Last year, when James Seal left his job as an insulator at shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Miss., he said goodbye to his Blue Cross Blue Shield plan. Since then, he and his wife have paid cash for medical care or visited the hospital emergency room. But mostly, they’ve gritted their teeth through health challenges. It is a strategy that has worked for the most part.
Hot-button issues like racial profiling, police stop-and-frisk practices, and social justice have joined global causes like immigration reform, women’s rights, and issues affecting other minority communities, suggesting a blurring of the lines between the ideological underpinnings of today’s youth-led civil rights movement and that of the 1960s. Call it Civil Rights 2.0.
Death did not ride in with a thundering of horses’ hooves on a cloud of gun smoke, though no doubt Heaven is a bit more lively since Macedonia native Bessie Morton’s arrival April 27. After a lifetime of adventure, it must have seemed anti-climactic, but at 87, she had slowed down a little, so perhaps death took note and crept softly, so as not to awaken Noxubee County’s self-proclaimed honky-tonk angel.
She left her clothes on the back porch. She left her gold, Hunt High School Class of ’56 ring on the dresser. She left her baby, Gloria, in her sister Betsy’s arms. And then, on a hot summer day in 1960, Lyrian Wyvonne Barry boarded a Greyhound bus bound for St. Louis and disappeared behind a cloud of Mississippi dust.
In the 23rd Special Construction Battalion, the officers were white and the seamen and steward’s mates — basically servants — were black. “I’m from Georgia,” an officer told them. “Where I come from, there’s only two kinds of niggers — a good nigger and a dead nigger. We don’t want no dead ones.”
In life, he was the keeper of history. Presidential photographs, letters, memos, campaign materials — nothing escaped the thin fingers and sharp eyes of the Columbus native who lived simply and died simply but touched time, leaving a signature of his own.
The teenager turned, walked back to the pool, slipped off his shirt and slid beneath the cool waters. Maybe his curiosity had been satisfied. Maybe he knew that Edward Yeates, head of Father’s Child Ministry, takes a no-nonsense approach to mentoring children who lack, and crave, a father’s presence. He gives them freedom, and he reins them in. Mostly, he loves them.
The post office is gone. The school is gone. City Hall is gone. Most of the churches are gone. Nearly every building in Smithville, Mississippi is gone — or so heavily damaged they will have to be demolished. The devastation from last week’s F5 tornado is so widespread, so absolute, that it’s easier to tally what remains: The telephone company. Coker’s Han-D-Mart. And an unshakeable sense of faith.
Three girls watch as the tall, well-dressed man strides down the cracked sidewalk, across the playground, through the weeds, past the swings, and toward a merry-go-round that might have once been blue but is now a tired gray. They seem wary here in the shadows of the housing projects and petrochemical plants that make up their world. Life on the west side of Port Arthur, Texas, is hard; street smarts come early by necessity.
Tangled ropes of purple, gold and green beads sailed through the air, landing with a thwack on Louisiana Highway 1 on Sunday afternoon. If ever a town needed Mardi Gras, it is Grand Isle — the first populated piece of U.S. territory to see oil make land following the April 20, 2010, explosion of the Deepwater Horizon.