Off to M-I-Crooked Letter-Crooked Letter-I…

March 15, 2008

We spent Thursday morning in Montgomery, going to the Rosa Parks Museum. It’s run by Troy University and is sitting right on the corner where Rosa Parks was arrested. It’s kind of odd, having a whole museum dedicated to what was about ten minutes of history, but it put the whole event into context.

For example, a lot of the time in schools kids are taught that Rosa Parks was just really tired after a long day and did not feel like getting up. In reality she was the secretary of the local chapter of the NAACP and was trained in non-violence. A month or so before her arrest another young woman was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. But that woman was unmarried and rumored to be pregnant, so the NAACP declined to turn her situation into a court case- they didn’t want to give their opponents any ammunition. So, the group was waiting for the chance to test the system when Rosa Parks was arrested.

The museum had a really cool display that consisted of an actual bus with TV screens in each window. It must have been one big screen stretched out, because the idea was that you were standing outside of the bus watching the events unfold inside. So, there were actors on the screen filling the whole bus. Very interesting.

We ate lunch, again, on the campus of Alabama State University. This time we sat right in the middle of the cafeteria, and this time I saw three white students, who looked like they were on the football team. ASU is 10% white.

After that we left Montgomery, on the way to Meridian. Right outside of Meridian is Okatibee Baptist Church, and next to that is the historically black cemetery from my previous post, where James Chaney is buried. Over the years (more than 40 now) since his body and that of his two friends were found, his grave has been abused in various ways. There are now thick steel supports behind his tombstone, because people repeatedly used trucks to pull it out of the ground or to topple it over. His picture, once etched into an oval near the top of the stone, was shot out with a gun years ago. There was once an eternal flame at the foot of his grave; it was destroyed. Now, his mother is interred right next to him, and a chain- broken- surrounds his grave.

The rest of the grave yard (you can scroll down for pictures) is nestled between old trees. Some graves are very new, some very old. Some are still covered in just dirt, some are mounded, others not. Some have elaborate headstones, others- quite a few others- have a simple metal stake stuck into the ground, provided by the funeral home. To the side, the sound of a piano drifts over from the small Okatibee Baptist church building.

A block away the stars and bars of the Confederate flag wave from a pole in front of a mobile home.

That night was spent in a hotel much like the others we have been in all week, and for dinner a group of us went to Bridget’s, a local restaurant recommended by the front desk. As it turns out, the manager of the hotel is named Bridget, and she owns the restaurant. So, not exactly an unbiased review.

What a strange experience that was! It was actually a tiny house, smaller than my family’s in Houston. It was remodeled to be more open, and small four-person tables were set up all around. White table clothes, “fancy” art prints on the wall, the works- but it was clearly a converted house. There were about 16 of us, and we asked if we could move a few of the table together so groups of 8 could sit together. No, they said, they preferred to keep the tables apart so that they could go table-by-table. Never mind that the tables were literally about two feet apart anyway!

There was one lady clearly in charge. I would describe her as a modern hillbilly. She was dressed normally and had a cute haircut, but had this crazy thick accent and had smoker’s skin. The one waitress had only worked there two days. She was so young, but wore a wedding band. And, boy, was she slow! I ordered a crab cake sandwich without the bread, and she stared at me for about 15 seconds before saying that she didn’t think they could do that. I said “Oh, that’s OK, just take off the bread and stick it on a plate.” More staring. Then, “OK, I can ask.” Hm.

Same story with everyone else’s order. Then the manager came out about 30 minutes later to have us reorder with her since it was all messed up. Then we got the original order anyway, when the food came out another 20 minutes later. Then, when we finished eating two tables of our groups had yet to even get their food. When we got the checks, we discovered that the waitress had written little nicknames at the top so she could keep us straight. All four of us. I was “curly”.

All in all a huge waste of money (because, yes, after all of that, it was seriously overpriced).

So, and interesting day on all accounts. The next morning we woke up and hit the road for Philadelphia, Mississippi. Yes, the worst state in the nation as far as race relations was about to get a visit from yours truly. Never thought that would happen!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: