In the Wake of the Storm

“After the rain, the sun will reappear. … After the pain, the joy will still be here.”

– Walt Disney Company

The last time I visited, I wrote about rain. A normal rainy day, that was, and this past week has been both the same and different, as Hurricane Harvey dumped so much rainfall over my home that every highway in Houston, the fourth-largest city in America, had to be shut down. Fortunately I don’t live within the city but an hour south—though I drive to Houston three to four days a week for work/college classes, so it is home, too—and, even though I live closer to the coast, Harvey didn’t affect me nearly as much as it did my friends north of me, and while my heart aches for all that they’ve had to go through, each one is safe and that’s all that really matters.

Here in Lake Jackson, Tropical Storm Harvey rained and whipped winds around for days, with intermittent periods without rain. My street—or, I should say, Dylan’s parents’ street—doesn’t really flood at all, so we were fortunate to not be trapped in the house—seven people and six dogs—though there wasn’t much of anywhere to go, anyway. We fared well, and I made a quick trip to my house in Angleton yesterday to find it just as I left it (albeit with an excessive amount of lovebugs in my bathroom, and I still have no idea how they got in, but, you know, not exactly a problem).

But today is the first day in a week that I’ve woken up to blue skies and sunshine, and it is a beautiful and very welcome change. The upside to all the rain, too, is that it ushered in cooler weather, and the humidity is down, and a breeze waves the tree branches at me as if in greeting. The air is full of birdsong and cicadas, so it actually feels like the transition from summer to fall, and the dogs can lay out and soak up the sunshine again.

I’ve been having a lot of issues lately with the faith I was raised in, and I’m not going to go into that, but I do think of the story of Noah’s ark now, and how at the end of the flood that covered the world, there was a rainbow. I don’t see any rainbows out now, though admittedly I haven’t stepped out of the shade far enough to look for one, but this beautiful day is more than enough to make me believe that—Biblical connotations aside—after every storm in every life, there will come a new day.

A friend in Houston has even told me that “Everything is great over here! The sun is even shining!!” so, while I know that everything is not perfect there and probably won’t be for a long time to come, I want to be cautiously hopeful. I’ve seen so many reports of Houstonians, and others from all over the country, banding together in the wake of this natural disaster, and that’s even more beautiful than this day. I hope they can be cautiously hopeful and optimistic, too. Because today is a new day, and another is on its way.

Of a rainy, golden afternoon…

It’s not raining anymore.

I wasn’t actually aware that it rained at all this afternoon, because over the sounds of the TV I was watching in Dylan’s room and the family I could hear in the front room, I couldn’t have heard the rain unless I stepped outside to greet it.

But right now, on the back patio after the dogs have eaten, it’s like a tranquil afterglow. The sun hasn’t set yet but bathes the neighborhood in a soft golden light, caught in the beads of water that cling to the porch screen. It’s so quiet that I can hear where the water drips to the concrete, and I welcome it as a sound of companionship. The rain has made it muggy, humid—or maybe that’s just south Texas in the summer—but a refreshingly cool breeze carries the leftover scent of rain and of earth, two elements, wrapped in a third, that we can’t live without.

I used to dislike whenever it rained. I’m not quite sure when that changed—maybe whenever I read a quote somewhere about rain being the writer’s lullaby. Now, more often than not, I wish for days I might be able to spend in my bedroom, warmly lit by the lamp next to my bed, writing, with a cup of coffee at hand and rain thundering down outside my window.

On days when I do have to leave the house, which is also more often than not, and commute an hour to Houston, rain is not quite as welcome, and when I checked the weather earlier this week it was supposed to be rainy all week long. I don’t think it rained at all yesterday, and today, it didn’t look like it was going to. But it did.

I’m kind of glad for it.

