Strange Fruit: ‘Eenie Meanie’ Examines Baby Boomer Racism & Louisville Busing Riots

“These buses came back from the West End with these little kids on them, and they were crying, there were windows knocked out. They had been beaten with baseball bats, they had been called every horrible racial name you can expect, right here in this town.”

 

It sounds like a scene we’d expect to see in the deep South, but this happened in Louisville in the middle of the 1970s, when public schools implemented the busing system. That’s how performing artist Teresa Willis remembers it, and it makes up part of her one-woman show, Eenie Meanie.

Because Louisville itself was so segregated, neighborhood schools were largely either black or white. Busing was designed to achieve greater diversity within school, but was met with resistance.

“Racism really came out of the closet in my community,” Teresa remembers. “There’s crosses burning at the football field. Literally, we’re at a football game and a cross gets lit on fire. It was not pretty in 1975, ’76 around here at all. Dixie Highway at Valley Station road were thousands and thousands of people rioting. We made the national news. People were so angry.”

Teresa also lived in L.A. during the 1992 riots. Eenie Meanie looks at racism in the baby boomer generation and in her own life. She joined us this week to talk about the piece, which is part of the Slant Culture Theatre Festival going on this weekend and next (she’s also the festival’s director).

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we talk about the horrible case of Renisha McBride, the 19-year-old black woman who was shot in the face by a white man when she went to his door for help after a car accident.

Friend to the show Dr. Brittney Cooper, covering the story for Salon, pointed out the similarities between this incident and the recent shooting of Jonathan Farrell, who was also shot and killed while seeking help after an accident.

She also points out how this case is different from recent white-on-black killings: because the victim in this case is a woman, and, “we have somehow come to believe that black women’s femininity exempts them from what Kiese Laymon has called ‘the worst of white folks.’”

Kaila also breaks down 12 Years a Slave with some historical analysis, and shares her reactions to the film. Among many other issues, the film demonstrates how lack of access to reading and writing tools was used as a weapon against enslaved people. “The fact that I’m sitting there as an African American, as a free person with a doctorate, watching this film about a man who was prevented from writing,” she says, “It’s a really really awful story. It was tough.”

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