(the prologue to Mississippi Window Cracks written in 2006)
A few years ago I decided that after all the books and movies I had read and seen related to the civil rights struggles and the state called Mississippi, it was time to take a visit. I arranged to spend a few days in Jackson, Mississippi, with a colleague of mine so I could walk the land that enveloped the energy of Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Margaret Walker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Emmett Till and the streets of the infamous “Freedom Summers”. My time there was filled with meeting civil rights heroes that are still alive, pouring libation on slave plantations, visiting museums and other historic sites, relaxing on the porch fanning flies until the sunset, and of course the southern cuisine.
One morning, my friend declared she knew the best place in town for a good bowl of grits. Upon arriving at the cozy, corner diner downtown, she turned the car off and told me to put a crack in the window. I told her that living in Los Angeles, people really didn’t do that but I remember it from growing up in Kansas City, Mo. Effortlessly, she rolled a crack in the driver’s side window. I followed hastily already tasting the buttery grits in my mouth. She turned and looked at me then spoke with hesitance in her voice.
“What’s that?”, she asked.
“I thought you were going to put a crack in the window.”
“That’s a crack?,” she asked sarcastically.
Now feeling totally self conscious I affirmed, “Yeah, this is the kind of window crack I used to do in the summertime in Kansas City.”
“Well this ain’t Missouri, this is Mississippi! You better put a bigger crack in that window as hott as it is out here!”
I gave the handle on the window a few more turns to open it up.
She encouraged me, “A little more.”
I carefully cranked it until I gained her nod of approval, “Like this?”
“Yeah! Now that there is a Mississippi window crack!”
The funny part about this story is how serious it got! It was almost a borderline argument. But as we walked in the diner, we laughed and joked how that would be a good title for a poem and who was going to write it first. Well, here is my book of short stories that chronicle the tales fed to me through the trees, music, and people I met during my time spend in Jackson. Instead of vacationing in the Bahamas or Paris, take a visit down in the deep south to a part of history, your history, our history. You ever heard the saying, “There’s the United States and then there’s Mississippi?” It’s the truth! Go feel it for yourself!
PS – The grits were delicious!