Photo above: Jane Caffrey, left, holds her candle during a candlelight vigil on Aug. 14 at Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to show her support against racism and violence. The event was coordinated by Indivisible Beaufort, a self described non-partisan group supporting truth, justice and inclusion. Photo by Bob Sofaly.
By Cherimie Crane Weatherford
In times of turmoil I find myself drifting back to sweltering heat, gravel dust and the roots of my meager beginning.
Experience is as individual as thought and equally impactful. Current circumstance offers comfort until memory is sparked by an awakening like a silence shattering thunder in the dead of night.
We all relate according to the genetics of our past measuring our personal injury by public parameters. Fundamentally our sight of current events is viewed through a kaleidoscope of personal encounter, not necessarily a clear lens.
Often unfairly portrayed, Mississippi finds itself disproportionately gathered in a category of unforgiving bias. Cinema has offered no reprieve for misconception of my home state. Poorly represented amongst the masses as a place of forward bigotry and backward behavior, is all too often a source of great frustration as a daughter of the deep South.
Growing up on the muddy side of the river, the working side of the plantation and the right side of faith, discrimination was an unavailable luxury.
Differences were measured more by ability than affluence. Money gave no advantage to navigating the woods and color meant nothing other than the ripeness of the garden and readiness of corn. Not particularly affected by the undercurrent of unrest, it was nothing more than another expected threat like a briar in the blueberry patch or moccasin in the river.
It wasn’t until an unfortunate display that my experience was molded towards future beliefs. A visit to the feed and seed brought about a turning point for a little girl whose view of color revolved around Popsicles.
A sudden scuttle, sounds of discontent and my Daddy scooping me up with unusual urgency spurred me to look in humanity’s darkened closet. Over his shoulder I saw the absence of love and the cowardice of hate that would forever remain a stationary reel in the film of my childhood.
As if it’s a recording of his voice I can hear my Daddy say, “Don’t look baby girl, this ain’t no place for hate.”
Curiosity caused a dent in my childhood. I looked. A handful of people confused Halloween with a hot summer’s day as they marched through a small Mississippi town. Daddy’s grip firm, his tone staunchly defiant, his demeanor unfamiliar and his words cemented. This ain’t no place for hate.
It is an unfortunate wrinkle, an uncomfortable etch in an otherwise pleasant day. A memory that is as colorful, as clear and as impactful as I have ever had.
The shake in my daddy’s voice told me danger was near, the sturdy in his stance introduced me to caution and his grip around my body explained the hurried whispers of those around me. The reaction of those familiar to me communicated loudly without any sound.
Strangers nodding to each other in agreement as men of all color attempted to block the sights and sounds of evil.
Recollection of the purpose of this march fails me. I assume it was over some perceived injustice or reaction of the unjust. Reminiscent of the ‘50s but sadly mid 1980s. Abomination has no historical prejudice, aversion has no era.
From that moment on, I was able to recognize hostility. Feel its unsettling twist and witness its contagion. I learned hate is something to be feared.
I also saw its cure.
Its frailty against the protective shield of a parent was as evident as it’s unwelcome. Those cloaked in cowardice paled in comparison to those who gave no courtesy. The clear signal of non-acceptance by onlookers gave unity to strangers and power to peace. Hate has no pigment, no dialect, it is the absence of soul and the reflection of hell. It needs oxygen to survive and consideration to grow.
Groups fueled by hate based on false injustice purchase chaos by using ignorance as currency and silence as investment. The good must stand. Enough of us must believe that there is no place for hate.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford, owner of SugarBelle boutique, real estate broker and observer of all things momentous and mundane, lives on Lady’s Island with her golfing husband, dancing toddler and lounging dogs.