Freedom Ring – Part One

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexels

The Train

Louis pulled the olive-drab wool service cap down as far as it could go. Why he was hiding his face, he didn’t know. It was not like anyone could see him. Louis’s heart fluttered. After all these years, even the thought of her made him blush. His excitement was quickly replaced by sorrow. He had not been the best husband. Maybe if he were, she would not have asked for that restraining order, he would not have joined the Army, and the terrible future he knew was coming would not happen.

But Louis was on a mission, so now he couldn’t think about that. Life was funny in that way. Sometimes you don’t realize your purpose until after you have already lived.

The scream of the train’s horn startled him out of his thoughts. The 63rd Street Station in Chicago was lively, with travelers. He looked down at his watch as the train’s horn sounded again. They will be here any minute now.

“Now, where do you think you are going?”

Louis looked up and smiled. That tiny voice and round, golden-brown face always did something to him. Then, she had the nerve to have those sexy glasses on. But Mamie wasn’t talking to him and had not spoken to him in years. No, Mamie Carthan was talking to their son.

Louis stopped thinking about her beauty and rushed over to stand next to them. There was not much time left, and although he knew neither one could see him, the whole situation still made him nervous. Nerves. Was that even a thing anymore? Louis brushed imaginary lint from his wool, four-button olive coat. It was the same coat he had been wearing for ten years now. The same uniform he has worn since he died.

“Come on, ma. I’m gonna be late,” whined the chubby little boy.

Louis smiled. He knew Emmett would be a handful the day they discovered he was a breech baby. That’s why he gave him his name because he knew he’d be hard-headed, just like his father. Emmett Louis Till. Bursting into the world wide-eyed and feet first.

“Yea, but you didn’t kiss me goodbye.”

Emmett smiled and gave Mamie a peck on the cheek.

Give her the watch.

Louis cleared his throat. He hadn’t realized how long it’s been since he had said anything out loud. He looked around at the people walking by. It was strange the way they seemed to look right at him.

Give her the watch. 

He repeated the command as he stared down at his son.

You won’t need it where you are going.

He could see the boy thinking the words over in his head. He knew he thought they were coming from his own mind. Louis had come to learn that sadness was different in the after-world, but if he could, he would shed a tear. He stood watching his son remove the watch he was wearing and give it to his mother, and his heart ached at the future.

“Here,” said Emmett, “take my watch.”

Mamie frowned as she put it on, “Why?”

“I won’t need it where I’m going,” he said, turning his back to his mother and dashing off in the direction of the train where his cousin Wheeler and great Uncle Moses were waiting.

“Bobo, wait! What about your ring?”

Louis turned away from Emmett to look admirably at his ex-wife. She was the one and had always been the one. He thought she was chosen for him to be his wife this entire time. But the truth is she was chosen to be Emmett’s mother.

He pulled himself away from her face. He was running out of time. Emmett had to be on that train.

Show it to the fellas.

Emmett turned around and pulled the ring from his pants pocket, and put it on, rubbing his fingers across his father’s initials. He lifted his head and stared straight ahead, like someone who had just discovered a new world or happened upon a new invention, and flashed a big grin.

“I’m gonna show this to the fellas!”

Mamie laughed and waved her handkerchief.

“Alright then, boy. Go on ahead now.”

Louis watched his son jump on the train and Mamie staring after him. He remembered the day he got the thing made in Europe, just one year since he had been drafted into the Army. But it was not his ring anymore. Soon, the whole African American community would wear that ring. 

No. This was no longer LT’s ring. Now, it was the ring of freedom.

The quietness of the station alarmed him, and Louis looked around in awe of the now dark, empty station. The Master warned him that time moved differently here. He had better get a move on it if he was going to make it to Money in time.

Louis inhaled deeply as his body disintegrated into the wind for his next mission.


After watching ABC’s “Let the World See” about the role of Mamie Till and how she handled Emmett Till’s death, I was happy to see some discussion about Emmett’s father, Louis. Since grade school, I have been studying the Emmett Till story, when I first learned about it, heard many versions of the story, and have seen countless documentaries. My favorite is the one that aired in 2005, “The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till,” on YouTube. I like it mostly because Mamie Till was still alive and could tell it the way only she could.

