Deep South - First Impressions

Deep South - First Impressions

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(peaceful music) - Good morning, guys. Here in the Mississippi Delta region here in the deep South, first impressions feels almost like traveling to another country. Today we're meeting up with a man named Booker T. Booker T.'s a local in the area, said, "Hey Peter, do you wanna see what it's really like here, the local culture, even plantation culture?" He said he can show us the former world and the current world of that, and some soul food.

"Meet up with some of my friends, we'll have a good time." Couldn't say no to Booker T. So that's what we're doing today, getting into this part of the country that most of us have very little understanding of, let's do this.

(peaceful music) (peaceful music continues) (peaceful music continues) (peaceful music continues) (peaceful music continues) Well, this is a huge place you guys have. I thought it was a dentist office when I pulled in with all the parking spots, and it's just Booker T.'s home, right? - Right. (laughing) This is my wife, and her name's Lodine Beckum.

Booker T. Beckum. - [Peter] Lodine? - Yes. - [Peter] Nice to meet you. - This is my baby, my Escalade, I done had it for 22 years. - [Peter] It looks like, yeah, you just bought it yesterday. (Booker T. laughing)

- 22 years. - [Peter] This is a great zone you got here. - Yeah, just like heaven on Earth. My mom had this stove, and she told me she wanted me to have it when she died. This is what we used to bake all the biscuits and anything you wanna bake.

And then we picked cotton. These are some of our cotton scales. - Okay. - So and then this here, the pea, where you always, you would weigh the cotton right on this here.

You put the pea on there when the cotton sack is on here, and this here is hanging up on a hook too, and then you put the pea here, which is pretty heavy. - Oh yeah. (laughs) - And that goes on here. So this only goes up to like about 40 pounds. - Okay. - And then this one here,

it goes up to like a couple hundred. We got a well over there. I used to all, we'd draw out water from the well, and after the well broke down, this is what the thing was where the rope go in the well.

- [Peter] You grew up with well water? - Well water. - [Peter] Okay. - I didn't have a bathroom till I was 15 years old. I'm a certified welder, diesel mechanic, and I did that in Wyoming for a little over 42 years. When I left here, I didn't even have a GED, and when I went and did the first welding test and got to be a welder, I just didn't grab the thirst for knowledge.

- [Peter] And so you came back to Mississippi? - Came back to Mississippi, wasn't no need in us staying in Wyoming no longer. Our family here, we'd been away 42 years. I said, "We might as well enjoy our family the rest of our lives and be back around them some." - Okay, so today we're gonna get into where you grew up. - Yes. - Your family stories, what it was like. - Yeah.

- What it's like now, 'cause you have an interesting perspective. You grew up in it, but then left it and then came back. - Came back. - So you see it maybe in a different way. - I do, you know? - Which is cool, but okay, back there near your house, nice house, many nice houses.

- Yep. - We're in the Delta region, or right outside of the Delta region? - We're up at the, we're kind of at the northern part of Mississippi. - Okay. - So when you get more in the Delta, you're down in Greenwood, Greenville.

- Where I came from today. - Clarksdale. - A little poorer over there? - Oh yeah, it's lots poorer up there, especially you still got peoples in little houses that don't even have restrooms and stuff like that. - Still got that? - And they're probably still pulling water from wells and stuff, you know? This used to be a little club we used to party at all the time. - [Peter] This blue house? - [Booker T.] Yep.

Now, that's our church straight ahead, Sweet Home AME Baptist Church. Right in this corner here is my mom's first little school house. - [Peter] Oh, this wooden one? - [Booker T.] Yeah. They really didn't have the schools uptown, but my mom and them were just out here in the country. They didn't have no buses or nothing then.

So this used to be our store. - [Peter] Okay. - This was our store and our house when my daddy bought it when they came out here. But this is the little school. They used to have a little school, just a few kids in there. - [Peter] Oh, there's a little dollhouse, - [Booker T.] Is it?

- [Peter] Yeah. - [Booker T.] So that thing is probably over a hundred and something years old. - [Peter] And there's school chairs in here. - When my daddy and them first came here, his cousin, Miss Rosie used to live in this old house. My daddy's cousins set up a lumber mill here, and they built homes, helped build a home for everybody.

And my dad and them, after he got out the Army, and my cousin got out the Army, and they come in here and they bought almost 108 acres of land. So we're gonna run through here just a minute and show you my folks. This is our like family cemetery. Mattie Beckum and Booker Beckum.

My dad, he lived to be 100 years old. - [Peter] How many generations back does your family go here? - About three generations. So our house used to sit right back there in them trees, but not- - [Peter] That was the house you grew up in? - Yeah, right back in them trees, and we used to walk right over here to our godmother's, which is the house we own now. We didn't own it at that time, but my daddy ended up, as we progressed in life, making cotton, corn, and molasses and stuff. So that's what we own right here now this five acres, it's almost six acres here. When I was 15, we moved into this house.

- [Peter] Who lives there now? - My sister, Berta Beckum. That there, that was my brother's that died. That truck there, his old truck there he had, and I'm gonna fix that up one day. And my mom built all the old sheds and stuff in here, but my brother used to live out in this one.

He drank quite a little bit, and my mom put him out the house and built him a shed out here where he wouldn't bother them coming in at night, you know? And then my mom had this little storage room. But my daddy used to farm. We farmed all this right here with corn and stuff.

- [Peter] Okay. - But back down in there in that field area, you can call it the hollows, where we farmed all our cotton and corn, and we brought it up to here, and we made molasses. - Hey. - [Peter] Hello. - That's my sister, Berta Beckum.

Don't she look like me? - [Peter] You guys are twins. (Booker T. laughing) As a kid, you were pulling water outta here? - Out of the well, yeah. Look at a rock, see if there's anything down in it. - [Peter] How deep is this one? (item clattering) - Yeah, water's still in there, ain't it? Wow. (laughing)

- So do you look back at your journey and just say, "Wow, I came from a well and an outhouse," to now having what you have now? - What I have now, ain't it, it's amazing. - And you just did it through your hard work? - Through my hard work, and my wife, yep. - And your wife, and she's a nurse, right? - Yep, she was a nurse, did that 38 years.

