Thursday, December 15, 2016

Fun With Friends and a Sobering Look at History in Reverse

December 8-10, 2016
West Memphis, Arkansas

We're at Tom Sawyer's Mississippi River Campground at Linda's recommendation. At the time she and Steven were still continuing their gig at Amazon for several more weeks. But they took an early out and their first stop is right here!

A quick happy hour at our place gets us caught up on Wednesday evening, and we make plans for the next day.

Thursday morning Linda picks Tessa and I up for some shopping, and later Bill and Steven head into Memphis to see the new movie Arrival.

Sharing this amazing life with people whose company we really enjoy is a blessing - even just doing normal stuff :-) We found everything we were looking for, and the guys enjoyed what they both called a mind-bending film.

Linda shows me how to cook a roast in my Instant Pot while she whips up a cheesecake to bake in hers. We've named them Thelma and Louise and look forward to sharing their individual adventures and their reunions down the road.

Photo by Linda - "the working girls"
The roast is amazing, and I am immediately inspired to do lots of cooking in the new Pot. We'll see..... :-)

One more place I really want to see is the National Civil Rights Museum, so Friday I make a solo trip back across the river to Memphis. Since it is at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was killed I expect to be moved. Since I worked for the union 26 years I expect to feel a connection. Since I don't know everything I expect to learn a lot.

This museum is exceptionally well done. At the end of the powerful opening film narrated by proud, not-apologizing-for-my-anger young African Americans, the screen rolls back and I follow the moving silhouettes of marching protesters into the exhibits. 

I spend three hours here and in no way can I capture in words or photos the impact. All the expectations yes. Definitely. But something very unexpected as well. Sadness. And the reality that if I had visited one month earlier it would have been pride instead. I can't help but feel that in one day we went from seeing our country realize the dreams of thousands who fought and died for civil rights, to a frightening U-turn. 

Room 306, Lorraine Motel, Memphis, CA
A round room depicts the global slave ship routes, and the impact on families, cultures, and human spirit.

An un-imaginable truth

The end of slavery did not mean the end of fear, abuse and death. Seeing the resurgence of these hoods means we  have once again failed to learn from our past.

Calling it what it was. What it is.

I was eight when Rockwell's The Problem We All Live With was published in 1964. About the age of the girl he pictured, and living a completely different life.

Sitting with Rosa Parks.

While she's being yelled at to move back or be arrested. The separate-but-equal Jim Crow laws gave him the authority to do what was wrong.

After 383 days of the non-violent bus boycott, Montgomery bus lines were desegregated and service resumed. Still, leaders were arrested, indicted and jailed for their part in "interfering with a lawful business."

For decades, all across the south, American citizens were forced to fight for their Constitutional rights. Non-violent protests were held in major cities and small towns.
All too often these were met with violence, like the torching of the Freedom Riders' bus by a mob of 50 Klan in Anniston, Alabama. 

And the violent means used to disperse protesters. Not unlike the recent Standing Rock confrontations.

Although the group disbanded in 1963, this song would be sung at the Berlin Wall, at Tiananmen Square, and challenging apartheid on the streets of Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Many of his followers were angry with Dr King for adhering to the injunction against their march into the city of Montgomery. He continued to advocate for peaceful, lawful protest.

Although eventually given the permit to march into Montgomery, violence and death met them there. Viola was a young mother of five, shot and killed by Klans"men" along the route. She had driven by herself to join the march.

Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike - this is a full-size truck with headlines playing on its side.

I sit on a wooden pew and watch Dr King's final speech, the Mountaintop Speech, at the Mason Temple on April 3, 1968. He was tired from his travels and had not prepared anything. Instead he spoke from the heart. He had received hundreds of escalating death threats and his words about seeing the promised land, of being "free at last" really feels prophetic knowing now that it would be his last speech. I watch most of it through tears. 

