The Bayou

I was honored to have this photo essay of a trip back to my cajun roots with my dad and son featured on TRIAD Magazine last month. If you haven’t had a chance to spend some time over there, it would be good for your soul… promise.

I wanted to share it here as well because it has a special place in my heart and heritage.

Bayou01 Bayou02 As a kid, I can remember packing up our small flat-bottom boat with my dad for a little evening trip to the river. We would fill a small ice chest with a few Cokes, some Ritz Crackers + Cheese Wiz, and usually throw in a small fishing net for good measure. After dousing ourselves with sufficient amounts of DEET to ward off the mammoth mosquitoes that serve as armed guards for the Southeast Texas bayous, we would make the short trek down the road to the boat launch.

Within about five minutes, we would be transported to another world. Away from the hissing sounds of the highway, things are much slower on the bayou. Your senses are awakened to sounds that you rarely hear… birds screeching… dragon flies buzzing by… random fish grazing the surface of the water before plummeting back down. Water moves at a crawling pace, and if you’re lucky and patient, you’ll just may find yourself eye to eye with an alligator as it slowly peeks above the surface.

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Almost all of my family has roots in this small part of the world. An area that is soaked in culture that is intimately tied to the water.

As we would putter along in the boat, my dad always made a point of reminding me that my Great-Grandfather helped float cypress logs down those narrow canals many years ago. “Oh… and that little bayou over there… that’s where I used to come with my grandfather when I was a kid to fish. It’s amazing how some things don’t change back here”, he would say.

One of the many things I am thankful for in my life is the heritage that I have. Something deep inside my soul stirs around when I sit on the front of that little flat-bottom boat and drift through those bayous. I see the bearded cypress trees with their Spanish Moss gently moving in the wind, and I start thinking about the people that have gone before me. The ones that had similar blood running through their veins as myself and who floated along the same bayous many many years before I.

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When I brought my wife and kids back home recently, I was once again hit with this nostalgia overload. This time, it was my oldest boy wearing an oversized baseball cap helping his Papa load up that same old boat. We were careful not to leave home without the Cokes, but as people and times change, the Cheese Wiz did not make the journey.

As we began weaving around the maze of little bayous that evening, my soul was filled as I listened to my dad once again recall those same old stories to my boy, as if he was telling them for the first time. A heritage being passed down unknowingly to an eight year old from his grandfather.

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Contax 645 / Fuji 400H and Canon 1V / Kodak Portra 400 // Indie Film Lab

 

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Reflecting on 50 Years of Racial Progress and My Story

50 years.

In the grand scheme of things, this is an incredibly short period of time. It’s truly difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that just 50 short years ago, my mother and father lived in a society that had racism woven into its very fabric and into our very hearts.

It was just 50 years ago today that Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and spoke words that would be seared into the consciousness of humanity forever. Words that, as I read them today, stir something deep inside of me. Force me to recon with reality and ask hard questions.

Words like: “… for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.” – MLK

I often wonder where I would have stood 50 years ago.

I’m a southern guy. I was born and raised in the same small Texas town that my parents and their parents and their parent’s parents grew up in. A heritage that had been built for a century of mainly good hard working, church-going people that trained their kids to do the same. Our town didn’t have a single person of color as a resident for years. Although this is not necessarily evidence that everyone that lived their was seething with racial bigotry, it is still a fact that is difficult to swallow.

I wonder if this white boy, from an all white town in the south, would have even considered the fact that perhaps this black preacher on TV was speaking truth. Perhaps, just maybe, there was something off in our hearts that made us just go along with the norm of considering people of a different skin color than us inferior. Would the social pressure around me have just lulled me into a complacent attitude that said, “It’s just not that big of a deal… I shouldn’t ruffle feathers”?

So, that’s where I come from.

As everyone spends today reflecting back on the past 50 years of racial progress in our society, I look at my own heritage and history. Just 50 years after Dr. King stood in front of America and spoke words that may have caused people in my family to scoff or think that this just wasn’t the best direction for things at the time… I look at my sons.

brownwhite I have living, breathing proof that at least some things in our society have changed.

I’m sure that in August of 1963 that my grandparents would have never in a million years thought that one of their grandchildren would be an African American. As kids at the time, my parents could have probably never have imagined in their lifetime that their son could have a transracial family, in the south, and live to write about it online for anyone to read.

I get thick tears in the corners of my eyes when I think about the fact that our two sons (brown and white) literally join hands each day and run around our house. The dream… alive and well in our very home.

But, it even weighs heavier on me when I am able to see my grandparents, who were white adults living in the deep south in the 60’s, sit with my boy in their lap and treat him as an equal in our family.

Only by the grace of God.

I don’t intend to insinuate that we’re living in race-free paradise here in America. It’s far from it. I absolutely believe that Americans are still judged by the color of their skin before the content of their character can ever be discovered. Every. Single. Day. I believe that my brown son faces more of a challenge in our society than my white son will ever be able to grasp… simply because of the color of his skin. It’s true. We see it with our own eyes.

But, I also live in hope that God will continue to rid of hearts of the seeds of racism that spout up into the way we interact with one another. I believe that it’s happening. I believe that it can happen.

Today, I’m overwhelmingly grateful for thousands of people 50 years ago that took a stand for what was, without a doubt, the right thing to stand for.

Your legacy lives on. It was worth the trip to the Capitol that hot day in August. Thank you.

A Trip Back Home

Early this summer I spent a weekend back in my hometown. The more time that I am away from those roots, the more and more it seems things change. Things simply look different when you return with different eyes in a different stage of life.

One day when the kids were napping and I had some free time, I went on a little walk with one of my film cameras. One of the refreshing things about learning film is that it has forced me to take photos of things rather than people. The last thing I would want to do would be to “learn” my camera on a client’s dime. So, I’ve been taking lots of photos of plants and other non-moving objects.

I grew up just across the street from my grandparents and great-grandparents… one of the most amazing things about my childhood. I spent lots of time in their homes, in their yards and in their lives. I learned a lot about plants and gardening and being outside from the times I spent with them.

As I walked around the dense pine forests that make up our homestead, I came upon my Maw-Maw’s old green house. Of course it looks much different now… only a skeletal frame of what once was. Overtaken by vines and young trees vying for space. Many pots laid in piles on the ground, full of soil but void of life… symbolizing a passing away of more than just a few people, but a way of life.
Heritage01Heritage02Heritage03 Heritage04 Heritage05 Heritage06Canon 1V  //  Kodak Portra 400  //  Indie Film Lab