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  • Nicole J. Burton

Delta Blessings & Curses

Fannie Lou Hamer is one of my heroes. I went with pleasure to her memorial park and gravesite in Ruleville, Sunflower County. Around the corner from where she lived, the park includes this beautiful statue with engraved pictures and quotes, her gravesite and that of her husband, and tribute markers. I did soaring crane qi gong in the pavilion to leave and receive blessings. Over forty years gone, she has much to teach us about courage and commitment. I enjoyed a brief visit with the Ruleville librarian to drop off books, lucky to see her because she splits her days between the Drew and Ruleville libraries. I didn't want to continue my Delta itinerary; I didn't want to go to Money, but the historian at Jackson State said the ruins of Bryant's Grocery Store where Emmett Till bought candy and whistled at the cashier was a sacred spot. So down Sunny Side Road I went, winding along the muddy Tallahatchie River, blacktop to gravel to blacktop again. Someone had recently left yellow flowers on the ruins across from the railroad tracks and down from the old Money Cotton Gin. Though outwardly peaceful, I hated the neighborhood. I didn't like my next stop either, Sumner, the courthouse where the sham trial of Till's murderers took place. I visited the good Emmett Till Interpretative Center, where a recent acquisition is the bullet-ridden sign from the spot on the riverbank where Till's body was believed to have been removed. A new bulletproof sign--and a camera--have been installed. Finally, my last --short--stop was the visitor parking lot of Parchman Penitentiary, where hundreds of Freedom Riders were imprisoned. A nasty place, an 18,000-acre forced labor prison to this day. Nine people were murdered there recently. Back at my hotel in Cleveland, I thought of staying in or finding a meeting but this last night in the Delta--and Mardi Gras--was my one opportunity to find some Delta blues so I drove up to Clarksdale and sure enough, at the Hambone Art and Music Venue, Mississippi Marshall and friends were playing soulful, sustaining blues. The red beans and rice were good too.

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