8.3.2017

My dear Dylan,

To some extent, I don’t even know what to say. I actually have a post written for you already, but it doesn’t feel like it’s right anymore. I improvised this morning with breakfast, so I guess I’m going to improvise now, too, and see what happens. That’s all life really is, anyway, isn’t it? Merely a day to day improvisation…🤔 (Insert here a comment from you about me being philosophical and existential again…)

I’m glad that we got to have breakfast together today, and that you were able to relax a little before going to work. It is your birthday, after all, it’s your special day!

I don’t need to tell you I love you for you to know, but I will anyway. (I kind of just did.) I don’t need to tell you that I’m proud of you, because you know that, but sometimes you just need to hear it, and I know you have had a lot on your mind lately. Which is understandable…a lot has happened in the past year. Let’s look…

Definitely the biggest and most ongoing change is the one with pretty brown eyes, four legs, and a tail…and she’s…I’d like to say she’s stretched out at my feet while I’m in your chair, but the truth is she was here and now I have no idea when she snuck out or where exactly she went (though I’d put money on the backyard). Typical. I know we adopted her closer to the end of July last year than the beginning of August, but it still counts, and you and I both know that no matter what, you wouldn’t give her up for anything. Nor would she you, honestly.

After that, everything else doesn’t seem as detailed or…there doesn’t seem to be as much to it, because your (our) emotions are wrapped up in her, and I can just simply list everything else and then step away from it, more detached. (Does that make sense to you? I’m not sure if it’s one of those things that makes more sense in my head than it does out of it… I’m sorry. I’m feeling a little out of it, and I had a cup of coffee, but I don’t think it’s enough to make me feel 100% better today.) Still…

You…

  • earned and walked for your Bachelor’s degree
  • sold one car (finally)
  • bought another car that’s fully paid for
  • landed a full-time job, with benefits

…and I know that you’re still not completely where you probably need to be, definitely where you would like to be, in your life, but you have come quite a ways. And I’m just going to leave that at that—though I do hope you can stop thinking about everything else just long enough to enjoy the rest of your birthday. Even though you’re at work now, it’s still your day.

I hope I was able to make this morning special for you. I wasn’t sure about improvising, and I think you know that I probably never am. Because I always want it to be perfect for you, but maybe the perfection lives in the effort and not in the result. In the day to day effort (struggle) of everything.

Together.

❤︎ Happy birthday, honey. ❤︎

Of Mom and Me, Another Year

“A daughter is a mother’s gender partner, her closest ally in the family confederacy, an extension of her self. And mothers are their daughters’ role model, their biological and emotional road map, the arbiter of all their relationships.”

— Victoria Secunda

She’s noticed it, too—the older I get, the more the dynamic between us changes. The less we have to be parent and child, and the more we can be mother and daughter—friends. Except, today, I’m not the one getting older, Mom—you are.

Happy birthday, Mom.

You don’t look like you’re 48 today…and since you’re likely to comment about how you’d rather I not comment on your age this way, I’ll just slip in a subtle comment about how Dad is TWO YEARS OLDER than you and his birthday is in NOVEMBER. There, how’s that? 😉

Really, though. Every tabloid I read has quotes from multiple women who state that the older they get, the better they feel, the more confident, the more beautiful, the less they care that they’re aging, blah blah… Of course, even the more trustworthy tabloids (kind of an oxymoron, I know) are still tabloids, and those women are more often than not celebrities, and…celebrities age differently. The entire world watches, but they typically have thousands of dollars and “people for that” so it’s…different. See, we ordinary people don’t have that. You don’t have that. And frankly, I think Botox is stupid, so I’m glad you don’t have that—and, just like the makeup you complain about having to put on anytime I want to go anywhere, I don’t believe you need it. (Although if putting on makeup makes you feel more beautiful, then, fine. I get it, because I actually do feel kind of different with a French manicure and a pair of wedge heels…)

So, anyway, how do you feel today? I don’t see the point of asking whether or not you feel any older, because I still remember everybody asking me that on my birthday growing up, as is a common question for kids, and the answer was always no. No, I don’t think it’s ever your birthday that makes you feel older—it’s the day-to-day living. The wrangling of a child. The constant stream of laundry. The bills that pile up on the counter, demanding attention, as you reach for the coffeepot each morning. The airports and airplanes that accompany international travel—the exhausting, unglamorous part of travel that nobody thinks about when they think about jet-setting around the world. (No, you’re not actually “jet-setting.” But I like the term, so I’ll use it.)

