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TEXAS CIVIL RIGHTS PROJECT Friends of Civil Rights Breakfast Date: May 17, 2005 Time: 7:00 am 9:00 am Place: Four Seasons Hotel, Austin Ticket: $50 Sponsorship: $1000, $500 and $250 The Friends of Civil Rights Breakfast is a unique event where guests have a chance to personally visit with a distinguished member of the community. Ms. Luci Johnson, Austin Mayor Will Wynn, Senator Royce West, and Jeff Blackburn, chief attorney for the infamous Tulia, Texas case, are among the renowned individuals who will be leading discussions. Please join us in honoring the legacy of the American Civil Rights Movement. For more information, please contact us at 474-5073 x116 or [email protected] . the desk at the office, “We were at the mausoleum last year, but now his space is empty.” “Oh, that’s where people come first,” she explained. “No, Vernon’s been put into the ground by now. Okaynow see here.” She pulled out a small map. “Here he islot 60AShe pointed to a lot site two blocks up, close along the road. “It might be hard, though, to actually see it if he doesn’t have a marker.” “Doesn’t have a marker at all?” Somehow I had never thought of that. I had been hearing stories about old black people, very poor as well, who had been buried decades ago without markers. But I never realized that could happen to Vernonuntil now. She nodded. “But if it’s only been a year, there might not be much grass on the grave. So you might be able to spot it.” hen we got to the beginning of the third block Brook stopped and parked the truck. Maybe “block” isn’t really the right word, since there had never been houses or buildings, only woods. And little by little the woods had been grazed to make way for grass and gravestones, a concrete roadway and the rectangular drive that went around the mausoleum. If the projects were the heart of black Waco, then the mausoleum was the soul of the black burying ground. We got out and began to look for Vernon’s grave. The markers were small and embedded in the ground. I didn’t see the name MacFarland. Then I saw Brook kneel to the ground. The grass was still sparse. I couldn’t be sure that there was really a coffin under there. Maybe the gravediggers had simply taken the body out of the coffin and buried him right thereno one would know the difference. Maybe he still couldn’t sleep very well either. I started to imagine that they had left him with his back raised up and his left leg in an awkward position. There was no marker, so how could we know that it was really Vernon who was buried there? “Well, if this isn’t him,” said Brook, “it’s someone who’s glad we came to pay a visit.” I went to the truck, took out a bag, and carefully walked back to the gravesite. Tamara lit the sage. Corey ran around counting gravestones. The wind blew and the air turned dark. I took out a wad of paper and unwrapped it to reveal a candle set inside a large glass holder to protect it from the wind. I placed it where I thought Vernon’s feet must be. Then I took another wad of paper from the bag, unwrapped another candle, and placed it where his head should be. “I wonder where we can go now so that Mom can be alone with Vernon:’ Brook murmured to Tamara. But I didn’t want to be alone. I clutched them both. “We’re all in this togetherthree in onefour with Corey. We’re not going to be here long anyway,” I told them. “It’s too cold.” Brook sent Corey to go count angels. Then she lit the candles and placed the matches near Vernon’s head. Tamara put the smoldering sage into the ground, near his middle. “We miss you, Vernon!” Brook called. “Yes, we miss you, Vernon!” Tamara repeated. “Yes!” I called, “I miss you, Vernon! I love you” “I love you!” Brook called. “I love you!” Tamara called, “except the body, all of you, except that!” Maybe I should have contradicted her, I should have said including that, but then she was my son’s wife. Instead I said, “I’ll see you real soon, Vernon!” “No! I think it’ll be a long time before she goes:’ Tamara insisted. Just about then, Corey ran back to tell us how many angels he had found. I don’t recall the number, but I know there weren’t many. Most had fallen and were broken. We walked back to the truck with the candles still burning. We left the smoking sage and the matches on the ground. “Last thing?” I said to them. “I want to go to H.E.B.” It was only a couple of dollars for a little helium balloon that said I LOVE YOU. It bounced up and down; a plastic weight was tied to the string. As soon as I paid for it and walked outside, I started taking the ribbons off the weight. I must have been busy with the ribbons when I heard Brook yell, “Mom, watch out!” Suddenly a gray Land Rover was coming toward me. She pushed me aside to let it pass. Without pausing, I continued untying the ribbons. “Boy,” exclaimed Brook. “That would 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 13, 2005