Chapter 1: “Ghosts In Our Genes”
Chapter 2: “24 Days of Hell”
Chapter 3: “Guilt Settling In”
Chapter 4: “Portugal and Morocco”
Chapter 5: “Paranoid”
Chapter 6: “Labor Into The Rest”
This story which consists of six chapters focuses on the past two years of my life. In order to understand the story, you will have to understand how Monday January 20th 2003, would change my life for ever when I was 9.
Chapter 1: “The Ghosts In Our Genes”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. weekend was coming to an end. I remember being glued to the TV a few days earlier, that Friday night, because “That So Raven” was premiering. Raven Symone would become my celebrity crush for the rest of 4th grade. Fast forward through the weekend to that Monday, my family and I all gathered that night, to watch the documentary about the murder of Emmett Till.
I first heard about Emmett Till the year before, (which was in 2002)on the Joe Madison morning radio show. His show was like the black version of CNN for my family growing up. My father would play his show all the time during the morning on the way to elementary school. When I first heard about the case, I thought about it for a minute or two, then went right back to whatever 8 year old’s thought about. Roughly a year later, learning about the murder of Emmett Till in depth would officially grab my attention.
(Thanks to YouTube I was able to find the exact documentary that I watched that night. For those that aren’t familiar with his story I would definitely recommend watching it)
The actress Taraji P Henson is producing a movie about Emmett Till and she is playing his mother.
Emmett Till was a 14 year old black boy who was brutally mutilated and murdered in Mississippi, then had his body thrown into the Tallahatchie River. This took place in 1955. In order to hide the evidence, the killers tied a 75 pound cotton gin fan to his neck, to keep his body submerged under water. He was killed for whistling at a white woman. Despite the clear evidence, the killers were found not guilty, and about a month later they admitted to doing it and sold their confession to a newspaper.
Emmett Till Below:
Below are graphic images of Emmett Till’s face after he was killed.
Mamie Till, Emmett Till’s mother, was so courageous that she wanted an open casket, to show the world what the racist killers did to her son. The documentary hit me like a brick wall. Everything about it terrified me. More than halfway into the documentary, a warm sensation infiltrated my chest, piercing my heart, yet lingered around my face, and I started to sob. Mamie Till said her son’s eyeball was hanging out of its eye socket, the bridge of his nose looked liked it had been chopped with a meat cleaver, and his tongue was “choked out”. He was also shot in the head. After the documentary was over I remember my mom saying, “Now you see why I am so hard on you about homework?” This is what used to happen to us if we tried to read.” I was a “momma’s boy”, but the documentary left me so frightened that I preferred the protection of my father, rather than the comfort of my mom that night.
To cheer me up, my mother offered me twix ice cream, but I did not want to eat. The documentary made me sick to my stomach. I remember going to bed hoping it was going to be sunny outside the next day. I felt if it was sunny outside, it would make me forget about the murder of Emmett Till. It was not sunny the next day, but instead everything felt dark and gloomy.
This wasn’t the first time my parents exposed us to the ugly part of black history. When I was around four, they took my siblings and I to the “Blacks In Wax Museum.” If you know anything about wax museums, the figures look fairly real. For a 4 year old, it looks even more real. Although I don’t remember, my mom said the slave ship exhibit contained special effects in which the “figures” were moaning in pain.
I don’t necessarily remember all of the museum, but I do remember seeing the image above. My dad made a reference about the figure resembling Jason, the killer from Friday the 13th. This figure was wearing a iron mask, which was a torturing device that was put on slaves. This whole museum was like a haunted house, yet it was our history. It makes the new Smithsonian African American Museum look like Chuck E Cheese.
That same year my parents also took my siblings and I to see the movie, Amistad. To summarize, it was about the true story of a slave rebellion on a slave ship. The Africans on the ship were eventually able to win their trial to return to Africa. I don’t really even being awake for most of the movie. It was not until 2002 when I noticed how the suffering of my ancestors really affected me. It was when I saw scenes from “Roots”. All of those bodies stacked and chained up, tossing and moaning in agony on the slave ship really bothered me. It bothered me so much, that I cried later that night. The scenes from “Roots”| eventually went away that school year in 2002.
For some reason the documentary of Emmett Till on the other hand, plagued the “back of my mind”. This was most likely because of how brutally beaten his face looked and because he was just a boy. It would haunt me for the rest of that year and on and off growing up.
Don’t get me wrong, there would be good times that year. 50 cent’s “Get Rich or Die Trying” album dropped. For Spring break, my friend was staying with his grandmother who was my next door neighbor. My family had just moved to NW and most of my neighbors were around my parents age or older, so I was so grateful to have a friend my age in the neighborhood. Ashton Kutcher’s “Punk’d” debuted on MTV and I also remember seeing the movie Chris Rock starred in, “Head of State” and the movie “Holes” that spring break as well.
