Interviews

Headed to the Delta (Land of the Blues)

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As I prepped for my trip to Mound Bayou, MS I researched further details of the town built by former slaves contribution to civil rights and black history. While recalling various documentaries mentioning Mound Bayou, I remembered how revered the town was in its glory days. Some may argue those days are long gone based on the current economic conditions and once vibrant dilapidated buildings however, I still deem it to be a pillar of strength and possibilities in the African American community. Mound Bayou, MS is in the heart of the Delta and is known for its blues. The blues is one of my favorite genres of music and being that I spent ample of time in Memphis, TN I knew I was going to be blessed with the current and former spirit of blues players once I arrived.

Unfortunately I did not have enough vacation time to leave early so I decided to drive to another historic city, Birmingham, AL for the evening to cut time off the looooong ride. Since it was Labor Day weekend I attempted to confirm an additional interview in Birmingham being that an extra day was owed for the hard work I have given the Country for over the last 20 years but to no prevail. A classmate of mine at Tennessee State University informed me of a woman who would be a great candidate but the timing wasn’t right, which was all good because I knew I was coming back to Alabama sooner than later.

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The next morning after waking up I happily called Mr. Herman Johnson to confirm I would be in town around 11:30- 12:00 noon. I am gluten intolerant so traveling sometimes can be a challenge if I do not have my own packed or gluten free food items. I pulled over into a shell station grabbed a protein shake, water, peanuts and was on my way. As one would expect I prompted my iPod to play some good ole blues to get my mind right for the ride. Seeing some of the untouched land full of trees, farms, and cotton intensely made me wonder what life was like for those individuals who were slaves, sharecroppers, and independent farmers. I envisioned homesteads being positioned on most of these properties with children carelessly playing in the wide open spaces. I also envisioned the hard labor of peoples enslaved ancestors who helped cultivate the fiscal gain from such open space.

I switched the iPod to a local radio station while driving and heard an interview of a radio host discussing with a lawyer the topic of the Rebel flag needing to be taken down. The lawyer had many good points centered on how he felt threatened physically, emotionally, and mentally every time he walked into a court house that had the flag waiving from the pole. He spoke with confidence and acknowledged the level of pro bono support from lawyers he has been receiving from peers living in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The topic of Delta State University refusing to remove their flag was topic of discussion as well. Before the station lost its signal I heard him say “I’m fed up with it, it’s coming down”! All I can think was “I can dig that”. I knew I was getting closer to Mound Bayou when I saw the signs identifying the blues trials along the road.

Ahead I saw a purple and white sign which read “Mound Bayou Mississippi the oldest US. All Black Municipality founded by ex-slaves in 1887”. Naturally I pulled over and took a picture of the historic sign, called Mr. Johnson and moments later started interviewing in his home over two red apple ales. Cheers!!!!

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