sexta-feira, 3 de julho de 2020

Version 2.060

Viola Liuzzo. Remember that name.

I started work at 7:30 AM with a conference call. Thursdays are usually intense because that's when the weekly export report comes out and I have to check a lot of things and also present the results of the analysis. I enjoy my work a lot, it does not feel like work, but it is difficult to stay very focused for hours on end. It drains you after a few hours. So toward the end of the day I was totally worn out and instead of working late, I organized my thoughts and planned to doing some things tomorrow morning. Since the 4th of July falls on Saturday, we have tomorrow off, but I think that will allow me to get things done more quickly and still enjoy an extended weekend.

After I sent a message to my neighbor to ask if it was Friday yet and announce that I was about to have a glass of white wine, I took the glass and the bottle and crossed the alley to her place, just in time for a couple of neighbors to seem me. They probably think I'm a lush. Oh well, I have earned my pleasures. At my neighbors', we chatted with her Mom, who seemed to be doing well, having even gotten out of bed and put on clothes.

Then another neighbor swung by. He is just too hilarious and works as a nurse at a psychiatric ward in a nearby city. Sometimes, one can tell that the people who crack jokes and make you laugh all the time have a certain kind of sadness that surrounds them and I suppose I see that in him. He and his partner were the first people that I met when I moved to the neighborhood and they have always spoken to me as if we were long lost friends. Most Americans are very genuine people. You kind of have to be in this country because you never know when a natural disaster might hit and your survival depends on your neighbor.

We ended up talking about many things. It is hard to think about the trail of the conversation and what led into what, but at some point we talked about the Civil Rights Movement and how the death of a white woman had made a difference. I did not recall that story and even though I have been to the Civil Rights Museum, I don't remember having learned about it and then having forgotten it; however, there is so much information to take in, that visiting the Lorraine Motel is a bit overwhelming. Plus, we tend to remember the names of the people that we hear mentioned the most, and for me that's Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, MLK...

Viola Liuzzo, 39 years old, mother of five children, was the white woman that the Ku Klux Klan shot dead, while she was giving rides in Alabama to people who were participating in the demonstrations to protest for equal rights. When she got killed, she had a 19-year old black man in her car who was also a volunteer. He survived by pretending to be dead, covered in blood from her wounds. It was his testimony against the attackers that earned a conviction of three of them to 10 years in prison.

I did not know anything about her before today, but I researched the story after he mentioned that she had been the only white woman killed and that her death had been the tipping point of the Civil Rights Movement. Three years ago, Donna Britt, a black woman, wrote about Viola for the Washington Post. Viola Liuzzo was from Tennessee, even though she had been living in Detroit, IL, from where she had driven to Alabama a week later to have a date with history on March 26, 1965.

There is a certain proximity to the world of the dead here in Memphis. Every once in a while, their stories come to you for no particular reason. But that is not surprising: the United States is a country of story tellers. Names are important, people's lives are important. Even during the pandemic lockdown in New York, there were people collecting the oral history of everyday citizens of what it is like to live through a pandemic. Knowing the struggles of the past is an important way in which we try to build a future.

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