For the last couple of years most TV networks have flooded the screens in February with Black history documentaries, movies, plays and almost anything one could suggest. This is not a complaint, but so much is shared that one cannot view them all during that period referred to as Black History Month.
It has been fashionable to realize that most Black people are black all year. Therefore, it would be a great idea if the selections could be spread out over all 12 months.
One of the older movies that truly stuck with me this year was “Ghosts of Mississippi” from the late 1990s, about the murder of Black activist Medgar Evans and the decades it took to convict his killer, Byron De La Beckwith. The main revelation has to do with the white state prosecutor, Bobby DeLaughter, who discovers his own humanity.
For quite some time, I have been wondering what happens to the children of individuals who are shot, lynched, killed, in front of them. Or to the children of parents who did not go along with unjust laws and got murdered figuratively. Our humanity should lead us to “Look Away” at the thousands of children left behind.
After watching “Ghosts of Mississippi” I became even more interested in the emotionally damaged children. When Medgar Evers was killed in his front yard, all of the children ran out and witnessed his last breath. The movie also shared the ghosts haunting the state prosecutor’s little girl, Claire.
One of Medgar’s sons, Darrell Kenyatta, stated that he attended the trial every day because he wanted Beckwith to see a face that hopefully would haunt him the rest of his days on earth. Claire was hard hit by what she experienced too, and because of her dad’s desire to bring justice to his town for a killing that had gone unpunished too long. Three decades had passed and everyone knew who the killer was because he had bragged about the killing.
While working on the case, and maybe long afterwards, Bobby De Laughter’s daughter approached him many nights, saying “Daddy, I cannot sleep because the ghost is visiting me in my room, and I want you to sing to me.” Each time he would simply pick her up, cuddle her in his arms and say “OK, I understand. When I was growing up, I had ghosts to visit me at night as well.” Then DeLaughter and Claire would begin singing “Dixie” — like his father had taught him — until Claire moved into sleep zone.
“Oh, I wish I was in the land of cotton, Old times there are not forgotten, Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
“In Dixie Land, where I was born in, early on one frosty mornin’, Look away, look away, look away Dixie Land.
“I wish I was in Dixie, Hooray! Hooray! In Dixie Land I’ll take my stand to live and die in Dixie. Away, away, away down south in Dixie. Away, away, away down south in Dixie.”
The ghost would position itself in different places in her room, depending on the night, according to Claire. Sometimes the ghost would be on her bed or at her window. The last time her daddy asked where the ghost was, she said “He is in my chair.”
That particular night, he began to sing “Dixie” and was only able to get out the first couple of words before changing his mind. He was becoming aware that Dixie Land has a great rhythm but places and things have different meaning for different people. He had found part of his humanity.
That night he suggested to Claire that they sing one of her innocent songs. They chose “Old McDonald Had a Farm.” For a short time, Claire sang along until sleep befell her. Bobby slipped away and left her to her dreams, hopefully of a loving and understanding daddy who was always willing to stop what he was doing to comfort her, and not the haunting image of the Mississippi Ghost.
Bobby DeLaughter’s family just tore completely apart after he went searching for his humanity. Earlier, one of his son’s friends called his dad a n…. lover and the son ploughed into him fist first, with tears in his eyes and pain in his heart, asking the friend not to call his dad that name. The dad drove up as the fight was taking place. He broke up the fight and told his son to just walk away and not let the name calling bother him.
Later, when faced with a similar adult situation, Dad thought about what he had told his son and realized that walking away is not always that easy. He realized that if he could have walked away from the unsolved murder of Medgar Evers, he would not have lost his wife and probably would not, later in life, ended up in jail. He later confided in a friend who turned on him, and he was sent to jail for over a year, and Bobby used the experience as a stepping stone.
Bobby DeLaughter has written several books using his tragic situations to serve as sources of information. “Inside the Labyrinth” and “Never Too Late” are not top sellers but they help him and his family survive financially. At one point he said that the reason individuals lose their joy is because they allow other people to take it away from them. He said that he made a promise to himself that he would never allow another human being to snatch his joy.
Let us look away at the children left behind.