Silenced Dreams: Reflection of the Story of Emmett Till

“We don’t have an eternity to realize our dreams, only the time we are here.”

-Susan S. Taylor

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet with a group of teenagers to talk about life and goal setting. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to share with them that the world is so much bigger than the city they live in and they could achieve anything with hard work and discipline. I challenged them to set big, realistic, goals and work hard to make their dreams come true. Reflecting on that day, I began to think about my own dreams and aspirations and some how Emmet Till crossed my mind. He was 14 when he was killed. He wasn’t able to live out his goals and dreams. Maybe didn’t even get a chance to have a conversation to figure out what his goals and dreams were. He was robbed of that opportunity.


Emmett Till was born July 25th 1941 in Chicago Illinios. Let me try to paint a picture of what life was like for an African American in 1941. 1941 can somewhat be considered as the middle of the “Great Migration,” where African Americans across the rural south, fled North and to the Mid-West to escape harsh segregation laws known as “Jim Crow ”and seek better economic opportunities.

Jim Crow (n)- a practice or policy of segregating or discriminating against black people, as in public places, public vehicles, or employment. Deriving from the name of a song used as the basis of an act by Thomas Rice, an American entertainer. (Dictionary.com).

Although segregation was not legalized in the North, racisim, discrimination and prejudices were still apart of life for African Americans. Along with, housing issues and injustices, as well as job competition (Hisory.com).

Till, being born and raised in Chicago, probably didn’t really see or experience the full extent of racism and hatred towards blacks like those who lived and grew up in the South. And what 14 year old would really be able to grasp the severity and understand it, unless it was a personal experience? Unfortunately, Till found out first hand just how intense racism was down South in the Summer of 1955.

Till was sent to Mississippi to spend time with family and was warned of the dangers of the South and told to basically behave. One night, during his stay, Till was taken from his family’s home for {allegedly} whistling and at a white woman. The men who took him, the husband and brother in law of the women, beat him to the point of dis-figuration, shot him in the head, tied his body to a cotton gin fan and disposed of his body in the river. His body resurfaced days later and was identified. Till’s mother, Mamie Bradley, requested that the body be sent back to his home town and had an open-casket funeral to show the world what racism in the South did to her son.

emmetttill


Can you imagine having to hear that your 14 year son, nephew, brother, cousin, or friend was brutally killed basically because of the color of their skin?

Can you then imagine having to identify and bury your 14 year son, nephew, brother, cousin, or friend?

Can you THEN imagine having to sit in a courtroom, and listen to they jury find the defendants “not guilty,” after very brief deliberation, on the failure to prove the identity of the body….AND the defendants not be held on a separate charge of kidnapping?

NOW, can you imagine, years later, hearing that the main witness recanted their original testimony. -______-

I don’t even have words to describe the amount of strength and courage for Mamie Bradley to share the pain of her son’s death with the world. But seeing that casket, looking at that picture, and watching the documentary at the Smithsonian’s African American Museum of History and Culture, I definitely felt it to the point of tears.

He.

Was.

14.

Just let that sink in!…. How can ANYONE hold that much hate in their hearts….

I have 14 year old clients. I have a 14 year old cousin. I have an older brother. It could very well happen to them today or tomorrow and at ANY AGE. It may not look like the lynchings and murders of the 1800 and 1900s, but either way people  are ending up dead…..Trayvon Martin…..Jordan Davis…..John Craford…..Mike Brown…..Laquan McDonald…..Tamir Rice…..Freddie Gray…..Jamar Clark….. Regardless of the individual situations with these deaths, you can’t deny that color played a role in their fate. BUT LET ME BE CLEAR…My post is NOT about police brutality. My post is NOT about Black Lives Matter (Even though they do). My post is NOT about All Lives Matter. My post is simply about Emmett Till’s murder, my feelings about what happened, and my point that over 60 years later we are still having a similar conversation…

Maybe one day in the future Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s dream will COMPLETELY come true.

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