- What do the people do for work out here, like some of those nice houses we passed? - So we got the paper mill here, them and some of the factories and stuff that pretty well. Now they'd just be up at that new Milwaukee plant here, so that's gonna help out a lot of people too. - [Peter] Milwaukee Tools? - Uh-huh. - [Peter] So manufacturing jobs? - Yeah. We still got a lot of farming, you know, people still raise a lot of cotton, stuff like that. That's about it, you know? - [Peter] So cotton's still a big thing here? - Yes, it's bigger now than what it used to be.

- [Peter] Does the cotton go to China to manufacture our clothes, or how does it work? - Yeah, I don't know where they ship it to, but yeah. We got a old gin down here, but our big gin now is down in Winona, Winona, Mississippi, and that's where all the cotton kind of goes to between there and here. She cooked a coon, we got a raccoon she cooked.

- I got it in the house. - Yeah, she cooked a raccoon. - [Peter] You cooked a raccoon? - [Booker T.] Yeah. - Okay. - I cooked the greens and peas. - [Peter] So this is a meal we're having today? - Yeah.

- [Peter] Raccoon? - Yep. - [Peter] Peas and greens? - And- - [Berta] Cornbread. - And pork chop and fried chicken.

- [Peter] How's raccoon taste? - Just like a roast, like chicken. You know, everything tastes like chicken, you know? (laughing) - Well, best cornbread in Mississippi, this is true? - [Booker T.] Oh yeah. - The best dressing.

This is cornbread with meal and flour. - [Rita] Eggs and buttermilk. - And buttermilk. - [Peter] Oh, you're putting onions in there? - You put onions sometimes, you don't have to.

- It's just like a hot cake. - Oh yeah. (Berta laughing) Oh yeah.

(all laughing) That's nice, that's nice. - Eat some greens with this, and that'd be really good. - Good, aint it? - [Peter] That's nice.

- This is a old house, but you know, we've been still trying to keep it going for her, though, you know? That was my room in there. - [Peter] This was your room growing up? - Yep, she got a million pictures on the wall now. The bathroom here. We built this bathroom on into this house, 'cause we didn't even have a bathroom, so this was just a whole room right here, you know? - [Peter] What'd your parents do for work? - [Booker T.] We were just farmers. - [Peter] Just farming, that's what everyone was doing? - Picking cotton.

- Picking cotton. - Chopping cotton, chopping corn. - [Peter] Did you pick cotton? - Did I? - Yeah. (laughs) - I'm one of the first ones.

- Yeah. - I started when I was six years old with a seven foot sack. When I got 12, I got the 12 foot sack. - [Peter] 12 foot sack? - Sack put to put the picked cotton.

- Yeah, you know, you get different size sacks, how old you are or whatever. - Like a croker sack when we was six years old. When we got 12, we got the long- - Long sack that dragged behind you. - Okay, so the culture here really is cotton? - Yeah, yeah, yeah, cotton and soybean. - We're gonna go, you said, to a plantation? Now, do you- - Ain't nothing but there's just a home there now. They don't even do nothing no more.

- They don't do the cotton? - No, they don't. - Okay. - But cotton area fields around it. - Okay. - You know? - Okay. - But ain't no plantation, nothing like that no more, just- - That's where I was born. You taking them over there on the place? - [Peter] Do you have to lock the doors out here or no? - Yeah.

- [Peter] So crime in the countryside? - [Rita] Yeah. - [Peter] Really? - [Booker T.] Oh yeah. - [Peter] What about your pit bull? They wanna mess with your pit bull? (Booker T. laughing)

I wouldn't. (peaceful music) (peaceful music continues) - [Booker T.] This was like a cotton plantation. Rich guy bought it out now, and he's just got cows and all on it.

- [Peter] When did it end, I mean, after the Civil War? - Well, you know, the Civil War is pretty well when that ended, so. - [Peter] The cotton plantations? - Yes, all ended. - [Peter] But they still had cotton here? - Well, yeah, because like I was coming up using mules and stuff. They never would give us no big loans or nothing. See all the cows they got now on here? - [Peter] Yeah. - They would never give us no loans and stuff to buy a tractor or nothing, you know? My daddy, so we didn't make enough money to be able to afford a tractor, so we only had our mules and stuff.

With the farming amount of farming we did, it was just only for ourselves, our corn and stuff. We raised our molasses, we raised them and we sold them for $6 a gallon, and that's where we made our little money. The cotton, we'd bring it down here to the gin right on this road in our mule and wagon. So we had a wagon, we'd pack it, once we get like a bale or two of cotton, we'd pack it in the wagon. It's gotta be, what was the bale of cotton then? About 2,000 pounds.

- You were harvesting your own land, 180 acres? - Yes, just for us. - You'd bring the cotton down and sell it? - Yep, and we would get maybe like three, $400 a bale then, if that. - Oh wow. - That was my daddy and my cousin, them sharecropping with Mr. Sentry McGee. But then once he died, then they lost the land, see? And we just only had that little five acres right there. - [Peter] So what's sharecropping exactly, can you explain that? - So sharecropping more so, my cousin Mr. Babe,

by him letting us farm on the land, we would get two bales of cotton, he would get one. Same thing as corn, we'll get two loads of corn, we'll take him a load to his crib for his animals. - [Peter] So it's just his land, you do all the work? - That's right, but it was like eight of us in the house, 10 with my mom and dad, so you see, it took more food stuff. But we had hogs and a few cows, goats, and that's what we kind of lived off, chickens, raccoons, possums, all that stuff. (laughs) So all that was cotton. - [Peter] It's just been picked, right? - [Booker T.] Yeah, yeah.

- [Peter] You can see some cotton out there. - On the ground, yeah. - [Peter] So there's good money in cotton still? - Yeah, there's more cotton being raised now than I ever seen, you know? - [Peter] Oh really? - Yeah, because it used to be a lot of soybeans in my years of growing up, wherever we used to eat soybean burgers. See that stalk out there? I should get you a stalk. We'll grab some out of field up here. - So they used to just come out? - Yeah.

- Cotton ball by cotton ball, is that how you do it? - Just, yeah, just picking it by hand. - [Peter] So that's how it grows? - [Booker T.] Yeah, see how it grow right here? - [Peter] Yep. - [Booker T.] The summer, it will be a lot nicer. - [Peter] That's it.

