Friday, April 22, 2011

Pot of Trouble

Today I was able to spend quite a bit of time on the phone with Margurite, Booker's half sister.  Margurite grew up in Chicago and would often travel to Greenwood to visit Booker and to work in his cafe.  Since she was not from the South, she was struck by certain differences along racial lines.  Margurite remembers that she and M.W.'s daughter would often go places together.  Booker would always tell M.W.'s daughter not to allow Margurite to speak to white people.  He was concerned that she would say the wrong thing and get into some trouble.

Margurite shared a story with me about an occurrence that has stayed with her all these years.  One day she was working in Booker's Place with M.W. and another female employee.  Booker was not there at the time.  A white police officer walked into Booker's Place straight through the restaurant and into the kitchen.  He walked over to a pot of food that was simmering on the stove.  He put his bare hand in the pot, took out a large piece of meat, leaned against the stove and ate it.  Margurite remembers that as he stood there, juice was running down the sides of his hand and dripping onto the floor.

What Margurite remembers the most is that no one said anything.  M.W. did not say a word and neither did the other employee.  When the officer finished eating the meat, he turned around and simply walked out of the cafe.  Immediately, M.W. took the pot of food, opened the back door, and tossed it onto the grass.

When Margurite told me this story it sent chills up my spine.  It seemed like someone was sending a message to Booker's employees...that no matter how successful they thought they were, they were not beyond this man's grasp.


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