skull with the die cast metal Tonka truck he brought me for Christmas. How on earth could you witness that at 10 years old and function Sharon? You did and you saved her. You called 911 and she survived. It all came back to me sis, 30 years later.
You were already gone but every single detail came back to me. I called Jean–she confirmed I had repressed the memory. Once she confirmed it I never saw Robert again. The man I idolized I cut out of my life because of what he did 30 years prior.
He died 10 years later never knowing why.
Cold right? I Know. Terribly cold and a terrible thing to do to someone. He had changed and I didn’t care. I was full of such anger I just couldn’t trust myself to even speak to him. I’m haunted by that…or is that you?
Yeah, I still got jokes. But funny as I am, Jean was by far funnier. I actually called her once to help me write a scene for a show I was on. Oh yeah, your brother is a HUGE writer, producer, artist, governor of New York and I’m married to Susan Day. Yep, I married Laurie Partridge my boy hood crush.
Milestone is back and Static Shock is going to be a live action television show! Your little brother is in charge of everything! You live on as Sharon Hawkins! As does our mother as Jean Hawkins and yep Robert’s there also!
Except, well…about the writer, producer, artist thing…I am all of those things and I make a good living but I’m not huge by any means. I’m also not governor of New York and I’m not married to Susan Day.
Milestone is back and Static Shock is going to be a live action television show but I’m not running the show. I’m not even on the show.
They didn’t want me and get this, I asked.
They didn’t want me on the show I created the universe for they didn’t want me at Milestone although no has worked harder than me to keep Milestone current and always in the thoughts of fans:
Yeah, I know that’s a lot of stuff but its not all I’ve written or done to keep Milestone in the public eye. Yeah sis, it floored me when I was omitted. Not a word, not a call, nothing.
But your little brother is doing OK.
The Gordon Parks Academy houses The Michael Davis Auditorium, my mentor program has been recognized on such a level I’m asked to speak all over the world. I’ve given keynote addresses at the places you would not believe! I’ll just name one, the FBI.
Yep, that FBI.
Imagine me in front of a crowd of mostly white cops without my hands being up. OH and you know I talked about that which was not to be named. You KNOW I named it. I won’t do it here as your little brother has learned not to rock the boat
Some think it takes courage to stand in front of an institution and bring to light the hypocrisy of its leader who reportedly sort out Gay Americans to discredit while he and his boyfriend vacationed on Dick Island.
The FBI gig was cool but this was cooler, Rosamond Bernier called me her inspiration and did so with a full page in the Playbill of her Lincoln Center school age lectures. Before she started lecturing to kids and teens she sort me out to see how your badass brother did it. She’s only the most important art historian ever, no big deal.
That’s just some little old stuff I do to give back. I’m also the only person in comics with distribution into the schools with The Action files from Simon & Schuster & Person Learning and the Black Church with the Guardian Line from Urban Ministries and Sharon guess what?
There’s more and nope no joke is coming. Well, the following clip has some jokes but its no joking matter. I curated a show at the Geppi Entertainment Museum called, Milestones: African Americans In Comics Pop Culture & Beyond. In the 20 plus year history of the esteemed museum, Milestones has been recognized as the most successful exhibit ever mounted. The funny thing is although it appears to be an exhibit of Milestone Media its not. Nope.
Missy Geppi the museum’s President originally contacted me to put together a retrospective of graduates from my Bad Boy Studio mentor program. Bad Boys: African Americans In Comics Pop Culture & Beyond was the original name of the show. I changed the name and focus when I was to be a part Milestone 2.0 and had the idea to announce there.
We didn’t and there were a few other places we were going to announce all I arranged and paid for. We didn’t announce at any of those places. Somewhere and somehow ‘we’ became a ‘them’ then a ‘they.’
They announced in Jan. I became a trivia question.
Our cousin’s Regina and Desiree are trying to be slick. They don’t think I notice how they conveniently hit me up on Facebook right after I say some sad shit. That’s their way of looking out for me.