- Uh-huh, so you can take that back with you. - [Peter] So how would you pick it? Would you take, you break the whole stem? - No, no, you just come here. - [Peter] And you just fill up a bag? - Yep, see how I'm picking it? - [Peter] You're saying a bale, though, goes for over $1,000? - We'll pull it up and see kinda now, but back then, so you pick that like that and get them out them balls. We used to play with them like little animals, you see? And we'd get them and have a few of them.

But you take that cotton with both hands and you put it in the sack, and just keep picking all the way up the row. - That was the time when having more kids made you better off. - Was good, yes, so see, it wasn't no problem with my mom. When my dad met my mom, she already had, she had six kids, but two of 'em died, so it wasn't no problem for him to marry my mom with four kids already. - Yeah. - Because he was coming in on a farm, and he, you know? - He's like, "Sweet, more money makers."

- And then he had four more by my mom, and then so it was always eight of us. And then my brother and sister and them, by the time we got up of age to farm, they was kind of easing out. - Okay. - And then we would hire kids to help us, you know, in that local area and pay them, and our daddy paid them a little money. But we just, our food and what he give us for Christmas and all that, give us out and we'd buy a pair of boots, and you keep your shoebox for Christmas where you could put your stuff in it that they give you for Christmas, your little oranges and apples and the nuts. And every year only I would just, I'd get a paper cap pistol, a paper gun.

- Okay, yeah, yeah, yeah. - Yeah, that was, looked like every year, you got your paper cap gun, you know? - So literally in one generation, it went from have as many kids as possible 'cause it's gonna make you better off as a family, to don't have many kids 'cause they're expensive. - Yeah, they're expensive now. - It changed in one generation. - Yep, and then that's why you see now, like a lot of the womens have a lot of kids now, what they are they're pretty well on welfare or something, you see? - Right. - Because that's, you know, ain't nothing for her to do, but a lot of 'em now, if they're having kids, it's because they're getting welfare or getting stamps and stuff like that.

- Are a lot of people on welfare here in this area? - We got a lot of 'em, yeah, - A lot, like what percentage? - Especially after the virus. I would say with welfare, I don't just regularly know, but I bet you 60% or 50, 60%. - Wow, seriously? - Yeah, you know, a lot of the Blacks more. You know, you got a lot of White now on food stamps.

Well, we fixing to go up to the grocery store, you'll see. - Okay. (Booker T. laughing) - See my name? (Booker T. laughing) And I got you some cotton.

So this was like the big manor house there, you know? The big plantation home right there, all back in there, all that land you see back where we come through, Dunbars Plantation. - So the business model was get a bunch of land, get a bunch of slaves, make a bunch of money? - That's right. - That's what it was, right? - Yep, and then this one guy, Black guy, he ended up in kinda like, probably like the Dunbars guy. He ended up and he wouldn't be no farmer for someone.

He ended up and bought his own land, and had the Blacks to help him, you get me? - [Peter] The Black guy had Black slaves? - Yes. - [Peter] Really? - Yeah. - [Peter] They could do that? - Well, yeah, because, but he paid 'em better, and he gave 'em stuff, you know? - [Peter] Okay. - And that's why a lot of the Blacks ended up doing better, you know? - [Peter] How does it feel for you when you get near these establishments? Is it like, it was so long ago, whatever, or does it have some feeling to it? - It's just kind of like, I knew my mom and them, and her fathers and forefathers, like my granddaddy's dad and them, you know, I know they was into this slavery, you know, probably, but you know, we were just so much out of it by the time we got up. But I just kind of feel for 'em, you know? The work that they, the torture and stuff they went through, you know? Yep, and like I said, a lot of 'em was in house.

You know how the in house slaves were, the prettier womens and all like of that? That's what they did, like the prettier womens. - [Peter] Okay. - They kept them in house to cook, and whatever they did with 'em, you know? That's why you got so many, had so many kids, White kids and all, or Black, whatever, you know, that their parents was slave owners, and they went with the women, so they end up with their kids, they had kids by their womens, so you see? So this is my friend down here. He's a meat processing plant. So we're gonna holler at him and see if there's anything interesting.

Wayne Newton, great guy. There you go. What's up, buddy? This is his beautiful fiance, how you doing? - [Peter] Peter. - Nice to meet you.

- [Peter] Nice to meet you. - Yes ma'am. - So there's all the deer, they're just cutting it up now, making deer burgers. - [Peter] Deer burgers, nice. Okay, so the guys go hunt out here? - [Booker T.] Yeah, they go hunting. - [Peter] They bring the deer in, get money for it. - Well, they just bring it here for him to process it.

- [Peter] And then they process it, and then the meat gets sold locally? - No, you know, they just give it back to whoever it belongs to. - [Peter] Oh. - I'm gonna take him by Spain's and show 'em the grocery store where, yeah, that's a busy place. - [Peter] Spain's? - People come from everywhere to buy groceries there. - It's an experience. (laughs)

- [Peter] What about south, like south of Jackson area, is it similar or it's different? - [Wayne] South of Jackson? - [Peter] Yeah. - [Wayne] You start getting into the coastal region, it's different. - Why do they call some of the people in New Orleans coonheads? He was asking me that.

- [Wayne] Why do they call 'em coonheads? - Yeah, I told 'em to because where they, back in the hills, back in there, huh? - Freak. - [Wayne] They don't like to be called coonheads. - They don't though? - [Peter] What do they call you guys? - Redneck. (Booker T. laughing) - Buddy, we're gonna head on, hear? Appreciate you, hear? We'll walk back on through if it's all right.

- [Peter] Take care, Wes. - Yeah. - [Peter] Have a good one. - [Wes] Thank you.

- [Booker T.] I'll get with you a little later, boy. - [Wayne] Later, brother. - [Booker T.] All right. - [Peter] Let me ask you this, Booker T., might sound silly from the outside, so shut me off when you need to. But people would think, especially I would say in the north, everything down here is just racist, and you know, there's no- - Oh yes, yeah.

- [Peter] Give us the lay of the land with that stuff, because I see you with White people and it's no problem. - See, I've been gone from, and that's all I deal with in Wyoming with Whites, see? So I have no problem with it, you get me? I treat people like I want to be treated. If I got a negative eye from you, then I'm through with you, you know what I'm saying? But if you treat me right, I'm gonna treat you right. - [Peter] So how is it here in Mississippi? - It's still, we still got a lot of the prejudice, you know? And you can tell it from some folks, but the few I that got come around and start dealing with, and if they, you know, deal with me, I deal with them, you know? This way is the old jail, see the jail house? - [Peter] This is the old jail.