You know, I think that if there’s anything in the world that makes you feel old, it’s probably…me. I turned 23 this year. I’m your only child; you’ve spent years raising me, teaching me, disciplining me, loving me, annoying me… (Remember when I finally called you annoying, and every time thereafter you would say, “Thank you! I’m annoying!” with that grin on your face like you were so proud of it…? Oy.) See, I’ve been your entire life.

I appreciate that, you know.

I appreciate even more how we’re both getting older and what that’s meant for the dynamic of our relationship. How we can spend a day in Pearland or drive to the outlet malls on a whim. Have lunch, gang up on Dad. How it becomes easier for me, the older I get and the closer we are, to talk to you about problems of all kinds, or, if I need it, to just vent. Though the older I get, too, the more often I catch myself saying something, and immediately have to follow it up with, “My god, I sound like my mother.” 😳 But I bet you get a kick out of that!

Happy birthday, Mom. I love you.

P. S…

Just for good measure. 😉

How Many Lives Does A Writer Live?

When you apply to the undergraduate Creative Writing program at UH, you have to submit with your portfolio a one-page statement of intent. What in the world is a statement of intent, I wondered the first time I applied. I don’t remember what I wrote for my first application, but suffice it to say that I know the one I submitted with my second application was much better—written from the heart rather than from the mind. Every once in a while when I’m on my computer, writing and even when not writing, I’ll click over to that statement of intent to reread it. Today, I want to share it with you.

When my first application to the University of Houston’s competitive undergraduate Creative Writing concentration was not accepted, I spent the next year and a half wondering if it would even be worth trying again. I did not reapply immediately because I felt I needed time to practice my writing—and really practice, because an attorney told me once that one “practices” writing just like one “practices” law—it is always practiced and never perfected. I have spent my entire life, then, practicing creative writing, and while my work has greatly improved over these years, I can see that I still have a long way to go. This is why I decided to reapply: for the chance to continue practicing writing under the instruction of people who are as successful in it as I dream of being, and who will care about and want to facilitate my success. Professors who can see my potential and encourage me to become better, to reach higher, and not to let rejection discourage me from trying again.

My ultimate goal in creative writing has always been to write a fiction novel and then have it published, and then to write another. That will always be what I will work toward, but in the undergraduate concentration, I will work toward the Creative Writing degree I want. I will try to complete some shorter stories that may be sent to literary magazines, and therefore hone my ability to employ the techniques of storytelling in a smaller number of pages. I will try as much as I can to return to the imaginative freedom that thinking creatively gives me, which I feel has been lost to me in all these years of school and analytical essays. Above all, I will continue to practice writing. The feedback I requested after not being accepted before stated that more unpredictability was desired from my writing, and while I have been working on that, I feel that it could still greatly benefit from more professional instruction. I hope you will afford me that chance.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies,” wrote George R.R. Martin.

How many lives does a writer live?

;

“Last but not least, I would say you should have big dreams, full dreams, not half dreams. You know, it’s very simple. You can’t put a large box in a small box. Well, you cannot put a full life in a small dream box.”

—Elias Zerhouni

Graduation speeches are usually pretty cliché. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech to the University of Houston Spring 2017 graduating class—I can’t say whether it was cliché or not, because I skipped the Commencement ceremony and still haven’t watched the video on Facebook, but, you know, maybe it wasn’t. In any case, Dylan said he liked it, and as he is the graduate, his opinion is the one that matters.

