We waited on the porch, Momma, my sisters and I... but no sign of him that night,... the following days and weeks. When the three bodies were found, our lives were irrevocably changed. So many hard cold realities; where to find a proper resting place in segregated, Jim Crow Mississippi?
I somehow lived through the funeral with all the news people, crowds of onlookers, hatred from all our white folks and the complicit silence of our community...that silence lasted decades. Though we tried to re-order our lives, we never could find rest until we found closure.
Momma so desperately needed that justice to come, along with the families of the other victims. That closure came at a cost; hours and years of community meetings, numerous attempts to bring to justice those who were responsible. Forty years passed. One day much, much too late, the manslaughter charge finally stuck. That day brought release and relief.
I had become an uncle early on, before James was killed. My niece, (James' daughter, Angela), has been a joy in my life. Many was the time I'd call her to offer support & a comforting sounding board. As the years passed, the support and love goes both ways. I have tried to pick up the pieces in my life.
My brother's legacy exacted a price. Through struggles and joys, my life goes on. How many times I wonder what life would have been like if James had not been in harm’s way. He did it because he believed it was the right thing to do. He did it so we could have opportunities he could not possibly have dreamed of back then.
-- by Bonnie Bell
More about James Chaney