(Booker T. laughing) Here we go. - [Booker T.] Ain't that something? - [Peter] Yeah, how many years ago was that a jail? - [Booker T.] Oh my God, that must have been, I bet you 50 years ago or longer. - [Peter] 50 years, that's it? - [Booker T.] Yeah.

- [Peter] Oh my god. - [Booker T.] Yeah. That was the jail, and this was the little courthouse.

- [Peter] That was the courthouse? - Yeah, that's probably been 100 years ago, I'd say. So that's back when the plantations, all that was down in here, you see, yeah? - [Peter] So courthouse- - Yeah, and the jailhouse. Yeah. (laughing) These are some old stores used to be down here, right in here, that was the little courthouse.

- [Peter] The fan's up here, the old ceiling. - When I was a little boy, I used to come down here with a guy, Mr. Paul Sam, and there was a restaurant down there. That's what kind of made me realize more of what was going on. We came down one day, we was helping him haul hay, and I told him, I said, "Mr. Sam,

we'll just stay in the field and work. You know, you can just bring us something back." No, y'all come on, y'all can go down and eat. And we got down there, and what made me really feel bad, when he went inside, we're fixing to go inside with him, and he told us we had to go around to the back of it.

So we went around, he had to go in, and we went around to the back and sat, and it was the worst hamburger I had in my life, because you know, I wasn't understanding more of the prejudice back then, you know? - [Peter] Okay, when was that? - So that was in like, so I would say I was probably no more than about 12 or 13, so that was like in '60, in '72, '68, '72. - [Peter] So in the '70s it was like that? - Yeah, yeah. When I got older, I said, "I know I need to leave here and do something different," you know? - [Peter] Okay.

- And I just seen how the life was, and the prejudice and all that, and that's what made me leave Mississippi. - [Peter] So in 42 years, has it improved a lot? 'Cause you left at that time and then you came back. What are your thoughts? - Well, yeah, in there, like I said, you're meeting people now like Wes, you know? Used to, you didn't hardly go in there and walk around, talk to him like that in his business or something.

- [Peter] So there's integration now with a lot of people. - Well, and that's another thing. So my cousin Dottie Lee was with a White gentleman all her life, but she caught hell, he did too coming up when we were little old kids, you know? And he ended up married her and they had kids together, but he just made his way through life with her, you know? And my uncle shot him one time.

Uncle Kerry ended up, they got into it and he shot him, but he end up dying here about 8, 9, 10 years ago. And I'm gonna show you my old school. '71, I integrated. - [Peter] High school? - No, this was, so this was, when I integrated, we was in the seventh and eighth grade. - [Peter] This was all White school before? - Yes, yes, this was. - So do you remember those, do you have any memories? Like what was it like walking up here, and you know, up until that time, it was only Black, and then you come in and it's White, what was that like? - It was just, it was different, but you know, we knew of White kids and stuff, but not to be learning and sitting with 'em every day, you know? - [Peter] Okay, so were they, I mean, were kids kids? - Well, we were just kind of you know, the Black kind of stayed theyself, the White would still just stay to theyself, like they was doing, you know? - [Peter] Okay.

- Until you start, and when we started, you know, getting more into learning each other, and in the class is when things started getting a little better, you know? - Okay. - So but at first, you know, it was just kind of a shock, you know, what is going on, you know? But we knew, you know, it was integrating time, and we just accepted it and just went along, you know? - So it went pretty smoothly? - It went kind of smooth. There was fights and stuff, but you know, you just tried to mind your business. And this is kind of where the cat, there used to be a catwalk there, see over there? You'd come over here to the cafeteria. The cafeteria sat right over here.

I remember one time I was sitting by that tree throwing up. My sister Betty had a whole jug of Valley High wine under the bed, and they went to a wedding, so me and my two sisters, we knew that that wine was under that bed, and we drunk the whole jug, and drinking moonshine from my daddy's crib. We go out there, and you talking about the next day, I remember that tree standing right out there throwing up by it, you know? - [Peter] Helped it grow, look at it. - Ain't it? And I cannot stand Valley High Wine to this day. (laughs) - [Peter] You were saying a lot of this land is owned by a certain family? - Yep, the Kirk family, Kirk, Gene, Lownes, and all them, they're just like the Mississippi wonder boys and stuff, you know? That Ford place here, see, Kirks, and all this belongs to them. - [Peter] Oh, okay.

- [Booker T.] All this right in here. - So I'm not saying it's the Kirks, but are there those situations in Mississippi where the money's come down from slave times stayed in the families? - That's pretty well - They built these empires? - That's pretty well where it's at. Now they probably own half of the banks. If you want to, you know, you probably could jump in and try to borrow money that, but you ain't, you know, they already own everything, you getting me? There's more of these car lots and stuff, you get me? They own all this stuff up through here, the newer stuff. What else there is, anything come up, these folks already got it. You maybe try to do you a car wash, they already got that.

You know, you want start a laundry mat, you know? They're already taken, so I'm myself, like I said, I'm trying to look at when I do turn 65, I want to do a little something more, you know? If I could set up a welding shop or something, a welding business, I wanna do more, but I don't want really do more, you get me? Because I'm retired, I wanna just enjoy my life, but I don't want to just like I said, leave this world, and with the knowledge I got, I'd like to kind of share more of it, even with my kids and grandkids, but you know, they already got their thing, basketball playing, and that's all they interested in nowadays, you know? And I don't want to just bring up farming, 'cause I don't want to farm no more. Like Rita says, you don't want to even see baled cotton, you know? (laughs) Not only do nothing like that, it's just the stuff I never went away and learned, like a skill, or I'd like to see, like I said, more of the kids around here do something more with their time and stuff. It's just still bad, you know? When we ride up through here we may see a little. - [Peter] It's bad, what do you mean? - Far as the kids just around here just killing each other and stuff like that. Instead of them being in a vocational school or something, trying to get some training or something, they figure it is easier to sell drugs or something like that than it is to work, you know? This used to be theater.

That's a historic site, yeah, look at that, see? - [Peter] That's sad. So you remember that as a kid going in there? - Yeah, a few times going in the theater, and a barber right there. There used to be a little Pinky Cafe used to sit right here, had the best chicken sandwiches, and this was old Eddie Lewis shop, and my sister used to live right here in this little house. So this is where we used to park. That's where me and my wife, I kind of met her. That used to be her little old house up there, yeah.