A little backstory: we met through a mutual friend at Brazosport College, both pursuing an Associate of Arts degree. I was fresh out of high school, and since he’s three years older than me, he’d already been at BC for a little while. He graduated the summer before I did, I think, and neither of us walked; BC is less organized than Brazoswood High School, yet more organized than the University of Houston, and still, I’m not sure that we knew we were supposed to walk. I didn’t, anyway; I went to what was supposed to be my graduation, to watch my friend Nabeel graduate, and when I walked inside, Sarah—one of my now-former coworkers in the Student Life office—pointed at me and said, “You’re supposed to be walking today.” I looked back at her. “I am?” So, that happened. Maybe I’ll walk for UH—I haven’t decided yet, and fortunately I have a year to figure that out.

I transferred to the University of Houston in the spring of 2014, and Dylan followed a semester after. We both enrolled for English degrees, no surprise there, though his concentration always was Literature, and mine is now and always was intended to be Creative Writing. He finished his English major quickly and decided to minor in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations, and he finished that quickly, too. He’s done so well this past semesters, and I’m so proud of him. He’s come so far.

It was not easy. I think it’s okay for me to speak for him when I say that. The work could come easily, but the day to day did not always, and I know from my own experience that college life is not always as easy as it looks. Especially when he must commute an hour each way, several times a week, and often had to get up before dawn because I had early morning classes and we carpooled, even when he was unable to sleep at night.

I picked up his laptop yesterday from where it sat in his room, and had to brush the dust off the top of it; he told me he hasn’t used it since he turned in his last paper for class. It must be somewhat of a relief to no longer need it for academia—moreover, to have his classes behind him. I say “somewhat” because now it will be back to the real world, a job, bills, etc. and the real world is often scary and unforgiving. But I have faith in him, because I’ve seen him do it before. I don’t think even he knows what he’s capable of, but I do. He’ll be okay.

The quote is for you, Dylan. I understand as best I can where you are right now. You struggle, of course, and you’re only human so you must. But please… Dream of impossibilities, and live your life to create them. I won’t say that now that you’ve graduated college, your life can begin, because I know you’d say that’s bullshit—so I will say this: you have the whole rest of your life ahead of you, every day, and when I said yesterday that we will travel, I meant it. We will. We’ll do everything that you want to do, and that I want to do, and that we want to do, and we have the same bright future ahead of us that we always have. I’m writing this now and starting to tear up, because you don’t know how proud I am of you, and how much I know you have so much more in front of you. Yes, it has started to sink in a little more now that you’ve finished, and that when I go back to school in the fall, you won’t be going with me. But that’s okay, because I am so proud of how you’ve finished. How far you’ve come. Of the person that you are, inside of you—every part of you, even the messy parts. The person that makes me want to be a better me.

Sure. It’s a cliché; but it’s a beautiful one.

If the Mississippi Delta Could Write Stories of Peace…

With the showcase of creative final projects for my Honors class behind me, I guess this was technically my first day of summer vacation. I slept a lot. I enjoyed that. But, as a class, we decided that we wanted to create a kind of website or blog documenting our trip to the Mississippi Delta this Spring Break, so last night I copied and pasted from our shared Google Drive to a Medium page the events of our seventh day, spent in Yazoo City and Jackson, which I, Kell, Brandon, and Michelle wrote about. Our content features photos we took, and poems and short pieces written by the four of us. I’d like to share it here as well.

❤︎

Bricks of Cotton Candy
Kell Bernardo

Willy Wonka walls of a dilapidated town
Tell me stories with murals of
Drawings scrawled inside an abandoned theatre
Or factory, or stadium, now garden.
Of wild grass and moss leading up the trails of a fire escape
Plotting to match the colors of candy pastels with nature green,
Each fighting for visual prominence in a town that feels like a film set.
Glittering was the old city bank, but there were gaps in the lack of ATMs.
Surrounded by small nooks and crannies shaped around narrow alleyways,
Pigeonholed between boutiques and cafes—
We go instead to a donut shop. I get no donuts.
But I do receive kolaches.
Happiness.
And then the van receives us.
We’re late, but we keep our cool.

