03 Oct, 2012

a visit with ms. beckham

Sehba Sarwar
03 Oct, 2012

Terry works in a house that serves as a storage unit for the church. The building contains painting equipment and other construction supplies. I park my car on Cleveland Street, walk by some boarded homes owned by the church toward where Terry works. A woman sits on the outside porch. I nod hello to her and she nods back. Before I can call out Terry’s name, I hear his voice through the netting. “There you are!” He steps out into the porch and we exchange Tuesday morning niceties.

But instead of being interviewed himself, Terry wants to take me to meet Jackie Beckham. I know the name – Catherine Roberts has also mentioned Ms. Beckham to me; she’s one of the oldest residents in the neighborhood.

We decide to walk over to Ms. Beckham’s home, five blocks west. Up until now, I’ve mostly been driving around the neighborhood, but today the temperature feels comfortable. We turn on Andrews Street along the brick street, passing by the Yates Museum as we head west.

Terry points to the old bricks and the tram line. “These bricks were burned by the freed slaves,” he tells me. “But now they want to tear them down.”

Ms. Beckham’s house has a historic marker on it and metal fence closes off the front entrance. She steps out soon after Terry calls out her name.

When I tell her I’m interested in interviewing her, she nods. “Well, you can do that. But not right now…” Her daughter is getting married soon and that she has a lot of work to do. Noticing that both Terry and I are sweating on the street, she invites us into the house. We chat a little more with television news in the background and by the time we leave, we have pinned down a time to talk.