There was a big old apartment right here, and it burned down long ago, and about five people burned up in it right there. - [Peter] What's this mural here, this plaque or blues trail? - [Booker T.] Take a picture of that, yeah, that's something. - [Peter] You a big Magic Slim fan? - I like him, I'm a Little Walter, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, all them. - [Peter] So you had your theater down here? - [Booker T.] Yep. - [Peter] The bar.

- [Booker T.] Yeah, my sister's house. - [Peter] Lively streets everywhere? - Yeah, it was nice back then, when I'd come up here in '78, '79, it was all nice then, you know? And it wasn't much, like I said, we'd get to fight, and we'd fight, and that was about it, you know? Old Joey, hey there. He knows me.

- [Peter] You lived here? - [Booker T.] Yeah, it was our apartment right in there. - [Peter] Right there? - [Booker T.] Uh-huh, then there was a couple more clubs in here. I tell, all the gangsters asleep right now, see? And this was a couple cafes here. We used to party in these here.

Even back when I was 15, 16, we'd come, it didn't matter then, you know? Here was a couple little jerk joints and stuff we used to- - [Peter] Did anyone have bars on their windows back in the day? - No, not as much as now, 'cause people are breaking in 'em, you know? That was the church where Martin Luther King came to years ago. - [Peter] Oh wow. - And see, it's broken down now, so they built a new church over there. But this where, when Martin Luther King first came here. Hey man, what's up brother? Who passed away, some of your family? (indistinct) Hey, oh really? - [Jesse] Yeah, yeah.

Oh, what was his name? - [Jesse] Johnny Ross. - Johnny Ross, I did know him. How you doing, Johnny? - [Jesse] How you making it, man? - [Booker T.] Good, good. - [Jesse] How you making it, man? - [Peter] Hello, sir, Peter Santenello. - [Booker T.] Yeah, he's doing a documentary on me, man, and you know.

- Okay, okay, that's all right. - [Booker T.] Back when we come up out here. - Okay. - Me and Jesse went to school together.

- Oh yeah? - [Peter] Booker T., you know everyone. - [Booker T.] Well, I know people here. - [Peter] He's gone 42 years and knows everyone.

- [Jesse] Well, I mean that's a good thing too, isn't it? - [Peter] Yeah, people don't forget. - [Jesse] That's right. - Yeah. - [Jesse] Well, you're doing a good job. Do the documentary. - Yeah.

- [Jesse] Take him around and see everything. - Yeah. - [Jesse] All right, take care. - [Peter] All right, take care. - Yeah, man.

- This is kind of a little bit of the rougher areas down in here too. - [Peter] So a lot of people in these homes, you think are living off food stamps? - A lot of these back in here, yep, pretty well. - [Peter] Who's paying the rent? - Well, so they get, you know, they probably getting a little check too, you know, so a lot of these stay in this apartment, I can guarantee a lot of them. I used to live here in this Pearl Street apartment. A lot of these here are probably older home now, they probably paid for and stuff, but you know, they ain't got no assisted living. The older folk getting a little check, you know? But otherwise, a lot of the younger girls that got pregnant and got three or four kids, I used to live in that bottom apartment right there.

- [Peter] Oh wow. - [Booker T.] Yeah, lived in it for about a year. There's some people living in there now that was there when I left, and still there.

- Do you think there are actually women that want to have more kids because they'll get more money? Do you think that exists? - Yeah. - You really do? I mean, kids are expensive, though. - Yeah, but you know, they're gonna get a check and the stamps, they're gonna pay the rent, 'cause they're gonna get a check also, you know? So this is the town square here.

- [Peter] Oh, this is nice. - This is the little town square, and our courthouse right here. And that's all the jail and all now, but that was a drive-in theater used to be right over there. So this statue, they're waiting to move it.

My cousin was in on moving this. He was a big slave owner, so they don't want no memory, you know? - Yeah, understandable, but okay, where do you draw the line on that? So Thomas Jefferson, like everyone in those times had slaves, right? - Yeah. - Like Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin. - Yeah. - So what do we do with that? - Well, it's all over now, and that's why you see the days now, they want to take history away, you know, because of the people was doing that kind of thing.

- Right. - You know? What have we done if we're just getting rid of all that? I don't care, you know? And a lot of folks don't, but a lot of folks still do, and a lot of folks still got gripes about it. And like I said, that's why this ain't the only place. Down in Winona, they got stuff they got to move out, moving them out and stuff, you know? And put 'em in other areas. So a lot of 'em, they were destroying, remember? They was throwing them in the rivers and stuff like that, but so they told them they don't care about 'em having it, but they want 'em to put it out in this big park. - [Peter] Sure.

- It's a more, you know, White park or something, but put it out there. - So yeah, I totally understand. If that was a statue of some big slaveholder around here, I wouldn't want it here.

- Yeah, yeah. - And even as a White guy, I wouldn't want it here. - Yeah. - But then it gets sticky because as with the times- - Yeah, yeah.

- Like our founding fathers, the people that wrote our Declaration of Independence. - Yeah, yeah. - Did amazing things, also had slaves too. - Had slaves too, yeah.

- What we gonna do with that stuff? We're gonna get rid of that stuff too? - We're gonna get rid of our money and take their faces off everything and- - Yeah. - That's where it gets sticky, you know? - I gotcha, I gotcha. - I don't know, it's a tough topic. - It is. (laughing)

- But the way I was brought up in my education, like we were really, we were hammered pretty hard- - Yes. - With the history, and I'm glad it was that way, you know, we were taught the big events and how bad it was, and we learned about the history, and then you know, growing up in the '90s- - Yeah. - It's like, I don't know, I thought it was somewhat in the rear view mirror, hopefully. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - Right? - And that's what now- - And now it seems like it's coming back. - Yeah. - Like we're getting pitted against one another again a bit.

- I gotcha. - And it's not the MLK message of quality, you know, content of character, not color of skin. - Yeah. - It's turning more into identity, and maybe not here, but I'm just saying from the powers that be, it seems like it's more like that, and I just wanna not care about what anyone is. - Yeah, yeah.