H-Town 7.1.3.

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Rainbow Row. Photo by Corinna Richardson.

Yazoo City Colors:
Michelle Toth

The sun was bright and shining, though the heat not high enough to melt this city of candy.

A beautiful blue and white china tea set caught my eye. Main Street Market on a bright neon pink colored sign: “the unusual shopping place.”

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Main Street Market. Photo by Corinna Richardson.

Walking in was like the scene from a novel, the trove was scattered with tons of small treasures varying from furniture pieces to small knickknacks. In front of the cash register there was a sort of parlor set up, a few armchairs with side tables, also full of merchandise, and a full china cabinet acting as a wall divider. Seated in the “parlor” were two true Mississippian elderly characters. I presumed that they were the store owner and perhaps a co-owner of the store or simply an old friend. The two were chit-chatting away and seemed quite pleased when Jasmin, Jacob, and I walked in.

“Hello! Where are y’all from?” greets the elderly white woman with a crown of curly gray-white hair. She looked to be in her seventies.

“We’re students from the University of Houston.”

“Houston? What brings y’all to Mississippi? You should come teach here! We need new young folk.” None of us are education majors, I couldn’t help but think to myself. Perhaps if I got my teaching certification, I could come be an art teacher here. Although I’m sure art classes aren’t what they’d be looking to improve upon here.

“We’re in a class that’s called Artists and Their Regions and we’re focusing on the Mississippi Delta, so we’re on a class trip. We’ve been reading literature from Mississippian writers like Faulkner and learning about the Blues.”

“Oh we’ve got a lot of Blues here! This here is Blues Country,” the black gentleman boasts proudly.

“Yes sir, that’s partly why we came.”

I slowly crept away, leaving Jacob talking with them so that I could look around. Jasmin and I met up toward the back and talked gleefully about how much we liked all the antiques. Jasmin settled on a ceramic cat since she couldn’t have her own cats in the dorms. I settled on a tiny silver-plated tea set.

Going up to pay I decided to ask them a few questions, do a sort of off-handed interview, two regular native Mississippians that we were not scheduled to see and talk to. All I asked was “What do you like the most about Mississippi?”

“The hospitality,” said the woman.

I noticed a framed printed award for “friendliest shopkeeper,” placed against the cash register. She certainly was the spitting image of friendly Southern hospitality.

She then began a long tale as she distractedly wrapped and rang up our purchases. She told us that she grew up in Eden, MS, a nearby, very small town northeast of Yazoo City. At some point she moved out to Atlanta, GA, but decided to move back to Yazoo City, in what seemed to be recent years.

I told her how much I liked her city, all the beautifully colored buildings. I think she rather liked that because she told us that it’s one of the only cities in Mississippi with colorful buildings like theirs. They might have gotten the idea from Charleston’s Rainbow Row. “All the painted buildings are owned by the same family. They put in their own money to renovate and paint them.”

“Oh wow, well it certainly looks very nice,” I say.

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Main Street. Photo by Corinna Richardson.

“We need our young folk to come home, and for new people to come in. You should come here and teach, we need new teachers! My granddaughter is a second grade teacher and she loves it, she loves her kids! Before school starts in the fall we go and buy the school supplies. And last year they had a Christmas party; they bought all the kids new coats! She really loves the kids, she wouldn’t want to do anything else.”

I’m not completely sure how she made the switch into politics but she began ranting about how the State Legislature is passing a bunch of unnecessary laws that only benefit the rich. “They should just leave things the way they are. And we need new people to come in, otherwise it’s just going to be the same thing, and nothing will change or improve. We need new minds. And we need the young people to come home, they’re taking all their ideas elsewhere when we need them here.” Such a difference from what Mr. Hoover said back in Baptist Town. “You won’t be treated the same, you’ll always be an outsider… I tell the smart kids to leave. To get out of the Delta, even though we need them here.”

