On the last day of school before summer break begins, I turn over my classroom keys to the elementary school where I am a teacher. I also turn over my 'teacher voice,' that part of me that helps me be committed, compassionate, and creative for my students for the 180 days they are with me. I take up my pen and my sketchbook where I am a writer. I take up my 'writers voice,' that part of me that helps me be committed, compassionate, and creative for my characters in my stories.
Through the summer I am a full time writer. I am researching and writing about the early Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina. The setting of my story is a small farm in Clarendon County, S.C. from 1947 until 1954. The narrator is Carter, a nine-year-old African American boy who lives on that farm with his brother Carver, a five-year-old genius with an inquiring mind and a photographic memory. The action centers on a lawsuit filed by an old farmer in Clarendon County, Levi Pearson, against the county board of education on behalf of African American children for a school bus to help them get to school. That lawsuit became Briggs v. Elliott which became Brown v. Board of Education which became a cornerstone of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. In my story you will meet Carter, Carver, their Momma and Daddy, Corky (the thirty-something year old town drunk who is brilliant and articulate when sober and stupid and unintelligible when drunk and whose Mother was secretary to Governor Strom Thurmond), Junior (the sixty-something year old giant of a man who has the mind and heart of a little child), and Lillian (based on the person Lillian Smith who was arguably the clearest voice from the white folks during that moment in time. You will also find guest appearances from Larry Doby, Septima Clark, Mojeska Simkins, Strom Thurmond, J. Waties Waring, Thurgood Marshall, and Flannery O'Connor, people you may or may not know from that time and place.
Writing is solitary work that requires early mornings and late nights with books and ideas. It is also community work that requires listening ears and honest hearts of friends. I am thankful to be in the Brother Juniper community with you. As a writer, I hope my work is a counterpoint to the demagoguery that comes around with each generation, a building up of what makes our world and us more human.