Standing at Room 306 where Dr King was shot and killed by a coward from that small window across the street.
Movement to Overcome by Michael Pavlosky stands in the museum foyer

Across the street from the motel is the Legacy Center which includes the replica of the room behind the window where it is believed James Earl Ray took the shot that killed Dr King.

The center is dedicated to the on-going efforts for human and civil rights around the world. Third from the left on the bottom is Delores Huerta who I marched with in California many years ago.

A new exhibit honors Muhammed Ali
I have to believe that an educated majority can prevail in spite of our current circumstances.
Fortunately we have a birthday celebration on Friday evening that lifts my spirits and reminds me we are surrounded by really great people.

It's Steven's birthday and the four of us have a lovely time full of enlightened discussion, belly laughs, and amazing food. Hearty potato soup is followed by the life-changing cheesecake covered in caramel and pecans - SO good!

We say our good-byes for now as Saturday we're continuing to head south. Thanks for a great visit guys, we sure had fun!

Half Shell and Piper at the Mississippi River - thanks for the great pic Steven :-)))

I can't end this post without encouraging you to check out Steven's photography site. More than just the best photos I've seen anywhere, his accompanying words are insightful, inspiring and enhance what he shares through the camera lens. Do yourself a favor and go see.


  1. You certainly have covered a lot of territory this year. Don't forget to leave some things for next year and the year after that! Head south quick. Snow is coming up there.

    1. We're as far south as we can get now :-)))) Right on the Gulf coast!

  2. Once again, a place where I should have been with you. Wow. Just wow. Great post, Jodee!💕

  3. Great post Jodee...heartfelt and real!

  4. Beautiful Jodee. I too was so touched by all that happened when I was a very young child. I was very moved by the Martin Luther King Memorial in Atlanta and was glad that we could take our kids there (as well as the Holocaust Memorial in DC). Hard to understand that kind of hate. I'm glad you had that wonderful time with friends to to balance things back out.

    1. With the Kennedys and Dr King, it was such a part of our lives :-(

  5. I remember race riots in Minneapolis in the 1960s. I wish there was no longer a reason for them.

    We tried to visit the museum at the lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, but we they hadn't finished building it yet. I'm glad these site are being restored and turned into museums; this is a part of our history that needs to be remembered--not repeated.

    1. I agree, we are less likely to repeat when we remember :-))

  6. Wow...what an emotional day, Jodee. Great post, indeed.

  7. Your words about the National Civil Rights Museum nearly bring me to tears. This is a place I have really wanted to visit. I so share your fear that we are turning around all of the environmental and civil rights progress so many have fought so hard to achieve in the past 50 years. So so very hard won and how easily and quickly it can just be ripped away. It breaks my heart. So glad you had such obviously wonderful friends. Really want to hear about how you use the instant pot and whether a vegan would have any use for it.

    1. Thank you Sherry, I know you'd enjoy the museum - so much we were never taught in school. I've been eating a "mostly" plant based diet for several weeks now and all the recipes I have to try this week are vegan. I'll let you know how they go, and where I got them.

  8. Outstanding post, Jodee! I'm sorry we didn't make it a point to stop at the museum. Thanks so much for your very moving narrative as you toured the exhibits. You did a great job sharing with us:)

    Sounds like a special time with your friends. Love your Instant Pot buddies!!! I checked out Steve's photography...Wow!! Love his photo of Mesa Arch at sunrise...spectacular!

    1. Thanks Pam, you must see it when you get back there. So glad you saw Steven's work, he amazes me. His book on Alaska is beyond wow!

  9. We had sooo much fun with you guys in West Memphis! What luck that it worked out for our paths to cross again. The cooking sesh with Thelma and Louise was inspiring, so glad you were around to be testers with us. You have inspired me to make the effort to go to the Civil Rights museum next time we are in the area. This was not the time, too much mental decompression necessary after the Amazon gig...but, next time!

    1. I think you guys will appreciate the museum - it is exceptional. It was a great visit - I'm so glad you were able to bug out early, and that Memphis was on your way.