The gentleman had been standing nearby, close to our conversational group, but had been quiet mostly until we got him to talk about the Blues.

“There used to be Blues clubs all along that back road. And when my buddies and I were younger we’d go up and sneak to listen to the music. The owner would always chase us away, but we’d come right back. One day he said he’d give us 50¢ to go in and get some pop but that after that we were never to come back.”

“We don’t have a Blues museum here though. Lots of Blues history, but no museum,” said the woman. I was relatively shocked.

He told us that he had seen Sonny Boy Williamson, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters perform. I was amazed. Sonny Boy – born in Glendora – day six. B.B. King – Museum in Indianola – day six. Muddy Waters – abandoned cabin in Clarksdale – day five. We had been to the locations of these iconic figures and this man of 65+ years had seen these figures. It was almost as if looking into his eyes, you could see them for yourself.

It was time to go. But I asked the man for his name, Leonard Murphy. I shook his hand. And turned to the woman, I asked for her name too, Wilma Curry. I shook her hand.

❤︎

Silver from the Baby Blue House
Kell Bernardo

We turn into the street
Mere feet from where Evers saw his family for the last time.
Entering the house we were guided by someone who had
Ties to Medgar Evers himself.
Moved furniture, a film adaptation, and family.
The rooms filled with items like a newly minted estate sale
Polished but rusted with time.
His children raised with lowered beds, obstructed windows, and worry for their father.
The Field Secretary for NAACP.
Against Silver from the Baby Blue House.
Not hours earlier was the assassination of JFK televised for all of
America.
Ambling from his driveway to his front door
Crawling is a more apt description
Puddling blood with droplets
Like bullets through the living room hallway-
Ricocheting off the fridge—
Into the words of our tour guide.

Ricocheted Bullet:
Brandon Montenegro

Arriving in Jackson, Mississippi was like the sensation of fresh, dark green blades of grass between one’s toes. We were in the state capital, and more noteworthy, a place with a large population. When we walked around Natchez on the second day, the streets were bare; when we were in Greenwood the sidewalks were also empty, and all the way through Clarksdale it felt like there was no life in the Delta. These places felt like used-to-be towns and places to live that were left in a capricious manner after some atrocity ended. Cue the tumbleweed. I’m used to being around and seeing copious amounts of people while walking or driving in public spaces. So being in Jackson was like being back home. There were more than five cars on the road at once as well as people walking on the sidewalks.

Upon arriving in Jackson, Mississippi, we went directly to Medgar Evers House. We had a tour at 1:30 p.m.

Medgar Evers was born in Decatur, Mississippi on July 2, 1925. At the age of 17, Evers was drafted into the U.S Army, where he fought in both France and Germany, and was later honorably discharged in 1946. Two years after his discharge, he enrolled at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College majoring in business administration and graduated in 1952.

Later, Evers worked with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People by urging blacks around Mississippi to join the NAACP. In 1954, Evers became the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi, and was in charge of recruiting new members, organizing voter registration efforts, leading boycotts on companies that practiced discrimination, investigating incidents of racial violence, and was a spokesperson for the NAACP. For example, Evers, along with NAACP Southeast Regional Director Ruby Hurley and Amzie Moore, president of the Bolivar County Branch in Mississippi, looked into Emmett Till’s homicide and secured witnesses. Hurley later sent the reports to both the FBI and The Crisis, the NAACP’s official magazine.

On May 20, 1963, Evers appeared on WLBT, a local news broadcast station in Jackson in line with segregationists, for 17 minutes. Evers was reacting to Jackson Mayor Allen Thompson’s rejection, on WLBT, of an effort to integrate public spaces and job opportunities. In his speech, Evers said:

What then does the Negro want? He wants to get rid of racial segregation in Mississippi life because he knows it has not been good for him nor for the state. He knows that segregation is unconstitutional and illegal. While states may make laws and enforce certain local regulations none of these should be used to deprive any citizens of his rights under the Constitution.

