Friday, October 7, 2011

Wanting to Know More

When this journey started I wanted to find my grandfather so that I could have some sort of moment or relationship with him.  I know this sounds odd and had I articulated this idea to myself, really written it out, I would've realized that it was a goal that was completely unattainable.  One night in Greenwood I was talking about this with Raymond and he looked up at me and said, "But of course, you know that you can't have a relationship with a dead person." I remember feeling as though someone had just made the lights flicker.  Of course, how silly of me.

Now, I'm here waiting for what's next.  The filmmakers are finishing the movie and I'm working on a book of sorts - I'm writing out what happened.  Sometimes this writing is fun and it reminds me of the laughs and the drama of making the film.  I'm reminded of people I initially didn't trust and then came to adore and people I initially adored only to realize that I needed to be a little less trusting.

I'm writing through the mystery.  I had no idea when this journey started that there were any questions about my grandfather's death.  When I boarded the plan that took me to the making of this film, I had no idea that my grandfather had been beaten so badly by a white cop that he had to be hospitalized.  There was so much that I didn't know before the first Greenwood trip.

Tonight I was thinking about my grandfather and I still feel as though there is so much that I don't know. 

I'm writing the story of my search to find him.  I'm writing about what I learned and when and how I felt when I learned those things.  But the thing that I set out to do years ago, the thing that I always wanted to do, is the thing that I still cannot do.  I cannot write about Booker Wright.  Everyone knew of him but it seems that nobody really knew him.  A white judge, a man who I'm sure my grandfather never hung out with, is the one who told us about the beating.  A man removed from my grandfather's way of life gave us one of the most shocking and critical pieces of data we found on our search.  This information did not come from my family because my family did not know.

As I sit here on the foot of my bed, I feel kind of deflated.  I've dealt with the crazy hope of "meeting" my grandfather's spirit on this journey, but I never dealt with the other hope that went unmet.  I had a hope to learn more about him.  I hoped that people would share conversations they had with him, conversations that would reveal his sense of humor, his quirks, and his worries.

Initially, I searched for him so that I could piece him together and know him like a granddaughter would know a grandfather.  Now I simply wonder about his thoughts.  Did he fear for his life?  It seems the answer would be yes because he had those end of life talks with my mother and my aunt.  But, what specifically did he fear?  Who did he fear?  Did he expect the beating he got after the NBC documentary aired?  Or was he surprised and left shaken?

There are a few more sources who may know the answers.  My family members have asked me not to pursue these leads.  They fear that if these voices make it into the film that they might sully Booker Wright's memory.  Well, the film is almost done.  The Greenwood researchers are off the case.  The resources have all but dried up.  But there are four people who might know more.  They might have pieces that could complete the puzzle.  They might be the ones he confided in.  

I love and respect my family.  During the making of this film I respected their wishes even when they did not respect mine.  But I feel as though Booker Wright has been silent for all these years.  The work we've done with the filmmakers has brought one piece of his story to the masses.  He said in the NBC film that he didn't want his children to go through what he went through.  Was he talking only about being called the "n" word?

I still have so many questions.  Is it wrong for me to want the answers?  I just don't think I'm finished with this.  As much as my family wants him to be the hero and wants his life to be tied up neatly with a little bow, I can't help but wonder if someone out there can tell me what he really thought and felt.  

Did he confide in anyone?


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