- Are they a cool person or not? - Definitely, and I tell you, I treat people how they treat me. - Same. - You know? - Same. - Yes, and I don't care what color you are, you know? - Yeah, but you can't talk about Mississippi or the South without talking about this history.

- You're right, yeah, yeah. - I don't want to glaze over it. - No, no, no, I don't mind, and I'm showing you, you know, where the plantations and all that was here. - I appreciate it. - Yeah.

So this is Spain's Supermarket, okay? - [Peter] Spain's is where it's going on? - Yeah. (carts rattling) It be so busy sometime you can't even walk through here, you know? Pork chops and fish, you see? - [Peter] 2.88 a pound? - [Booker T.] Yeah.

- [Peter] That is so cheap, wow. I mean, this whole packet is 3.82? - [Booker T.] 3.82, see? - [Peter] That's like dinner for eight.

(Booker T. laughing) - [Booker T.] People come from everywhere, Memphis and everywhere to shop here.

- [Peter] I mean, look at this, four big steaks, 7.12. (Booker T. laughing) - A lot of people eat chicken gizzards and- - [Peter] Oh my god, $2 and 1 cent. (Booker T. laughing) - [Peter] You can't even get a bottled water for that. - [Booker T.] What's up, brother, how you doing?

- Good to see you too. - Yeah. - What you got going on? - We're doing a little documentary on, this is Peter. - [Peter] We're making a video of Booker T. - Huh? (laughing) - [Peter] You got some stories? - I got the stories, but the stories I got, you won't hear them.

(Booker T. laughing) - [Booker T.] My nephew was married to her daughter. - [Peter] Oh. - Hey Yaz, how you doing, man? How you doing? - I thought that voice sounded familiar, good to see you. - They're doing a documentary on me now from the old South.

- [Yaz] Yeah? - Uh-huh. - [Yaz] You got the right man. - [Peter] Yeah, I think so. - You got the right man, huh? (chuckles) Hey, my girl. - Hey now. - How you doing? - All right, how you? This is Pete Santenello.

- [Peter] How you doing, ma'am? - They're doing a documentary? - [Peter] Doing well? - Okay. - Yeah, she's a postal lady here, post office. - [Peter] Oh, okay, great. - A friend of mine. - [Peter] Cool. - Hey brother, how you doing, man? - [Peter] How you doing, sir? - You you doing? - [Peter] Nice to meet you. - He's my mate.

- Yeah, yeah, how you been doing? - You doing good? - I'm doing good, man. - Hey man, (indistinct). - Because of a stroke, isn't it? - Yeah. - Oh, man. Well, holler at me out there, keep doing good, okay? - [Friend] I know where you're at. - All right.

Hey, brother. - Hey, how you doing? - [Peter] Booker T., everyone knows you in there. - [Booker T.] Oh yeah, man. - [Peter] How cool is that? - You ought to have seen 'em in Wyoming, they told me I definitely need to run for mayor in Wyoming. (bluesy music) (bluesy music continues) (bluesy music continues) So here was my first welding when I learned how to cut in school, I cut out my name and my wife's name. - [Peter] Aw, you're a true romantic.

- Look at that. (laughs) So that was my name when I learned how to start cutting with torches, and I cut, and that used to be over my office desk, over my office door in my home up in Wyoming. (Booker T. humming)

- The one you are able to be doing? - Yeah, and jump up, you jump back. (continues humming) Jump up, back, kick your feet and you turn again. You do it four times, you know? - [Peter] Your hips are a little tight, I'm noticing. - Yeah, yeah, I'm a, you know. - [Peter] You gotta, you gotta, you gotta. (Booker T. laughing)

- And the leg here, too. (laughs) That what the guy told me. He said, "Booker do pretty good if you spray a little WD40 on his hip." (laughs) - [Peter] Booker T., what's going on in here? - All right, we're having some raccoon today.

We're having fried crappie, fried chicken. My sister cooked the fried bread here, kinda like little pancake bread. Rita cooked some black-eyed peas and some greens here too, and okra. You're gonna eat okra and mashed potato and turnip greens. - [Peter] Okay.

- And this is a nice little meal, and I'm gonna say a verse for us. Dear Father, I want to thank you for this food that all of 'em have prepared for us. I want to thank you for just being graceful to us, Father, and watching over us, and I want to thank Peter here. He came in to visit this house, and I'm thankful for him visiting us, and hope he have a nice journey on the way heading home too. And I want to continue to thank God for all He does for us, in His name, amen.

- [All] Amen. - [Peter] Thank you. - Yeah.

Here we are now after 64 years of my life, you know? So and I thank God for my wife. I've been with her 45 years, and three wonderful kids, Monica, Chandra, and Dante. And I thank God for my sisters and brothers, and I hope this'll be a good start for a lot of peoples to, you know, do. And I told him, we'd just seen the kind of kid uptown. I'd like to see more ambition in kids now than what they are doing, you know? Far as working, and you know, get a craft or something, you know? And not just being like sorry, and don't want to do nothing, you know? - Right, right, right. - You want the money, but they don't want the labor- - Right.

- And it takes labor to make money, so. - Right, right. - That's it, you know? - It's a evil town. It's a evil state. They don't want you to have anything. - [Booker T.] Yeah, man.

- If you get anything, you get it on your own, ain't nobody gonna help you get it, you know? - [Peter] Who's they? - It's still, I'm sorry. - Go ahead. - It's still like a Black and White thing down here in the South. - Right. - It's moved since way back in the time, but this particular town here is still kinda stuck into the ways it was years and years ago. - Years and years ago, yeah.

- So Blacks had to strive and struggle to get any and everything that they wanted, you know? And Whites have always had it easy, because like you said, it's generational wealth. They kept it on in their family, so it was handed down to them, and Blacks had to strive and find ways to get it on their own, or do like Booker, move outta state. - [Peter] Can I say some Whites, yes, some Whites I see in the trailers, like they're not doing too well, right? - Yeah, they didn't get handed down nothing.

They didn't have nothing to hand them, so they had to struggle too. So like but that comes from the sharecropper mode. Back in the old days, Blacks sharecropped, so you sharecropped with some Whites too.

Those Whites were just as poor as you were, but you were working together with them to try to obtain something. - [Peter] Okay. - So then you have the people that owned it that do have that generational wealth that owned the plantations or whatever, and then you had some Whites that they had to work on the plantation too to make a survival too, so it kind of comes two different ways.