On June 12, 1963, no more than a month later after his WLBT appearance, Evers was assassinated in his driveway by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith. Which comes as no surprise because Evers highly publicized himself with the WLBT broadcast. His murder was finally brought to justice 31 years later in 1994 with the imprisonment of De La Beckwith.

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House of Medgar Evers. Photo by Ramsha Momin.

It was uncanny pulling up to Medgar Evers’ house. We’d parked our vans across the street from it. Close by the bush where De La Beckwith hid and shot Evers from. Earlier on in the school semester I had presented a biographical report on Evers. I knew that Evers was shot in his own driveway by a white supremacist; I knew that he crawled up his driveway hoping to get help from his wife and children who were inside their home; I knew that he later died in a hospital that initially did not want to treat him because he was a person of color. But it wasn’t real. Reading about what happened to Evers didn’t impact me. I know about racism; my dad has told me about several times when he was treated poorly for being Hispanic. I know of the slave trade, sharecropping, convict leasing, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and others who have been victims of racism.  However, there was a power about being there. At his home. A power equivalent to that of the .30-06 Enfield rifle that De La Beckwith used to assassinate Medgar Evers, one that dismantles illusory fronts about the way the world is and isn’t. It was the same power I felt during my walk through the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center in Glendora, Mississippi. Does this power stem from the fact that one knows what has happened at a specific location? Would someone feel the same power if they arrived at Evers’ home without prior knowledge? Maybe the site consolidates the event? Rendering it that much more real (I moved my hands about four feet apart just now). Allowing one to tell themselves, “I am standing right here, the exact place where Evers was shot, or where Emmett Till was brutally beaten and killed.” It’s possible that’s it. But I can’t be too sure. However, I’m not unsure about the impact that it had on me. It woke me from my slumber; it dried a wet match and lit it.

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Bullet hole in white tile. Photo by Corinna Richardson.

“The bullet pierced the wall that separates the living room from the kitchen…and to the right of the light switch. It crashed through the ceramic tile above the toaster and hit the refrigerator door directly across from the stove. Then it ricocheted off the refrigerator and came to rest on the countertop to the right of the sink.”

When I walked in to Evers’ home, my first thought was “Wow the Evers’ had nice furniture.” To the right they had a nice three-piece beige sofa set, a brown coffee table, and an upright piano. To the left they had a china armoire and a light brown dining table. It felt like it would have been a warm home to live in. Later, I learned that the furniture was not the Evers’ original furniture. It was prop furniture left over from the film Ghosts of Mississippi. What is undoubtedly left over from 1963, however, is the bullet hole that pierced the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room, the hole through the ceramic tile, and the refrigerator that the bullet ricocheted off from. As I was looking at the wall and the kitchen, Minnie Watson, Curator/Assistant in Archives at Tougaloo College as well as the curator of the Medgar Evers House Museum, said that earlier in the day a kid mentioned that one could see the window through the kitchen. So I bent down in the kitchen, aligning my sight with the bullet hole, and through the hole on the other side of the wall, I saw the window. A sight that galvanized my hate for Byron De La Beckwith, White supremacists, and other racists. What actions should I take to make sure this never happens again?

❤︎

If Yazoo Colors Can Write Stories of Peace
Kell Bernardo

Our tour at Eudora Welty’s house is less eventful
Until it isn’t.
We start in a room of a short documentary,
Then led into the various books that clutter the rooms of her house.
Our tour guide is the spitting image of Eudora Welty’s Ghost.
Paper to Pen. Fingers to Keys.
Letter after letter exchanged after they’re separated.
His letters saved, and her letters burned.
Heart to heart. White out to Paper.
Pictures aren’t allowed but some three have phones
With silent cameras.
Glass shatters like a winning slam dunk by a rival team.
Trees from the wrath of Welty’s Ghost wedge themselves into the trunk of the van.
Impromptu picnic in the park.
Phone calls are made.
Glass is shaken off various luggage.
In Jackson, we’re miles away from those bright walls
And I don’t think Yazoo colors can truly write stories of peace.

