Thursday, June 9, 2011


It's 1:20 in the morning and I can't sleep. My stomach is in knots and I can't seem to get a deep breath. My head is foggy, things seem unclear. Hopefully, I can write my way out of this. I'm trying to wrap my mind around a question. It's a big one, a game changer.

Did someone encourage Lloyd Cork to murder my grandfather?

Wow. Was Booker's death more than random? Was it more than just one angry guy making the worst decision of his life in a moment of alcohol induced stupidity?

I feel sick. Physically ill. I want to get in my car, drive to the airport, get on a plane and go to that prison RIGHT NOW.  Maybe if I could stand there, on the grass outside the prison walls, I'd find the truth wafting in the air like a scent left just for me.  With one deep breath I'd know the entire story of my grandfather's murder.  

Part of me desperately wants to sit down with Lloyd Cork. Part of me doesn't even have the courage to imagine meeting him.

Okay, I'm going to try to pull it together so that I can get some cohesive thoughts down. Several weeks ago I received a copy of Lloyd Cork's file from the Leflore County Courthouse, a 210 page set of documents.  It was strange at first, to read the eyewitness accounts of Booker's death. I originally asked for it because one of the producers of the documentary made a comment that brought into question whether or not Booker threw Blackie out for the reasons I'd always been told.

As we all know, memory can be funny. Often times oral history can be a more dramatic, more colorful version of actual events.  I needed to know for sure.

In that first reading, I scanned every piece of paper in the file. There were handwritten notes from Cork and other pieces that gave me pause. Then I got to the trial. It was surreal to read the eyewitness testimony of people who, not only were there when my grandfather was shot, but who were standing so close to him that they themselves were injured. I was relieved to read testimony that described Blackie as coming in and going straight to a table where two whites were eating. What the argument was about isn't mentioned, as a matter of fact, I can't recall if it was even asked.

Through this whole documentary film process I've told myself that I'm committed to the truth. Whatever comes up, whatever we find, we won't be dishonest about it.

But, I think out of loneliness I allowed Booker to become almost mythical in my mind. I was in a really sad place when I first learned about him. I felt lost and insignificant within my family of origin, like no one could really see me.  I believed that my life was not really important to people who I desperately wanted it to be important to.

Thinking that someone like Booker Wright was part of me brought me so much peace and hope. When I first started talking to people about him I remember I always felt really nervous that I would hear something that would diminish the greatness I perceived in him. The opposite happened. Person after person, interview after interview reconfirmed with beautifully described details a warm, generous, smart, and very brave man.

Someone working on the documentary started saying that all of the stories need to be vetted. Which of course they do, but I started to fear that maybe my hero was made of sand and that, when this whole process was over, I'd be left staring at a few dusty little grains in my hand, the rest of him blown away by the "search for the truth".

Anyway, I'm off point. I initially thought that I'd gotten what I needed from the docs about Cork and I tried to just go into work mode. It was a piece of valuable research for this documentary and I tried to think of it as nothing more. But I felt protective of it. I took it with me when we traveled. I kept rereading it. There were some things about it that just didn't sit well with me.

Then, the other day, the producer mentioned that maybe there was more to Booker's death than what we know, maybe Cork didn't act alone.

Honestly, I keep thinking that I need to finish this post, but just writing it out is making me feel more at peace. I don't have any control over what happened all those years ago. He can't disappoint me because he never met me. I have the film and I have the memories he left of himself. If someone else intentionally had him murdered, I hope they pay for that. Probably not in this life, but definitely in the afterlife. I can't get too jumbled up in this. I can't let myself get wrapped up in looking for vengeance...I can't lose my breath.


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