I found out a little late that Booker's story, or at least part of it, was going to be included in one of Anthony Bourdain's food shows. Parts Unknown is the name of the show. I'm hoping to be able to get my hands on the episode to see it for myself, but I did hear that they aired Booker's monologue.
I'm thrilled, beyond thrilled really, because more people are learning about his story. No one in my family even knew my grandfather made those statements until about seven years ago. He protected his daughters and my whole family from his thoughts and feelings about his work at Lusco's. When we finally found the footage it brought both joy and heartache. Joy because we could see him, moving and speaking and laughing. Heartache because of how much shame he endured every night just to make a living.
I read Anthony's blog post about the Delta. Yes, it is an amazing place. It's virtually impossible to measure all the things we have as Americans that originated there. But like an Achilles heel, the history of slavery and the legacy of segregation will always be a part of the South's rich inheritance. The story of man's subjugation to man is written all over the Delta. It's painted on people's faces, it's in the space that often still separates whites and blacks, it's in their laws, their customs, and is an integral fiber in the every day lives of today's Mississippians.
If you find yourself interested in the Mississippi Delta's rich, tragic past try not gawk as though observing a car wreck or even a horrifyingly beautiful work of art.
Howard Zinn, one of the nation's most beloved historians, said the South is a mirror. When we look at her, we're seeing a concentrated version of the rest of the nation. The Mississippi Delta is not some random, scandal-ridden anomaly, a stain on our nation, and the excuse for why the state ranks last in almost every barometer that measures quality of life.
The Delta is none of those things.
What is it? It's us. It's all that we're capable of - good and bad. It's what is beautiful and tragic about the human spirit.
It's really not all that different down there after all.