“He remembered things we had never known. How to dress rope-burned skin. How to wire a neck, broken and distended, to make the bones straight again. Arrange the high, starched collar and necktie so they hid the marks that makeup could not conceal. I watched him as he worked, cradling Michael’s head in his hands. He held it like he held mine in the waters along the bay, on the summer afternoon he tried to teach me to float. I floated for a while, but when I opened my eyes and realized his hands were gone, and what I felt along my neck and back was just a memory of his fingers, I sank like a rock.” (Pg. 101 & 102, Like Trees, Walking, Ravi Howard, Harper Collins)
Ravi Howard’s Like Trees, Walking is a work of fiction carefully constructed around the all too real 1981 lynching of teen Michael Donald. Two brothers, reluctant potential heirs to the family funeral home business and friends to the victim, search for answers and for a way to deal with their loss. The results of this search are heartbreaking.
Although it appears that the incident which Howard poetically presents to his readers is of a specific act carried out in 1981 Mobile, Alabama, sadly, it is a story that represents many acts that have been repeated over and over again throughout history. Repeated over and over again about different towns in the south, north, the east and the west. A story told about our very own Gadsden, Alabama at one shameful time in our history. It is a story that is contemplative, powerful and familiar. A story to which we can no longer turn a blind eye.
Mr. Howard is scheduled to visit Gadsden, Alabama in April of this year as a part of our state library convention. I look forward to meeting him.