Twenty years ago, on June 7, 1998, was one of the most horrific hate crimes in America. I was 30 years old when I was watching the news about the violent murder of James Byrd, Jr. who was dragged to death in Jasper, TX by three white supremacists (John William King, Shawn Allen Berry and Lawrence Russell Brewer).
James Byrd, Jr. was walking home from a party and was stopped by three white supremacists. They asked if he wanted a ride home and Byrd accepted. It was normal in Jasper, TX to hitch a ride from a stranger. They drove to a convenient store, bought liquor and drove to an undisclosed area and started drinking.
Suddenly, two of the white supremacists started attacking Byrd. It was difficult for Byrd to defend himself because he was drunk. They got a can of black spray paint and sprayed it in his face, took off his clothes, chained him by his ankles to the back of a pick up truck and dragged his body down Huff Creek Road for 2-3 miles. Portions of his corpse were found in 75 different spots.
The next day, Byrd's body parts and personal belongings were stretched for about 2 miles. His head was in a ditch, torso, arm, pieces of his flesh, dentures, keys, hat and wallet were found. The rest of his remains were left at a African American church and cemetery.
I was filled was sadness and anger. This could have been my father, uncle, brother, husband, son or friend. I was in disbelief to think that this type of hatred existed in 1998. Today in 2018, the hatred is more blatant than ever. With the killing of African Americans, Driving While Black, Cook Out While Black, Starbucks While Black, Air BNB While Black, LA Fitness While Black, Old Navy While Black, Community Service While Black, etc., that it makes it very difficult to be black in America.
This past March, I traveled to Jasper, TX to get information about James Byrd, Jr. and I also did research on the internet, watched videos and read the book “Hate Crime – The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, TX” by Joyce King.
As I was driving, I saw a sign that said “Welcome to Jasper ‘ Jewel of the Forest” but I didn't have that welcome feeling. When I think of Jasper, TX, I immediately think of James Byrd, Jr. Once I entered the City of Jasper, my whole thought process changed. A lot of emotions set in about how I was going to feel locating the sites of James Byrd, Jr.
My first stop was James Byrd, Jr.'s grave site. He is buried at Jasper City Cemetery. The cemetery is not gated with about 450+ graves. The grounds are in good condition and well taken care of. There are, I believe, two other cemeteries next to Jasper City Cemetery. There are also homes that surround the cemeteries.
From a distance I saw James Byrd’s grave. An iron gate surrounds his grave. James Byrd, Jr.’s grave has been vandalized twice and someone tried to sell dirt from his grave for auction. I was utterly disgusted!!!!!!
As I stood at the foot of his grave, I prayed. I prayed that he is resting peacefully regardless of the hate and racism that comes at his sacred resting place. Even in death, he is a threat.
Next to his grave is his mother, Mrs. Stella Mae Byrd, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 85 and the future resting place for James Byrd, Sr.
After paying my respects, I drove to the deadly road, Huff Creek Road, where James Byrd, Jr. was dragged for 3 miles.
When I approached Huff Creek Road & Co Rd 278, I was scared about driving down this road of terror, but I wanted to driv