Mississippi....The Way We Were.....May We Never Forget
Mississippi is one of the most unique, if not the most unique place in the United States of America. It is a state with several very distinct regions, including the Mississippi Delta and the beautiful gulf coast. It is the home of that genre of music known as the Blues with musicians such as B.B. King, Robert Johnson, Charlie Musselwhite and many others that call Mississippi home. With that uniqueness comes a shadowy past that most Mississippians aren't proud of and one that we have struggled to combat through the years. You see, Mississippi was the armpit of the Civil Rights movement in the fifties and sixties.
Throughout those decades numerous atrocities were committed against African-Americans and their supporters. In the Sixties it was the murders of the three Civil Rights workers, their bodies found in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, Mississippi, and the assassination of Medgar Evers in his driveway in Jackson, Mississippi. It was the burning of numerous churches, the marches of the Ku Klux Klan and the refusal to let James Meredith enter the University of Mississippi. It was a time of turmoil when drinking out of the wrong water fountain, going to the wrong bathroom or simply sitting in the wrong seat on the bus could cause people to be beaten, tortured or lose their lives by being shot or hung, sometimes all of the above. But in the Fifties.... a young African-American teen visiting family in Mississippi for the summer was murdered.
It was another hot day in the South - August, 1955 - when a young teen from Chicago named Emmett Till and his friends visited Bryant Grocery in Money, Mississippi. During that visit, young Till made the mistake of speaking to the young married female proprietor of the store. What he exactly said has always been up for debate and we will probably never know for sure but in those days any type of conversation initiated with a white woman by an African-American would almost certainly end in violence. In this case, it ended with young Emmett being beaten, having an eye gouged out and shot, with his body being weighted and dumped into the Tallahatchie River. The two men responsible were eventually tried and were found not guilty but later admitted to committing the ghastly murder.
Money, Mississippi is on the edge of the Tallahatchie River and is located just north of Greenwood, Mississippi. It is a place that the world would not have even known about had it not been for the crime that was committed on August 28, 1955. It is a place that would like to be able to forget that hot and sticky day in the Mississippi heat. But it can't and it shouldn't. Mississippians shouldn't forget. America shouldn't forget. The world shouldn't forget.
Ironically, right across the road from Bryant Grocery stands an old school. The school has been closed for years and the windows are broken, the doors have been torn off and graffiti is everywhere. It is the graffiti that prompted this blog post, specifically the graffiti on one wall in one of the abandoned classrooms. Graffiti that refuses to let us forget what happened just a short distance from the school. Graffiti that uses one of the most detested words in the English language. Graffiti that could have been written by anyone.....
Graffiti is a powerful medium. A lot of it is beautiful on the surface but if you look really deep you will often discover that it contains political or other social undertones. It has been responsible for political turmoil and at other times paying tribute to fallen heroes. It can provoke our senses and bring to mind deep rooted memories that we would rather forget. It can be a wall that has been covered in the art or the entire side of a train car... or it can be one word. One word that brings back a reminder of a horrendous time in history we should never forget. One word that says we might not be done yet.
One word. Don't forget it. Don't repeat it.
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