Civil rights learning tour: Mississippi

Day Five, continued
After spending the majority of the day with Leroy, we drove to Nanih Waiya, a Choctaw Indian Mennonite Church, for a mid-afternoon lunch of “Indian Tacos” (fry bread with all the fixings — beans, ground beef, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream), sweet tea, pecan pie, and banana pudding.

In the meeting that followed, they told us about how their church was bombed three times during the civil rights movement, and a few of the older women talked about growing up as sharecroppers, and how the three groups — Blacks, whites, and Choctaw — didn’t like each other. I don’t know why, one of the women said. We just didn’t like each other. But now so many Choctaws are married to other races that eventually there might not even be a Choctaw race. 

Day Six
We drove to Jackson where we attended Open Door Mennonite Church, a tiny congregation of super-friendly folks.

Afterward, we went to a restaurant for lunch — catfish, sweet potato fries, fried green tomatoes — with Pastor Horace, and then spent the afternoon at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

At first I wasn’t too excited (I was getting weary of absorbing information, and nothing quite compares to the EJI museum!), but then I started digging into the displays, sitting for the movies, actually reading the information and trying to connect it to the stories I’d already heard. After a week of being so focused on a theme, the bits of information were beginning to stack up, sort of like a Russian nesting doll of experiences. For example:

In the Emmett Till display, I listened to a recording of a person working with the Emmett Till Interpretive Center who had been involved in the installation of a commemoration marker at the murder site. He told about an interaction he’d had with a man who’d been angry about the marker.

“Why are you bringing this stuff up now?” The man had demanded. “That’s in the past!”

But the worker, instead of getting angry, asked the man if he had children, and explained how helpful it can be to a grieving community when they can publicly remember what they have lost.

The man walked off without saying much, but the next day he returned. “My wife is a seamstress in a fabric store,” he said. If you’re going to have an unveiling of a marker, then you need a good piece of fabric. We’d like to contribute that for the ceremony.” 

“I could’ve called gotten upset and labeled that man a racist,” the person concluded, “but I didn’t and look what happened.”

This same time, years previous: double chocolate scones, the quotidian (5.10.21), the quotidian (5.11.20), an honor, Thursday snippets, prism glasses, tomato coconut soup, the quotidian (5.11.15), immersion, happy weekending.

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