- [Peter] But the ones that really control Mississippi are these families where it's generational wealth? - Yes. - [Peter] Is that what you're saying? - Yes, definitely. - [Peter] Okay. - And then you just have to get in where you fit in, you know? - Right.

- Booker T., this is my first run in with raccoon. - [Booker T.] Okay. - So thank you for that. Ever since I kicked them outta my house. (all laughing) when they destroyed it, I've had a bad relationship, so this is revenge maybe, (Booker T. laughing) a little revenge there.

- [Booker T.] Just like a nice roast. Huh? - Oh. (Booker T. laughing) - [Booker T.] My buddy Lance in Wyoming, he loves it now. - That's actually really good. I'm surprised, I didn't think I would like it.

- [Rita] Yeah, eat the yams with it. - Oh yeah? - [Booker T.] Get some yams. Come on, fix you a nice I plate up.

- Get some yam action. - [Booker T.] You're at home now, so. - Thank you, thank you. - [Booker T.] Yeah. - Very generous here. - [Booker T.] Oh, yeah.

- [Peter] Okay, so Mississippi's evil, but why do you all wanna stay? Why don't you want go where it's not evil then let's say? - I guess because we were born here. (Booker T. laughing) - [Peter] But Booker T left 42 years, and then came back to the evil. (all laughing) - This is where mostly everybody come back to retire.

- [Booker T.] Yeah. - [Peter] They come back to retire? - Yeah. - [Peter] If you're young, you sort of have to leave. - [Lodine] It's how it should be.

- [Peter] You sort of should? Okay. - I wish my mama had have got me outta here. (Booker T. laughing) - [Peter] Okay, where to? You wanna of Chicago, Atlanta? - When they left here, she should have left when they left and went to Wyoming.

- [Booker T.] Yeah. - [Peter] Wyoming, you wanna be a cowgirl? - I wasn't going there because it cold out there, and I can't stand cold. - I didn't know when I was little, I just wanted to leave, 'cause all my family was gone, my cousins was leaving, and I wanted to go with them. - [Peter] Okay, but get this, if you go to the countryside of Wyoming, all the young people will be like, "I gotta get out here. There's nothing going on."

- They say that anyway, yes, that's true. - [Peter] Right? - They do. - I went up there for a farmer. - [Peter] You liked it? - Yeah, I enjoyed it. - [Peter] So where's the dream, what's the Mississippi dream if they're gonna go to a city? - Chicago.

- Chicago, St. Louis. - Mississippi going to Chicago and St. Louis. - St. Louis, yeah. - Yeah. - Detroit.

- And a lot go to Texas. - Live in Detroit, they go to Texas. - Yeah. - Michigan.

- So when we have our family reunion right now, we more go to St. Louis or either Cincinnati, because all our people now migrated to there. - [Peter] Was that hard for you being in Wyoming when your people weren't there at all? It's like White as it comes, right? - Well, my brother was there and my sister was there, and my stepfather, and then his seven, eight kids. - It's as White as it comes. 1.8% Black live in Wyoming. - But you know, we was, you know, we was just there, so we had each other.

We'd do stuff on the weekend together, you know? - [Peter] Did they take you in pretty well in Wyoming? Were they cool to you? - Yeah. - [Lodine] Oh, very. - [Peter] Very? - Yeah, it was like we were family. - [Peter] So different in Wyoming than Mississippi with that? - Like I said, in the bars right now, we go in there, man, you think people know me up there in Spain's or something, we'd go in the bars up there, you know, and- - His chances would be better in Wyoming. (all laughing) - But it just, everybody, like I told you, I treated the people right and they just, and I did a lot of things.

I had a detail business for 30 some years. I detailed a lot of folk's cars, a lot of older, you know, folks, and just work on people's stuff the same way- - I have to get to my mother. - [Booker T.] We're coming down there. - [Peter] Okay. - It was nice to meet you.

- [Booker T.] We're going down there. - [Peter] We're gonna see your mom? - Her mom. - [Peter] Her mom, yeah. - So enjoy. - [Peter] Thank you so much.

- [Booker T.] Yeah. - It's Chivas Regal what I drink, but this is moonshine in it. I put some moonshine in this jug.

- [Peter] You made it? - Uh- uh, a friend of mine made it. - [Peter] Powerful stuff? - Yeah. (plates clattering) - Oh yeah. (Booker T. laughing)

High octane. - But I'll take it and put a little 7 Up or Sprite with it, you know. And then this is some of the wine like I make. - [Peter] You make the wine? - I make the wine. - [Peter] Where do you get the grapes from? - So I bought like a whole thing of muscadines, a whole case of muscadine at Spain's, and then I put 'em all in this five gallon bucket and let 'em set for about a month or two.

And then I just strain it out, put sugar, yeast with it and let it set for about two months, and then you got your wine. (Booker T. laughing) I had about eight jug, but. - [Peter] What do you ladies think of Booker T.'s wine?

- Well, he make it just like my mom used to make it. - [Berta] It just ain't good as my mom. - Yeah, don't taste as good.

- [Peter] Not as good as Mom's? - Yeah, so that's it. I make that for Christmas. So when everybody come for Christmas, we'll drink some during Christmas. - M-I crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I. That's Mississippi. - Mm-hmm.

- So you say M-I crooked letter, crooked letter, I, crooked letter, crooked letter, I, humpback, humpback, I, all right. (Rita laughing) - That's Mississippi. - I got another one for you.

So it's a cigarette joke, all right? So one Kool morning, Ms. Pall Mall headed down Chesterfield Lane in Winston Salem, where she ran up on Philip Morris, and he took her to the Raleigh Motel in Newport. And right away, he put her into this King's size bed and stuck his King's size L&M into her flip top box, and if she don't look like Camel in nine months, it's a damn Lucky Strike, but he wasn't worried because he used a filter tip.

(all laughing) That's a cigarette. (laughs) - [Peter] Booker T's mother-in-law's place, 95 years old ,Booker T.? - [Booker T.] 97. - [Peter] 97.

- [Booker T.] She's turning 98. - Hi, how you doing? - [Peter] Oh wow, hello. - Hi there. - [Peter] Hello. - [Booker T.] This is my mother-in-law, Miss Semolina. - [Peter] Nice to nice to meet you.

- There's my sister-in-law. - [Peter] Nice to meet you. - My hand is cold. - [Peter] No, it's actually, it's nice, it's warm.

