By Augusto Macedo
Famed American author William Faulkner said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past[.]” this proved to be accurate in our experience as we, a group of 13 (“G-13”) friends, cycled from April 1-6, 2022, from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN on the Natchez Trace Parkway (“N.T.”). The NT is a managed National Park Service scenic 444-mile road through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee that roughly follows the “Old Natchez Trace” and “Trail of Tears,” a historic travel route used to remove Native Americans from their homeland forcibly. Our lives became enriched daily as we journeyed and visited with the people of that region, who welcomed us and shared their knowledge and experience. They showered us with “southern hospitality.” After planning for over a year and meeting weekly for five months via Zoom, our cycling journey took six days with overnight stays in Jackson, Kosciusko, Houston, Belmont, Collinwood, and Nashville.
In Natchez, Executive Director Bobby Dennis of The Natchez Museum of African American Culture escorted us through the Museum. He highlighted, among other exhibits, “The Black Butterfly,” Daisy Newman, a renowned hometown opera singer. In addition, he challenged us to be the authors of “our own” stories. With our minds enriched, it was time to enrich our bodies with southern cuisine. A fantastic meal was prepared specifically for us by Chef Jarita Frazier-King of Soul Food Natchez. While feasting, she educated us about the meal’s preparation and her family’s quest to preserve Southern African American recipes. Complementing our visit, we were honored to meet Natchez City Ward 2 Adelman, Billie Joe Frazier, who shared the history of his city, its county, and the state of Mississippi.
The following morning, the first day of cycling from Natchez to Jackson began with a wealth of anticipation and the “Circle of Life,” where everyone circled together in prayer for a safe journey, our daily ritual before each ride. Afterward, we dined at Ms. Darlene Wilson’s Southern Style Restaurant & Catering before our respective two wheels began turning northward. When we entered the N.T., several historic stops emerged, including Emerald Mound, Mount Locust, and the Sunken Trace, providing a wealth of historical and educational opportunities. We unexpectedly met Nashvillian Brad Meshell on his N.T. 444-mile journey to raise autism awareness in honor of his son. After lunch, Major Taylor affiliate Jackson’s Soul City Cyclists Club graciously met up with us on the N.T. and escorted us into the City of Jackson. Later that evening, President Aree Williams hosted G-13 at his home to a southern spread that included fish, chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, corn-on-the-cobb, and certainly, southern iced tea. We were treated like royalty!
We met Oral Historian Alissa Rae Funderburk from Jackson State University (“JSU”) Margaret Walker Center the next morning. She gave us a tour of the Council of Federated Organizations (“COFO”) Headquarters, where we learned about COFO’s execution of voter registration and education. The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project was led by Robert (Bob) Moses, whose efforts Dr. King had described then: “Our nation sent out Peace Corps Volunteers throughout the under-developed nations of the world, and none of them experienced the kind of brutality and savagery that these voter registration workers have suffered here in Mississippi.” From JSU, we paid a visit to the state Capitol where we encountered a Post Reconstruction Era Confederate monument, which praised the enslavement of humans, a stark reminder that racism never really goes away. It just changes forms.
Leaving Jackson on our shortest daily ride of 55 miles to Kosciusko, we experienced the picturesque Ross Barnett Reservoir, Cypress Swamp, and more joshing with thoughts of “sexy blue,” “Dr. One Glove,” “Screwdriver,” “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” “G.C. a/k/a L.T.,” “Ms. Brown Rice,” “My Black Gummy Bear,” “u good?” “Professor,” “Black Bourgeoisie,” “Ms. Garmin,” “Doppler Master,” and “Mr. Heinz,” among others. Nicknames and key phrases led to laughter galore, which became daily shenanigan rituals!
Kosciusko native and retired educator, Mr. Charles Hall, visited with us and shared his wealth and rich experiences of his and Oprah’s hometown, including the horrific events described in Stokes McMillian’s book entitled: “One Night of Madness,” while we dined, more like threw down on collard greens with rice, Liberian style. In our Antebellum mansion over breakfast, we learned about Oprah’s financial support and the appreciated benefits to the local Kosciusko Boys and Girls Club.
From Kosciusko through Houston, Belmont, Tupelo, Collinwood, and finally Nashville, we toured the Bynum Burial Mounds built between 100 B.C. and 100 A.D., Monroe Mission, where the Europeans imposed Christianity on the Chickasaw Nation, Pharr Mounds, and Nomadic Burial Mounds built around 1-200 A.D., all the while marveling at the accomplishments of the Native Americans. We visited Commander Meriwether Lewis Memorial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, who died there in 1809. A surreal and amazing highlight was the Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall, where we were blessed to meet the spouse and dog of Tom Hendrix, who had hand-built the wall to commemorate his great-great-grandmother’s return journey after she was forced from her native land during the infamous “Trail of Tears and Death.”
The morning we left Houston, we had awakened to SAD news before Ms. Carol Koutroulis’ Bridges-Hall Manor (“BHM”) best-served country breakfast of the entire trip. Alexis Richburg, a friend, and brother, who had ridden with us on the 2021 Gullah-Geechee Tour to raise awareness for the cure of cancer, had lost his battle with cancer. The strong thunderstorms (thunder-boom!) that jolted G-13 and BHM were Alexis’s earthly farewell, and we dedicated that day’s ride to his honor. While in Belmont and after giving tribute to Alexis, we were reminded about the 1972 movie “Deliverance” and to be mindful of our surroundings, to which we adhered.
Doppler Master Glenn graciously informed us we had at least four category climbs to contend with over the next 95 miles into Nashville on the morning of our last cycling day. Shortly after that, we encountered and elected to take a “road less traveled,” a semi-paved road that led to a section of the original Natchez Trace Trail. We transported ourselves back in time as we traveled the 1.5 miles until it reconnected with the N.T. Cycling into Nashville was physically the most challenging as we encountered many rated long climbs often accompanied by strong headwinds. Still, we were elated at our safe completion of 444 miles without a single mechanical or flat tire! To the dismay of a few riders, there was no actual Mile Post (“M.P.”) 444 to indicate the end of our Amazing six-day journey. Screwdriver and Ms. Garmin went off in a desperate search to locate the M.P., to no avail! Fact, MP 444 doesn’t exist. As the day closed, Ice Cube reminded us that “Today was a good day!” While in Nashville, we visited Black institutions, including American Baptist College, Fisk University, and Meharry Medical College, and enjoyed a guided tour provided by Mr. Grant Winrow, a/k/a “the Mayor” of Tennessee State University. We also visited Black restaurants Slim & Huskies, Swett’s, and Prince’s Hot Chicken. We concluded our expedition with a tour of Nathan “Uncle Nearest” Green Distillery for some good ole Tennessee Whiskey, which we downed with homemade “fufu and soup” prepared by Screwdriver. Experience, simply PRICELESS!
Augusto Macedo masterminded the G-13 expedition. It included Carl Adoph, Edward Dunn, Glenn Daniels, A.J. Haney, Carole Harris, John Johnson, Jerry Macauley, Teddy Macauley, Carolyn Misick, Toni Moore, Latricia Turner, and Howard Tyndle.
About the Author
Augusto “Gus” Macedo is hilarious, fun, Liberian war survivor, child trauma survivor, husband and father extraordinaire, lawyer/entrepreneur, beautiful loving kind friend, seeker of knowledge and truth, carrier of light and wisdom, pursuer of equity, kind soul, and gracious spirit who explores history, especially African American history while cycling. He received his BS from Tennessee State University and his JD from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. He resides in Maryland with his wife.