Recently I went to Tennessee looking for the grave of Ed and Ora Gooden, the grandparents of my cousins, whose son plays a prominent role in my manuscript, Love's Bright Fire. Really, I was looking for the son, Albert, and figured he had been buried near where his parents would later rest. It was near the end of March, I was happy to escape the endless cold that had settled over Akron during the winter 2014. I went in secret -- I didn't want to talk about my goal, which was two-fold, to find Albert's true death location, the site of his murder, as well as where he had been buried in 1937.
I drove from Memphis to Tipton County, just outside Mason, past the recently planted cotton. It is most pretty as it just reaches it's full height, tiny buds forming that will burst open into the white fruit that will become the t-shirts, pants, tablecloths we take for granted in our daily life. The green of the young plant is quite seductive, not unlike the green cauliflower -- a little lime, a lot of light. Other things were growing, soybean, corn, but cotton always catches my eye.
There are two Belmont cemeteries, one white and one Black. Ora and Ed are buried in the one the Goodens owned and managed for years. I pulled off of Belmont Road onto Old Route 59. Some men
Ora was easy to find. Ed is unmarked, as is Albert. I knew my responsibility. I left to buy gardening tools and flowers. Ora's tombstone had sunk deep into the turf. The dates of her birth and death obscured. I dug as deep as I could with the hand trowel, tore away the turf. Mr. Melvin Johnson ("Ah Yes, you the Hickory Withe Johnsons. The bright Johnsons, as opposed to the dark Johnsons. But we are all cousins, right?") told me that there were many Goodens interned without
|The Light Wasn't Great: Ora Gooden|
|May 30, 2011 Op-Ed NY Times, Owen Freeman|
Charleston SC, their need to memorialize the valiant dead who had made their freedom possible. I don't want to forget the time before Decoration Day became militarized, used as a justification for all kinds of military adventures, and as a justification for white, southern grievances against those freed people.