Congresswoman Grace Meng Responds To Jewish Community

Recap: The Hartsteins take Yonah to a community meeting and Preacher Killen spouts his prejudiced views. As they’re leaving, Mr. Herring warns Yonah to stay away from the civil rights workers. 

The next day, Ben and I were working side by side at the cleaners. Ben whispered, “Ma sent some food for ya. I left it in a bag by the ice box in the back room.”

“Thanks,” I said.

Just then Joseph strode into the room. “No talk’n; we got lots of work here.”

I started pressing a white shirt. I felt so grateful that Mrs. Chaney was bringing me kosher food. What a kind person she was.

At school, we were learning functions in math and Henry was looking lost. I told him I would help him after class. “I’m glad I got a smart friend,” he said.

We sat on a bench outside, and with our math books opened I explained the formulas.

“Thanks, Yonah. You have patience. When you explain, I understand.”

The sun felt delicious. “I gotta head to the gas station to work. Thanks again.”

I decided to bicycle over to the freedom school to visit Andy. I knew he was staying there, and I liked talking with him.

It felt good to pump my legs and race through the woods. It helped release all the tension of the day and my upset feelings at all the injustice here.

I spotted Andy outside walking Ghandi. “Hey, how’s it going?” I asked. “They’re both in Ohio.” He smiled, “The dog misses his masters but I’m doing my best.” He bent down to pat the dog. The dog was a mutt. It had large, sad eyes and long, floppy ears. “That dog looks like a pacifist.”

Andy laughed. “Yeah, he moves slowly, and he backs away from aggressive dogs, but he’s super loyal and he is a good watchdog. Last night I heard noises outside the door. Ghandi barked and I think he scared whomever it was away.”

I thought of the crazy man who’d come with the ax. I wondered if he was returning with his friends.

“Is anyone coming tonight for lessons?”

“Just one mother and her son.”

“We want to keep things quiet cause of that neighbor.”

“That’s a good idea, but what if he came last night.”

“So, he left. I keep getting threatening calls. This deep voice says, ‘Leave or die.’ It’s pretty unnerving. Mickey told me they get those calls all the time and just take the phone off the hook. So, I finally just took the phone off the hook. The only bad thing is my mom can’t call me or any friends.”

“It sounds scary.”

Andy ran his hand through his hair. “The call that gave me chills was when someone called and said he is going to kill Schwerner and the other civil rights workers.”

All of a sudden, a car sped over and stopped with a screech. It was James Chaney. He jumped out of the car and he was out of breath. “They burned the Zion Church!” he said.

“What?” Andy’s mouth dropped open.

I felt a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

James said, “They had a meetin’ there. Church business. Then this car pulls up with the lights shut off. A bunch of white men block the way when the church people come out and they beat a man – an old man and his wife. They were lookin’ for Mickey.”

I felt the anger stir inside of me.

James continued, “These were the people Mickey was working with, gaining their trust, whom he wanted to help them get the vote. He’s gonna feel awful. I feel awful.”

“Why did they burn it down?” I asked.

James just shook his head. “There is not why. It’s just hate. It’s Mississippi.”

Andy, who always looked pretty confident and calm, was frowning, and he kept patting Ghandi. “So, what will happen? Will the police do anything?”

James laughed. “Come on, Andy. You know what the police do here. This isn’t New York. This is Mississippi. Half of them are in the KKK.”

I bicycled back. I kept thinking about the poor people who had their church destroyed. I left my bike behind the house and headed over to the track. The school had a nice big track and it was a great place to just run and run and I needed to run to calm myself down.

I ran for miles and miles around and around and then I headed back to the Hartstein house. I notice my bike was moved from the back to the front of the house. As I walked closer, I saw a paper stuck on the handlebar. It said, “Say goodbye to your friend Goatee, and you’re next if you stick with them.” There was no signature.

To be continued…