Today I spoke with the woman who oversees Cork's unit and she agreed to shred the visitation forms for me. Honestly, I hate even writing this post. I feel like a total wimp. Pursuing Cork, however, just makes me feel too exposed. Yesterday my kids were playing in the backyard and I kept wondering what I'd do if, at that exact moment, an ex-con knocked on my door with an unfriendly message for me from the man who murdered my grandfather.
The odds are slim that he would get his hands on my home address. The odds are even slimmer that he'd be able to somehow "get" to me. But I just feel a little less safe knowing that my personal data is in the same building with him. Actually, I feel a lot less safe.
This is a hunt, a real journey, an honest search for me to get as close as I can to the truth of my grandfather's life and death. But this journey is not and never will be the center of my life. I have a family that moves and breathes regardless of what happened 38 years ago. I've been blessed beyond my wildest dreams with an amazing life. I don't want to put even the smallest portion of it in jeopardy for what really amounts to a hobby that's lasted for four and a half years.
I'm sad. I'm feeling quite reflective about all of this. I've devoted so much time and so many hours and so many resources to this journey with the hope that it would yield something rich for me. In many ways it has and it many ways it hasn't. Making that call today brought me relief that I could protect my info from a murderer, shame for being so fearful, and a sadness because I was closing a door that I'd hoped for so long would open.
I don't know how much longer I'll continue to post here. I thought I was finished "making the movie", but the producer mentioned the other day that we need to shoot just one more on-camera interview of me. There are a few moments that need to be explained more clearly, and then Raymond is trying to work out some final moments to sum up my thoughts on Booker's life. That's the hardest part.
It used to be that whenever I thought of my grandfather I swelled with pride. Now it's different. I picture a man who smiled for everyone. He protected and taught his children, all the while showering them with joy and good times. But this same man was beaten by the police and possibly harassed by them more than I will ever know.
Just before he died, my grandfather told my aunt that if anything ever happened to him she should know that he'd lived a good life. Who says things like that when they're only 46 years old? I keep wondering whether or not he endured continual harassment from the police. Was he receiving threats? Did he think someone was coming for him?
He just strikes me as lonely. I wish I could find someone who he talked to about the beating. I wish someone could tell me that he'd made peace with it all. But if he never talked about these things, if he just kept them inside, could he have ever really found peace?
I often think of him as someone who was given a life of sour lemons (separated from his mother, raised on a plantation in poverty, working full time at 14, living in a town where whites took a hard stance against integration), but he took those lemons and he made lemonade. Whenever I try to stop my summation of Booker Wright's life there, another voice always seems to echo back to me, "Who could he have been had he been given something besides lemons?"
This brings me to another thought. Not that my grandfather was necessarily a civil rights hero - he was an everyday guy who simply did the right thing. But, I think the danger of focusing so much on the heroes of the civil rights movement is that we forget the reason why there even had to be a movement in the first place. We celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. for his accomplishments, but maybe all he wanted out of his life was to watch his children grow up. Or maybe he would've been the first black president. We will never know.
I am proud that Booker Wright owned his own business and was able to spend the last several years of his life working for himself. Booker's Place was on one of the roughest streets in town. My grandfather did his best to ensure that it was the nicest place on that street.
What kind of a place could he have opened if banks back then lent money to blacks? What could Booker's Place have been if all restaurants were integrated? Who could Booker Wright have been if more than two jobs (waiter or cotton picker) were available to him in Greenwood all those years ago?
He was a big fish in a small, black pond. But who could he have been if the pond had always been integrated?