Looking Forward by Looking Behind

I’d say it’s been a while, but that’s just repeating some things.

Driver? Stop Here, Please

One of the perks of being an academic teacher who is licensed to drive a bus is that I’m occasionally asked to drive on field trips. Not all field trips are equal, and some are complete wastes of time, but this one was a good’ne. Our AP English teacher had scheduled a trip for her classes to visit the Eudora Welty House as well as the Medgar Evers House. I’ve been to the Welty house before, but it’s always good to visit it. I’ve never been to the Medgar Evers house, and I’ve wanted to visit it for a few years now. To say I was happy to drive the bus is an understatement.

One Writer’s Beginnings

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I found out Welty planted this Camellia bush. (Robert Chapman)

I enjoy visiting the homes of writers. I’ve been to Hemingway’s house in Key West (and plan on going back). Knowing that I was walking the same halls Hemingway walked and seeing the same world out of the same windows he did is beyond cool.

Spending four years in Oxford, I of course visited Rowan Oak often. Again, knowing that I was looking at the same trees Faulkner looked at and breathing in the same Mississippi air he breathed and eating a picnic on the same ground he tended is near spiritual.

I like to think that maybe they left some of the talent in the walls of their former homes, and maybe (just maybe) it’ll seep in to me. Who knows, maybe future people will want to tour the home of an unknown blog writer who has trouble keeping up with his blog. Something like that.

What’s Truth Worth?

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2332 Margaret W Alexander Drive. Jackson, MS (Robert Chapman)

Where Welty’s house was a reminder of all the things I wish I could be and houses the aura of words I want my house to have, the Evers house was ominous. It’s tremendously unassuming. It’s in the middle of a simple neighborhood in Jackson.

 

The typical features of a city falling apart are present. There was rust over most of the corrugated awnings and aluminum supports where the chipped white paint is evidence of neglect. Maybe not the kind of neglect that is intentional but more of the kind of neglect that occurs while you make other plans (I think I’ll stick with this stolen John Lennon phrase). The Jackson roads were rough. Yards were filled with water and mud from a recent rain storm. Stores and shops that used to be chain franchises were retrofitted to be random nicknack shops, check cashing facilities, or were just boarded up.

Minnie Watson (who, I think, works with Tougaloo College) spoke to the group about Medgar and his family. She spoke about the impact the Evers family had not only on black Mississippians but on Mississippians of all colors. She gave us a run down of the days leading up to Evers’s assassination, the night of his murder, and the three-decade journey to convict Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 slaying.

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The Evers boys slept here. (Robert Chapman)

Her delivery to the students was factual and beneficial. She spoke about how the kids weren’t allowed to put their beds on bed frames because it was a given that their house would be shot at. Ms. Watson said the family knew that bullets would most likely come through the windows, so they put their beds in the back of the house and on the floor. I don’t know how to process that.

 

She mentioned how Beckwith’s son had come to visit the house and how Medgar’s family took up the effort to bring equal rights to all people. I spoke with her for a few minutes when she was done. I didn’t realize how connected I was to this woman. She had gone to Sumner Hill High School in Clinton during segregation. She knew the same roads and air and ground I knew. But, she knew Medgar Evers.

It was nice to hear her speak about how Jackson was, how Jackson is, and how she wishes it to be. She spoke about how important it is to know the history of Jackson. Jackson’s history is our history. We need to remember that. Too often we end up complaining about things and hiding from issues. I wonder what would happen if everyone gave up some things here and there. I wonder.

It was strange walking around the house. Unlike the Welty house, we could take pictures and touch things. Most of the furniture there was provided by Castlerock when Ghosts of Mississippi filmed in the home. The master bedroom was recreated by the film company. It was accurate, but not necessarily real.

The bullet hole in the kitchen was real, though.

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Bullet hole in the kitchen. (Robert Chapman)

 

Things Fall Apart…but not always
It was nice seeing black kids, white kids, Chinese kids, Indian kids, and mixed kids walk through the history of this place. I think we forget that the future of this state, this country, is in their hands.

Some people get a little afraid when they think about that, but I think we forget that we were those kids once. We were the reason people rolled their eyes. We were the ones with crazy ideas.

Henry David Thoreau once said, “It’s never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof. What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be falsehood tomorrow, mere smoke of opinion, which some had trusted for a cloud that would sprinkle fertilizing rain on their fields.”

How on earth will this world survive with all these crazies taking over?

I think we’ll be all right. I’ll hold on to the Love I know that lasts and the knowledge that all of these black kids and white kids and yellow kids and red kids and green kids and purple kids and blue kids are torch bearers. Made in the image.

Faulkner believed in this.

“…man will not merely endure; he will prevail.”

~RLC

One thought on “Looking Forward by Looking Behind

  1. Ahh I’ve been wanting to visit the Medgar Evers House. Good to hear it’s worth visiting. I’ll have to make that a priority next time I’m in town.

    Like

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