Monday, May 19, 2014

Anthony Bourdain - Parts Unknown

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 to 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.


  1. I'm quite disappointed that I learned of your grandfather's story on Parts Unknown last night and not while I was a student at MVSU from 1980-85. Being from Saint Louis I chose to go to college in the Delta because of it's history both good and bad. This is and was a missed educational opportunity. I would venture to say that not even Mississippians under 50 living in Greenwood know this important civil rights moment in history.

    1. Agreed. I'm telling as many people that I can...on college campuses, at corporations, in non-profits...everywhere. I think my grandfather provided a terrific model for how to deal with issues that can be infused with bias-related tension: connect first on the human level.

      Thank you for commenting and connecting! Find me on Facebook at SearchingForBookerWright for the latest.

  2. I came looking for info on your grandfather after watching Bourdain. I'm sorry your grandfather had to go through so much. I'm glad things are getting better but there's still work to do. Your blog post was beautiful, Yvette

  3. A friend on my FB news feed posted about both Bourdain's Delta episode and your documentary. I'll be seeking out both very soon. As I often tell my students, if you didn't know this story, what else don't you know? Keep telling this story.

    1. THANK YOU! Sometimes I really need to hear that. :)

  4. Just saw the Bourdain feature tonight and felt a mixture of "ah bravo" for what your grandfather did and a "why hadn't I ever heard of this before?" Couldn't help but look up his story for more information and discovered the mystery around his death. I'm so sorry for you and your family.

    Your story in researching to find out more sounds similar to mine, as I did research that uncovered a lynching and subsequent banishment of all black folks in their Missouri town. Makes all the sacrificing and indignities our forebears went through even more poignant.

    At any rate, I'm sorry to have missed you when you were in Wisconsin. Would've loved to have heard your presentation.

  5. Yvette,

    I saw the clip of Booker Wright on Bourdain's show. I had it DVRed, so I just saw it this weekend. I am at a loss for words. I do know, though, that I will promote Booker's story. It relates to my interest in Ernest Gaines' writing. His texts voice the same sentiments. I plan, next week, to do a post about Booker and Gaines' A Lesson before Dying on the Ernest J. Gaines Center's blog. Our blog address is

  6. Yvette,
    I saw the documentary" Booker's Place: A Mississippi Story" on Netflix. I read some of your blogs up to where you were going to meet him the next Sunday. I haven't been able to find out what happened when you met him. What happened?


    A link above where you can see the episode in its entirety.