- [Lodine] This is Peter. - And this is Janie Mae, Lodine's sister. - Have a seat. - [Peter] Yeah, nice to meet you, Janie Mae. - [Janie Mae] How are you? - [Peter] Good. What was it like when you were young here? - Yeah.

- [Booker T.] She can't hear good. - Tell him I don't hear good. I don't hear outta but one ear, I can't hear good. - [Peter] Can you ask her for a good old story? - What was it like when you were young? He wants you to tell him what it was like when you were young, when you was a little girl. - Yeah, well, it was a lot of fun.

I had fun, get with other kids and go for a ball. But other than that, my brothers, I didn't have no sisters, but I had four brothers, and we grew up together and had fun, enjoyed myself. - [Lodine] Tell him you picked cotton. - Huh? - [Lodine] You remember picking cotton, picked cotton? - Oh yeah. - [Lodine] Y'all worked in the fields. - We chopped it when it was young and green, and then when it got White, we got out there and picked cotton, we had a ball.

- [Peter] She liked picking cotton? - [Lodine] She did, to get outside, something to do, I guess. (laughs) Tell him what it was like at school. - Oh, I enjoyed school.

We had to walk to school, though. Some days we come in pouring down rain, I didn't like that. But we had fun going to school. - [Lodine] Yep, and what grade did you stop school? - I finished the eighth grade, but I didn't go to college. I didn't go to college, but I enjoyed school while I was going.

- [Booker T.] I wanna hear the little poem up there. - [Lodine] Indian children. - [Booker T.] Tell him the poem about the Indian children. - Oh, where we walked to school each day, Indian children used to play, all about our Native land, where the shops and houses stand.

Here, the trees were very tall, and there was no streets at all, not a church, not a steeple, only woods and Indian people. I can't remember it all. - [Peter] Does she remember Indians here? - Were you around Indians when you grew up? - Well, no, I didn't see 'em. (all laughing) - [Lodine] But your grandfather was an Indian. - Huh? - [Lodine] Your grandfather was Indian, remember? - Yeah. - [Lodine] That's her parents.

- He was part Indian. - That's her parents. (overlapping speech) - [Miss Semolina] That was my mama and daddy. - Yeah, that's the poem she was reciting.

Tell him how you got picked on at school because you was light skinned. - And I couldn't help it, they picked on me, (all laughing) but I made it okay, I made it okay. - [Lodine] So were they mean to you because you were light? - Some of 'em were, but all of 'em wasn't. It was some, you know, had their ways, but I learned to ignore it and go ahead, you know? - [Booker T.] Yeah, yeah.

- [Peter] So because everyone in school was Black? - They're Black, but different complexion, you know, Blacks come in different colors. - [Peter] Right, so she was lighter? - She was light, yeah. They called her high yellow.

(overlapping speech) She's got Indian. - She have Indian in her. - [Peter] What kind of Indian, do you know? - Blackfoot. (laughs) - [Peter] Blackfoot? - We're not sure. We thought it was Cherokee maybe from this area.

- [Peter] Cherokee? - Her dad's parents were, I guess, was borne out, they were were slaves, or they were mixed. Her dad had green eyes, blue eyes, I can't remember. Yeah, they were kinda hazel. I don't know if you can look on that picture. You can't really tell, but they were mixed.

His mom was half White, so you know, and she was like, really, she's dark now. - [Lodine] You can tell that picture right there with my dad. - Yeah. - [Lodine] Look at my dad in the picture of here. - That's Dad and that's her.

- [Peter] Oh, okay. - [Booker T.] That was like she was then. - Most Black people, even if they're half White or whatever, over time, when they get older, you start to get, the color starts to get darker. It's just kind of a natural thing.

And her granddad on her mom's side was Native American. He was full Native American. So we've got a lot of mixture. (laughs) - She said she was so light, she got mistaken uptown one time on the square. They were passing out, the Klan was marching and handing out literature. - [Janie Mae] Flyers, and they gave her literature.

- They gave her literature. (Booker T. laughing) That's how bad that was back then, and that was in downtown Grenada, and she's 96. - [Peter] When did the Klan go away? - Well actually, they don't go away. They're just not around in the daylight.

- It's like lots of other towns. They come out when they choose. But this particular time, they were passing out flyers down the street.

It's not an everyday thing, and with the Klan, it's not like there was a fight thing that, you know, it's not, it's that, it's open racism, but not in their eyes. It's like we weren't, we're not bothering anybody. We're just handing out flyers. The racism here to me is far more subtle. I mean, I graduated from Ole Miss, you know? I didn't have any problems. I went there, I had no issues as far as race was concerned.

I was treated really well. There were Black teachers there and instructors. I didn't see any issues, and it's that thing of, like I said, it's a subtle thing. It's not where you just openly are mean to people and you're doing all these horrible things.

I don't hear or see a lot of that in Mississippi as far as you know, where I'm concerned, and I'm 72. - [Peter] You're doing great. - [Lodine] She was one of the chosen eight, of the eight integrate schools.

- Right when they first, but since I was really smart. - [Lodine] It was the '60s. - Yeah, this was in '68, '66. - [Lodine] When they first integrated Mississippi. - Here in Grenada, I was one. Mother was always, she was nervous about everything, and I know it was because of the way she was raised.

- [Peter] 97, 72, and? - 66. - [Peter] You ladies are on fire. - [Booker T.] And she was born on her birthday. - Yeah, she was born on her birthday.

- [Booker T.] On her birthday. - Birthday present, and I do like her, all right. (all laughing) - [Peter] Thank you, ladies.

Well, Booker T., thanks for that. That was very cool. - Yes, no problem. Glad to meet you, Peter. - Heck yeah. (Booker T. laughing)

And guys, part of a bigger, greater South, deep South series. - Yeah. - I'm doing, so I'm going from here down South to Alabama. - Alabama. - So I'm trying to go- - You're going to Natchez.

- North to South Mississippi. - Yeah. - South to North Alabama.

- Okay. - And get an understanding of this region. - Well, I'll be checking them out with you on your travel there, okay? - All right. - Glad to meet you again. - Thank you, brother. (Booker T. laughing)

- Thanks, guys, for coming along. Until the next one. - [Booker T.] All right. (laughs) (peaceful music) (peaceful music continues)

2024-02-10 18:00

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