He was the King of Kindness, and on that day, I was the Queen of Blunders. It was during the winter holiday season several years ago and a time when festive kitsch fashion abounds. Attempting to make conversation and offer a compliment, I said, “Tony [not his real name], I love your ugly Christmas sweater!”
His smile dropped, he looked back at me abashedly, and then replied, “It’s not an ugly Christmas sweater. It’s just a sweater that my Grandma in Mexico knitted for me.”
I must have apologized a thousand times, and although, he graciously accepted my apology, the…
The trip from Memphis to Mound Bayou, Mississippi is a hundred miles and fifty years away. As a child, my family made this drive to my daddy’s hometown regularly, and when we arrived, Daddy the Tour Guide emerged.
“Over there, Taborian Hospital. We had the finest black doctors in the South, doctors from Meharry Medical school and all around,” he would say, as little me stared at the shuttered building.
“Right there, that’s where the activists held their meetings during Freedom Summer. The police wouldn’t bother them in Mound Bayou. And if the sheriff came to town, we kids would…
June 12th, 2020 marked the 35th anniversary of the police shooting of Exeter graduate Edmund Perry. Just 11 days before he died, Perry graduated with honors from Phillips Exeter Academy, a prestigious New Hampshire boarding school, and he was bound for Stanford University that fall. By all accounts, he was a 17-year-old black boy with a promising future when he was killed by white New York City police officer Lee Van Houten. It is eerie to recall the circumstances of Perry’s death at this moment when we are once again facing a global conversation about police brutality and anti-blackness.
Cathryn Stout is a native Memphian and a researcher, diversity educator, and scholar of American cultural history.