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Eudora Welty’s house in Jackson, MS. Photo by Corinna Richardson.


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Our minivan is a fish. Photo by Corinna Richardson.

The Wrath of Eudora Welty:
Corinna Richardson

Whenever I tell people I’m a writer, the inevitable next question is, “What do you like to write?” so I tell them the truth: that there isn’t any genre I like to stay within, but that I do enjoy playing with elements that are dark. Judging by her short story “Where Is the Voice Coming From?” about the assassination of Medgar Evers, Eudora Welty did, too.

It’s a dark part of Mississippian history, and it’s a dark story, written from the point of view of the man who killed one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most prolific figures. So dark and so close to the truth that inspired it, in fact, that details like names had to be altered before publication so that it wouldn’t have a prejudicial effect on the murder trial. In her book One Writer’s Beginnings, she says that “Of all my strong emotions, anger is the one least responsible for any of my work” but also that “There was one story that anger certainly lit the fuse of,” and that was this one. I can speak to the fact that most writers write to understand their own emotions, and because Eudora Welty never wrote out of anger, I think it’s safe to assume that she wrote this story to explore and understand the anger that sparked it. When we visited the Medgar Evers House, I think we, too, tried to understand the event and the story. And when we visited the Eudora Welty House later that day, I remember trying to understand her, the person behind the pages.

Eudora Welty loved stories, and she loved Mississippi. Born in Jackson, she was raised by her mother to believe that any chair in their house was there for her to read in or to be read to in, any day, any time.

“It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.”
—Eudora Welty, One Writer’s Beginnings

Upstairs and downstairs in Miss Welty’s home, the house of her adolescence, books are haphazardly stacked in every room. The rest of the house is warmly lit and modestly furnished, giving an impression of simplicity and welcome characteristic to Eudora, who is said to have loved people and to have cherished her relationships with friends and family. On the dining table is a revision left in progress; a couple of pages from one of her pieces, yellowing, curling at the edges, and cut into strips—and pins on the left side, so that the pieces could be pinned into place, moved, and pinned again—and so she could make sure that every word, every placement, every written work, was exactly right. Upstairs, the most notable room is Eudora’s bedroom, where she wrote. Given to her because she was the oldest child and the only girl, the large, open space has several windows, a four-post bed, and her desk—filled with books and covered with materials that must have been meaningful or useful to her while she worked. On a small table placed adjacent to the desk rests the electric typewriter that she only switched to because arthritis made it too difficult for her to continue on manual typewriters, and against the wall with the doors open is a cabinet filled with dozens and dozens of letters.

The typewriter and those letters inspired me to take two discreet, forbidden photographs, and even though my classmates and I later joked after a [fairly] minor car accident that “the wrath of Eudora Welty came down upon us” for those pictures, I’d take them again, because she was a writer, and I am a writer, and it meant so much to me to see the place where she felt inspired, and where she put in the time and the effort to realize her dreams—dreams hardly different from my own.

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Eudora Welty’s desk in her bedroom; one of the photos that nearly killed us. (Not really.) Photo by Corinna Richardson.

I wonder what Eudora Welty would have to say if she were alive today. As a writer, I wonder what she would say if she read this over my shoulder. I don’t think she would want to be memorialized much more than she already is, because, as we learned, she won many awards and she tossed nearly all of them into a box inside a closet. It was never about the awards for her, and I think she might appreciate this now, not for the recognition but for the idea that she meant something to me and to my classmates. As for the pictures, I think she would laugh at the theory about her angry spirit. I think maybe it was really just her sense of humor.

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Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, typewriter, and photograph of Eudora Welty at home, preserved behind glass at the Education and Visitors Center next door to her house. Photo by Corinna Richardson.