Tales from the Bitter Crop: a documentary and theatrical narrative about lynching in the United Stat
Last year, I was one of two historians in the documentary "Strange Fruit" which tells of the history of the lynching of people of Afrikan descent in the United States. It is a film created by Kutnupproductions, founded by Eric and Sherre Ward. It was a wonderful experience for me to share my passion about a sensitive subject matter. The documentary not only informed but moved people who had a greater understanding about lynching after viewing.
I was recently asked to be an actress in the theatrical narrative written by Sherre Ward. The narrative is always performed before the documentary, so that audiences can connect with the victims of lynching. All of the characters in the narrative are people who were actually lynched. We share the stories of our ancestors as a way to honor them and to let their voices finally be heard.
The victim that I portray is Mary Turner, lynched in May 1918. I remember reading about her during my years of research. Her story stands in the minds of many because her lynching in particular was so heinous and cold that one cannot help to be emotionally impacted.
Mary Turner was a young woman who was a wife and mother. She had two children and was eight months pregnant when she made a public denouncement of the lynching of her husband. Her spouse, along with several others were lynched as a response to the murder of a cruel white planter. This planter was physically abusive to his employees and as a result was shot by one of his workers.Though the murderer of the planter was not found, Turner's husband and others were lynched anyway. This was common to lynching for if the said "perpetrator" could not be captured, they would kill an innocent person of Afrikan descent as a form of substitution.
Mary Turner angered the crowd when she made her denouncement. It was a dangerous act for her to do and I am positive that she knew this. People had been lynched for less, lynched for saying good morning or being successful in business. But her love for her spouse transcended all fear and terrified the hearts of the mob who perhaps could not comprehend the dynamic power of love.
They tortured the mourning Mary Tuner in a brutal and savage way. They tied her upside down from a tree by her ankles and set her aflame with gasoline and motor oil. A white man from the mob came to her and slit open her pregnant belly with a hunting knife. There was the sound of a "small cry" as Mary's unborn child slipped out and fell to the ground. This mob full of supposedly upstanding and mature adults stomped and crushed her child and proceeded to riddle the mother with bullets. How can one's state of mind reach the point where he or she can end the life of another human being, especially a child who has never done any wrong?
No matter what arguments arise in the defense of lynching of people of Afrikan descent in the past or present, one cannot deny the monstrosity of the theft of innocent Black lives, regardless of age, sex, class, etc. This narrative and documentary rips off the bandage of self-denial America has placed on itself. We must remember the pain in order to heal from it. We must never forget the global holocaust of Afrikan people. We must not be surprised that though much has changed, certain things remain the same. To inform yourself is to empower, defend and enlighten yourself. This project has caused this transformation for those who view it, listen to it and feel it.