But in all the docs, even my favorite one, there was never anything about his father. This had me thinking.

What if we tell both of their stories at the same time? 

Louis Till died at the young age of twenty-three when he was accused of assaulting some Italian women in Europe while serving overseas in the Transportation Corps of the U.S. Army during World War II. He and a friend were found guilty and lynched in 1945. 

What if our story doesn’t end here? 

What if the spirit world informs Louis about his son’s death and its necessity to jump start The Civil Rights Movement? 

And what if it becomes Louis’s responsibility to make sure Emmett wears his ring so that they can identify his body? 

And what if his soul isn’t allowed to rest until he does? 

What if we can tell both stories through the power of the ring that binds them?

New Film Documents Mamie Till-Mobley’s Fight for Justice for Her 14-Year-Old Son, Emmett Louis Till

I remember learning about Emmett Till as early as third grade and then again, in about sixth grade.

Now, Whoopi Goldberg and Danielle Deadwyler will star in Chinonye Chukwu’s upcoming film “Till,” about Mamie Till-Mobley’s fight for justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Louis Till. All American star Jayln Hall has been cast to play the role of Emmett.

“Till” chronicles Mamie’s decision to have an open casket at Emmett’s funeral and to allow Jet magazine publish David Jackson’s funeral photos, in order to ensure people everywhere saw the true horrors of her son’s murder. The decision from the grieving mother was a galvanizing moment that led to the creation of the civil rights movement.”

https://variety.com/2021/film/news/whoopi-goldberg-emmett-till-movie-danielle-deadwyler-1235026380/

Emmett Till was brutally murdered early on August 28, 1955, one month and three days after his 14th birthday, after being falsely accused of whistling at a white woman. His mother, Mamie Elizabeth Till-Mobley, showed his body in an open casket so the whole world could see what they did to her son. “Let the world see what I’ve seen,” she said, which became a call-to-action after Jet Magazine published the photos.

Emmett Till was in Money, Mississippi, visiting his relatives when he encountered Mrs. Bryant at a store for the summer. There are multiple variations of what supposedly took place. I’ve been following the story of Emmett for a long time, and I’ve seen pretty much every documentary made of him.

Some people say he showed his cousins a picture of his school in Chicago, an integrated class, and bragged about how he would speak to that white woman. Other accounts claim he grabbed Bryant’s hand while she was stocking candy. “What’s the matter, baby,” he allegedly said, “can’t you take it?” The most infamous accusation is that he whistled at her.

None of these accusations are true, and in “The Blood of Emmett Till,” a book by Timothy Tyson, Carolyn Bryant admits she lied.

Days after the alleged incident, Roy Bryant and his brother-in-law, J.W. Milam, kidnapped Emmett from his great uncle’s home and brutally murdered him. They then tied a cotton gin fan blade to his body with barbed wire and dumped him in the Tallahatchie River.

If you are familiar with the show, All American, you know Hall has a lisp, which could explain why he’s a good fit for the role outside of his acting skills. According to Mamie, Emmett had a speech impediment that made it impossible for him to have whistled at Carolyn.

Black Trauma

Whenever I post this kind of content, I get feedback from people saying I shouldn’t be talking about it. Some have even said they should not make the film.

I get it.

I understand the perpetuation of black trauma by the media, and I empathize with the fed-upness of black death.

I also want to acknowledge people who experience high sensitivity to these sorts of things. This post is in no way dismissive of that, and I understand if you can’t view these sorts of things.

But aside from this, consider the proverb, “Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

If we do not tell our side of the story, our children will continue to receive a watered-down version of their history.

Memphis, TN, Wither’s Collection Museum. Photo by Yecheilyah Ysrayl, 2021. Used with permission.

Three months after his death, Rosa Parks communicated with Mamie Till that she thought about Emmett as she sat on that bus and refused to move. This resistance led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the opening of the floodgates for what we now know as The Civil Rights Movement.

But that is not the full story.

Rosa Parks was not some feeble old lady our childhood textbooks make her out to be, and she was not the only black woman who refused to give up her seat in defiance of segregation. Parks was 41 years young and was already working with Dr. King and served as secretary for the NAACP, where her husband, Raymond Parks, was already an active member.

