April 10, 2015 marked the day of my last “Every Point on the Map” feature compiled by our original two-person team. Reaching this small milestone felt good. To celebrate, I sent a text message to Rachel and April with several exclamation marks.
We have changed since our pilot run, as much by the lives we have encountered as by the information gathering and relationship building process.
Reflecting on my own personal change, I’ve noticed something different about myself compared to last year: I’m not afraid to ask people for conversations any longer. I used to feel sheepish. I even wrote once, “I don’t want to step on their daisies.” Continue reading Every Point, Part Two, Team of Three→
Redbud blooming season has almost passed in Oklahoma, but the opportunity to make delicate, floral jelly happens every year.
These easy step by step instructions, plus a few common questions and answers should help guide you through the process easily. Once you’re finished, stand back and admire your stock of unique gifts for friends, or delicious wares for your pantry. Happy canning!
RECIPE – REDBUD JELLY
3 cups of redbuds
Approx. 2 cups boiling water
2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 Tablespoons Sure-Jel powder
2 cups sugar; 1-2 tsp. butter
We must have crossed into a funk zone. That’s the only way I can explain our Owasso point on the map.
Somewhere between our visit with the Roundtable Breakfast Club in Sperry and a middle class neighborhood in Owasso, Rachel and I must have entered an unmarked Oklahoma worm hole. It certainly felt “alien.” We literally knocked on ten doors with not one “yes” for our conversation.
Prior to turning south into this particular area with newer homes and nicely paved streets, we had just said to each other, “We really need to sit down with a few middle class folks. Someone we find at home, not necessarily just outside hanging around wherever we happen to be.”
As we agreed on this plan, I felt it was exactly the right thing to do. Go to a middle-class neighborhood in the middle of American. After all, I’m a middle class individual and live in somewhat of a middle-class neighborhood. My people, right?
“Piece of cake,” I said to myself as I walked up to the first door of ten.
Derrick Jackson held a small pit bull puppy close to his chest as he pointed south, north, “over there,” “by the school,” and “down the road.” As I listened to him patiently laying out the dividing lines between Lima and New Lima, the thought of him spending 15 years in a maximum security prison for second degree murder didn’t make sense.
His easy going narrative and tender care for the puppy in his hands, did however, fit with what he later shared when we sat down for our discussion:
To get through fifteen years, you just have to take one day at a time. You can’t think about how long you’ve got left. And when I got out, all I wanted to do was come home and take care of my grandpa.
The murder, Derrick’s time in prison, and the fact that his brother Jermaine also had a prison record, could have been the focus of our conversation. But Derrick’s case went to court in 1995, almost 20 years before we stood in their front lawn. And Jermaine’s robbery was heard in court in 2006, eight years before happened upon their address. What struck me more that day was the care in grandpa Buster’s voice when he directed comments toward his grandsons:
Some people need to mind their own business…stay out of trouble! You need to take care of yourself…
With his brow raised skyward and his eyes zeroed in on the boys as he peered over his shaded prescription lenses, a loving connection between the younger and older generations was palpable. A small child running around the yard in his blue boots was certain to be on the receiving end of his grandparent warnings in due time.
Buster’s greatest love, however, was revealed later when the man of few words answered questions about the happiest and saddest moments in his life, memories he still feels every Memorial Day since 2008. His words were used so sparingly it was crystal clear to us how much his wife meant to him.
If we paid a visit to the cemetery I imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to find her grave site. After all, Buster’s wife had “the biggest stone up there.”
There are volumes to write when it comes to the historically Black towns in Oklahoma. Lima and New Lima are bursting with chapters I won’t begin in this post…pages and pages of faith-filled family narratives that include pain, perseverance and the relief of occasional laughter. Almost seven months since our visit, I’m still sobered and at the same time filled with gratitude for the Jackson’s hospitality.
I shared with April and Rachel that for this story, I wanted the media to do most of the story telling. I think the short video and photos are enough tributary of our time with these men.
Thank you, Jackson family. Next time, we’ll bring the barbecue. ~ Kelly
The Cashion PD interior was screaming for an HGTV renovation. Informational messages spewed over the radio system, violently punching an otherwise quiet rural setting. And Joshua Farrety, Assistant Chief of Police, was preparing for our conversation by finding just the right angle on his chair: far enough back to provide relief from the bullet proof vest he sported, and forward enough to balance his frame.
Five minutes earlier, Farrety had been on the phone with his Chief who had encouraged him to speak with us.
“She said the experience would do me good,” he retorted.
His put-off tone was counterbalanced with a subtle grin that gave away his enjoyment about the opportunity to represent the agency. Assistant Chief Farrety was asked to speak on behalf of the department, and he wasn’t going to let them down.
The City of Cashion was the fifth stop on a six-town, one-day run, so by late in the afternoon Rachel and I were more than a little jocular (read: adolescent). Try as we may, however, Farrety stayed mostly on message. Even when we chided him about his “lady friend” buying the groceries he remained fairly regulated.
I’m not sure if speaking with a rural Oklahoma policeman was the impetus for “the adolescent” in us, but when I watched our video this past week, my respect for Farrety strengthened. He was the job.
He was the job…whether it was to:
serve up their mission statement,
volunteer for the local fire department in any spare time he mustered,
or give it up to the reserve police officers across the state who enable towns like Cashion to stay covered when their budgets don’t meet the warm body demand it takes to keep their area safe.
When I think about the shoestring budgetary funding of local fire and police operations, I’m at the same time impressed in how they made ends meet, and infuriated at the salary levels provided to those who risk their lives every day.
I left our discussion that evening with a few thoughts running through my head. In no particular order, they are:
I would imagine the Cashion PD doesn’t give a damn about their level of office decor;
If I was ever in trouble, I’d feel just fine knowing Farrety was involved in some kind of police action to keep me safe; and,
I’m incredibly sheltered in my job at the university.
Thanks, Farrety and company, for pulling over the man high on pot so he didn’t kill someone while driving. Thanks, specifically to Josh, for putting up with our interrogatory nature. And thanks, Chief Veronica Thomas, for letting him handle the discussion.
He was the job, and he did just fine.
Video clips from our conversation with Josh below. For more on our project, visit the “About” page on this website. The video ending was extended without visuals to highlight our featured artist, Sherree Chamberlain’s song: San Fran, from her album New Skin.