Doris their mom our Aunt was Jean’s maid of honor when she married Robert. Doris reached out to me a few times to try and get me to talk to Robert. I’d tell her I would, I didn’t. Robert tried to see me often all I could think of was Jean lying on the floor blood pouring from her head and just could not.
Jean had the presence of mind to tell Robert to leave before the cops came. I made up my mind telling him to leave was not to save him from jail. In my mind she wanted him gone before he realized what trouble he could be in and killed us all. I kept that thought more than any other.
He wouldn’t have. I know that now. He was just a sad beaten man who made bad choice after bad choice. Jean forgave him and told me I needed to also, I couldn’t. Someone, I think Doris, gave him my number and he left me this last message; “Son. I’m dying. Please come see me.”
Nope. True to his word (for once I thought) in less than a week he was dead. Jean called to tell me and once again suggested I forgive him.
Fuck Robert Lawrence.
Those were the choice words I used when writing about that day in my journal. Rereading them before writing this letter dropped me to my knees and finally after 20 years I cried for Robert Lawrence and yeah sis I’m crying for him now.
When I think of Robert the image of the monster that almost killed our mother has been replaced with a moment from when he was the most important man in my world. That’s the day he remembered to buy me Spiderman number 100 and ask me why Spiderman had 6 arms.
That began the best comic book conversation I’ve ever had.
With the authority of a foreign policy expert asked to comment on developments in middle east in front of the U.N. I brought my father up to speed on Peter Parker, Spider-Man and those six arms.
Then together we read that double issue. Kinda like when you and I played together that one Christmas Eve when I let you convince me to let my GI Joe marry your Barbie.
Fun fact-I now collect Barbie. How did I go from hating them to a collection worthy of more than as few interviews? You. I wanted one to remind me of you and I found every time I buy one, for the briefest of seconds you’re with me.
Except you’re not. Yes, you’re in my dreams and memory but I wanted more. That more came when I wrote the Static creative bible used our life as the inspiration. I was not alone when Static was created. Far from it, Dwayne McDuffie, Jim Owlsey (a.k.a. Christopher Priest) Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle were right there.
I was certainly alone when Dwayne told me to write the Static bible aka the Static Universe. For over 20 years nobody from Milestone disputed that-in fact they co-signed.
Now I was just ‘one of five guys in the room.’
Funny, how it just so happens Static’s life events and family is a carbon copy of ours right down to the names. Clearly that’s an amazing coincidence.
Sharon, I wanted Jean to see you live on she had such a hard life she needed some joy so no matter the current spin your little brother created the Static Universe and co-created the most successful black superhero ever created by black people, and I can prove it.
Our mother, Jean, and you saved me. Man, I should have been dead so many times but you saved me.
I couldn’t save you.
I couldn’t save Jean.
I didn’t even try to save Robert.
I will save your legacy-the world will know where the inspiration and swagger of Static comes from. It comes from, Sharon Davis, Jean Harlow Davis, Robert Lawrence, Sharon’s little bratty brother and Regina’s cousin.
Happy Belated Birthday Sharon
P.S. OK I was late getting this to you so I’ll tell you where ‘Dark Side’ comes from. Jack Kirby created a villain called Darkseid I got it from there. I could have said nothing giving you the impression it was all me but that simply would not be right to do to anybody but family??
Writer’s note: This was to run November 10th my sister Sharon’s birthday.
I had every intention that it would, even going so far as to ask Mike Gold if I could get it to him on the day it was to post, something my editor and friend for almost 28 years would prefer not. I had written and rewritten several versions of this and was sitting on the one that I was sure I was to send Mike in one hour, give or take 167.
I re-read the piece and realized I was making a rather large mistake so once again I had to re-write it. My mother didn’t raise any fools as such I neither watch FOX nor will I announce the coming rapture to non-believers.