Parks’ cemented her place in history, and I am sure she thought of Emmett, but she wasn’t an old lady. She was tired alright, but not physically.

“Parks wasn’t physically tired and was able to leave her seat. She refused, on principle, to surrender her seat because of her race.”

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/rosa-parks-journey-as-a-civil-rights-icon

The NAACP was already organizing and looking for a test case about segregation on Montgomery’s bus system, but their first potential test case was pregnant and did not fit the image they wanted to represent the movement. The whole thing was carefully orchestrated in a campaign to end segregation on buses.

“They said they didn’t want to use a pregnant teenager because it would be controversial and the people would talk about the pregnancy more than the boycott.” – Colvin

This in no way dismisses Park’s historical actions (because planned or not, she didn’t have to do it) but seeks to shine a light on the other “Rosa’s” who also refused to give up their seat to support integration. We have forgotten the Claudette Colvin’s, Aurelia Browder’s, and Irene Morgan’s of the world because the writers of his-story never told their stories.

There is an entirely new generation of children who do not know the racist history of this (America) nation and how it is relatable to our current times. They can’t compare Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till because they don’t know who Emmett Till was. They can’t connect housing discrimination with Red Lining because they don’t know what Red Lining is. They can’t connect the crack epidemic of the 1980s with the Iran-Contra Affair because they don’t know history.

How did crack cocaine end up in black communities? How did it destroy black families?

As Furious Styles says in Boyz N The Hood, “How you think the crack rock gets into the country? We don’t own any planes. We don’t own no ships. We are not the people who are flyin’ and floatin’ that shit in here.”

Yes, he’s a fictional character, but a real black man (John Daniel Singleton) wrote the script.

“Why do you think there’s a liquor store on every corner? The same reason there’s a gun store on every corner. They want us to kill ourselves.” (Boyz N The Hood, 1991)

Do I think black people should be inundated with negativity and brutality, constantly subjected to the image of black men and women dying in the streets? Of course not. Black history is not only black trauma.

But no one tells the Jews to stop talking about the holocaust or Americans to stop talking about 9/11.

I believe that we encourage them to be forgotten by not retelling these stories. We can do this in various ways, not only through the display of horrific images on television.

Black women are putting this film together because they understand what it means to lose black sons, not only in 1955 but also in 2021.

I know black mothers don’t raise their sons to be murderers just as much as I know they don’t raise them to be murdered.

Jasmine Mans

New lynching Memorial Evokes Terror of Victims

Visitors to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice first glimpse them, eerily, in the distance: Brown rectangular slabs, 800 in all, inscribed with the names of more than 4,000 souls who lost their lives in lynchings between 1877 and 1950.

Each pillar is 6 feet (2 meters) tall, the height of a person, and made of steel that weathers to different shades of brown. Viewers enter at eye level with the monuments, allowing a view of victims’ names and the date and place of their slaying.

As visitors descend downward on a slanted wooden plank floor, the slabs seemingly rise above them, suspended in the air in long corridors, evoking the image of rows of hanging brown bodies.

The memorial and an accompanying museum that open this week in Montgomery are a project of the nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative, a legal advocacy group in Montgomery. The organization says the two sites will be the nation’s first “comprehensive memorial dedicated to racial terror lynchings of African Americans and the legacy of slavery and racial inequality in America.”

READ MORE HERE

Google Launches ‘Lynching In America’ Project Exploring Country’s Violent Racial History

“The history of lynching and racial terror in America is the focus of an ambitious new project launched Tuesday by Google, in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative.

 

Google has helped create a new interactive site titled “Lynching in America,” which is based on an 80-page publication by the EJI. Its research has been adapted into a powerful visual narrative about the horror and brutality that generations of black Americans have faced.

 

The site consists of audio stories from the descendants of lynching victims, and a documentary short called “Uprooted,” which chronicles the impact of lynching on black families. The project also includes an interactive map that details locations of racial terror lynchings, complete with profiles of the victims and the stories behind their deaths.”

SOURCE: CLICK HERE TO KEEP READING: Google Launches ‘Lynching In America’ Project Exploring Country’s Violent Racial History