The Homeplace and Me

The Homeplace is comfort. The place you can go back to no matter how many years have passed. It will always hold something familiar something safe.

The sky passes in blurs, fleeting and fast moments.  It began as I stood looking through a machine of glass and mirrors trying in an instant to capture all that was. I now feel the blur of lives that have left and I have lost. I am left with those static moments.  Wishing those moments would move and bring me back to all that was.

I am strapped down and can’t move. I know I have something running through my veins, as the pain is less. The florescent lights overhead are all that I can see. They blur as I am wheeled quickly through the halls. I am the patient that they make way for.  The captain of the medevac is still pushing me.  Numbers are called out, stats of heart rate and blood pressure. What is my name? What is my birthday? Do I remember what happened? I feel the tears run down my cheeks. I don’t. I know my daughter is alive and safe. I know that the medevac team was like the cavalry coming to take me out of the small ill equipped and scary hospital that I was in. I have always been afraid of helicopters. Today, in my morphine haze, I have never been so grateful to have been in one.

I am being wheeled through the emergency room of UK hospital in Lexington, Kentucky.  I am brought into yet another emergency room I can still only look up. I see the eyes that are Derek’s, the same eyes his daddy had. He strokes my hair that is matted and covered in dried blood. His warm coal colored hand holds my cold pasty white one. The nurse says, “Only relatives are allowed in here how are you two related?” I hear the smile in Derek’s voice, “It’s a long story.”

Twenty years ago I stood in the middle of Frogtown Lane with a map in hand. I didn’t know a soul. Now twenty years later, I know everyone on that lane and those who have passed away. I have been to basket meetings, funerals and family reunions. Even when I am not there in the communities they are always right here with me.

My project is a tribute to the residents of these hamlets, a salute to the elders who learned of slavery at their grandparent’s knees and endured the Jim Crow South. Who lived ‘separate but equal’ and saw the decades of milestones and their impacts, including desegregation, social segregation, and ultimately the election of Barack Obama. The residents did much more than endure and survive negative circumstances; they rose above them and thrived. 

Over the years, like so many other documentary photographers, I apply for grants to help me fund my work. I would love to be rewarded with funding; it would certainly help, but rewards come in different forms. As was the case when I first read this, written over ten years ago by one of the residents.

“Her presence in our communities over the years has renewed a pride in the old hamlets. She is well-known and received by the older members of the communities who are often very skeptical when visitors “show up” but yet have been revitalized because someone is taking the time to show sincere interest and concern for them. I only wish I could fully express the importance of her work and what it means to all of us. From Maddoxtown to Jimtown, from New Zion to New Vine, from Utteringtown to Peytontown, from Bracktown to Cadentown (to name a few), she has made good friends, who eagerly anticipate her arrival each time she ventures from Chicago, Illinois. As a result, she has compiled a list of names—friends given her by local residents—that is quite extensive and she manages to keep in contact with many of us by phone. She is so highly favored because she did not come to take away from us like so many do, but unknowingly, she has restored a sense of pride once again in our African-American heritage. “

I feel Derek squeeze my hand, I breathe shallow and painful breaths, but I breathe.  I realize that I am not done yet, that I am back home at The Homeplace, and I am rewarded yet again.

Mayor of Frogtown

“Hock” and Ruth Beatty

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