Returning to Elaine this winter led us back to what has come to be known as The Mound—a raised burial ground that is situated in the middle of a cotton field. Roy Clark, a nearby landowner of Native American and African American descent, discussed the town’s belief that this is a gravesite for the Native Americans who walked the Trail of Tears. However, the chunks of intricately cut tombstones found atop this area tell another narrative. Others believe that the Native American theory is a ruse to hide one of many mass graves for those massacred nearly a hundred years ago.
Mr. Clark took us to his home where he explained the near impossibility of growing produce due to the industrial pesticides that corporations spray on the surrounding farms. Any attempted crops, such as the kale that he had once been growing on his land, are very often poisoned and killed by the crop dusters that fly overhead. This is to say nothing of the effects that these sprays could have on the townspeople. The lack of recognition for the working class extended beyond the private sector. At the time, many in the community had been without water for over two weeks. Mr. Clark related this to the overall failures of the local government to adequately care for its citizens.
The night ended with our crew reflecting on the beginning of our second trip to Elaine and the multiple, interwoven narratives revealed to us: the past and present atrocities of racism, the horrors of businesses capitalizing on those atrocities, and the townspeople who have been resilient against such racial and capitalist oppression throughout Elaine’s history.