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
Photos by Rachel J Apple
Video – edited by April Kirby
Lima is a historically black town in Oklahoma populated after the slaves were freed. Lima and New Lima are just west of Wewoka.
For more information about our Every Point on the Map project, go here.