Despite good memories, those images of the Emmett Till documentary did come back. Later in the spring, I remember riding around in the car with my mom and my brother asking them “do you think they(Emmett Till’s killers)would have come get somebody my age?”. I was 9 at the time. They replied “ yehh”, in a voice that showed that the answer was obvious.
I then remember asking , “mom do you think it was a good idea for the mom to have shown his casket? My mom replied, “yeh to show what those crazy f*ckers did to her son.”
Later that year in June of 2003, my family had the movie about James Byrd playing. James Byrd was a black man who was murdered by white supremacists in 1998 in Jasper, Texas. They tied him to the back of their pick up truck by his ankles and dragged him. His head hit a large object while being dragged, which decapitated him.
In Texas, a Decades-Old Hate Crime, Forgiven but Never Forgotten
For more coverage of race, sign up here to have our Race/Related newsletter delivered weekly to your inbox.] JASPER,…
I was trying get over the Emmett Till murder and then I found out about this. It was scary on it’s own but definitely brought back memories of Emmett Till. To make matters worse a new rapper at the time, David Banner , dropped the song “Like a Pimp.” The song was bomb, but he was from Mississippi and the music video contained scenes of the KKK.
At the end of the year in December, my great-aunt passed away, and guess where we had to go? Mississippi. My family and I arrived in Mississippi and as we drove through the town, I remember my mom and dad saying “ look, that’s where that KKK member shot Medgar Evers.” Medgar Evers was a civil rights leader who was assassinated right outside of his home by a KKK sniper. I didn’t know it at the time but he also helped investigate the murder of Emmett Till.
My mom’s family lived around the corner from Medgar Evers in Greenwood, Mississippi. I tried to maintain and not remember that I was in the same state of what happened to Emmett Till.
Below, from 10 seconds to 25 seconds, shows exactly how I felt while being in Mississippi.
Despite it all, it was still good to bond with relatives and cousins on my mom’s side of the family. We then went to the funeral and viewed my aunt’s body. On our way to a funeral home, especially in Mississippi, brought back the images of the story of Emmett Till.
I always wondered why the story of Emmett Till, images of lynchings, etc affected me so deeply, then I came across the concept of generational trauma and how traumatic memories can be passed down from generation to generation.
(For those interested, a study done on this subject by Emory University, and other scientists can be read by clicking the links below)
Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors
So a fear of spiders may in fact be an inherited defence mechanism laid down in a families genes by an ancestors'…
Trauma From Slavery Can Actually Be Passed Down Through Your Genes
Last night, as social media sites were filled with status updates and tweets regarding the Warriors' heroic game-seven…
NOVA | Ghost in Your Genes | PBS
In this companion Web site to the NOVA program Ghost in Your Genes, read an interview with Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa on the…
As a child my mother and her family lived in Mississippi at the height of the civil rights movement, “Freedom Summer.”
(Trailer for a documentary on Freedom Summer, below)
This was a civil rights campaign in which thousands of college students came to Mississippi to register black people to vote. Bombings and lynchings done by white supremacists in Mississippi were fairly common. My grandfather was the only black doctor in town, so victims of the racist terrorism were treated by him. My mother would attend some of these home visits my grandfather made and I remember her speaking about a woman my grandfather treated who was stabbed at a protest. He also treated the civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael, who was listed by the FBI as one of the biggest threats to the government, as well as a black activist named Silas Mcghee, who was shot for trying to integrate a movie theater. From 1882–1968, Mississippi had the highest amount of lynchings of any state in America. Due to this type of threat my grandfather organized a vigilante group warning the white leadership that retaliation would be met if any blacks were killed. This is the type of atmosphere my mom grew up around and I definitely attribute her intense anxiety to this upbringing.
My family is just one of the many black families affected by the racial terrorism of the south. Over winter break I was hanging out with one of my childhood friends and we were talking about eachother’s ancestry and he mentioned how he didn’t want to find out any more about his because of what he recently found out. He found out that either his grandfather or great grandfather and their family had to flee their town because a white man tried to rape his wife. His grandfather, or great grandfather, defended his wife and then a lynch mob later came back for him and they had to flee. That incident made him not interested in digging up family history and I can’t blame him.
Although learning about my history at a young age haunted me, it sparked my curiosity, and made me develop a passion for learning about my history. The efforts of my parents was a blessing and prepared me for the world. Despite these benefits, the night I saw the documentary about Emmett Till would ignite a disease in me, that I still battle today.
To Read Chapter 2, Please Click The Link Below.