March 25, 2009: “Night Tree Necktie Party”

We’re back after a wonderful CA trip a little jet-lagged, a little weary—but robustly certain we’re blessed by an amazing family. Yesterday, a little jet-lagged, a little weary, I was walking to Union Square when I noticed a poster announcing an upcoming show at a neighborhood club; Night Tree Necktie Party is the name of the band to be performing.

My first (jet-lagged, weary) reaction: Well, that’s no more  shocking or attention-grabbing than the Dead Kennedys, I guess.

Almost immediately I wondered: maybe it’s 2 bands. Night Tree Necktie Party doesn’t exactly roll off your tongue, does it?

But then, despite being jet-lagged and weary, I remembered a story—a story about lynching—included in several of the earlier drafts of Way Opens which didn’t make the final cut. And here it is:

Since Lynchburg’s name is so inescapably intertwined with the word lynch, in the earliest days of my leading, I’d done quite a bit of research about “necktie parties.” Such research stirred up a vague, vague memory of a black-and-white photograph of a lynching I’d seen as a child—probably in Life Magazine. Naively, I’d assumed such a photo to be one of a kind and therefore easy to locate so I’d asked a research librarian at the Somerville Public Library for help. She steered me to the Without Sanctuary exhibit  which, at the time, was online. (Maybe it still is.)

Determined to find my photograph, I briskly went through the site’s slide show: “Nope.” “Nope.” Finally, thank God, the horror  of what I’d been briskly rejecting hit me. My God, I realized. There are hundreds of such photographs! They show us, again and again, a black man—there were a few black women, too—dangling from a tree, a train trestle, etc., while a crowd of white people—hundreds of them in locales all over this country—watch, laugh, eat. Some of those photographs had been made into postcards. My God, I realized. Lynchings were far, far more prevalent than I’d ever imagined. Chastened, I forced myself to look at those pictures again, this time very slowly, lingering over every scene as I’d done as a child. And praying.

So, yeah, I get why an up-and-coming band gives itself an edgy name. But as my Buddhist/Catholic friend Dolores says, “There’s so much hatred and evil in the world. Why add to it?”




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  1. I’m considering disciplining myself to remove the word “denigrate” from my vocabulary. I can’t undo the lynchings;I can be aware that what seemed trivial (“…words can never hurt me”} may have been power and powerful.

  2. That was quite the descriptive scene Mrs. Wild. Many seem to believe that this is in the past, including me, but as you describe it my blood gets a boiling.

    Hmmmm, I once seen a KKK rally in Raleigh Nc around 2003-2004. I was amazed at what I was seeing. Completely surrounded by police and barricades as they spew the hatred of a certain color with children beside them. This generation has forgoten the past, I still live it.

    I went to a bar in NC with two friends and was told at the door that no blacks were allowed (I am brown so I could have laid an argument, but decied not to). In NC all bars or clubs are privately owned and requires a membership therefor making the current situation completely legal. I got permission to go in through the back door. (laughing) Racists are only racist when around others, lets jsut say I got along with every clansman and woman in the joint.

    The thought of white people sitting and eating while black people hung with necks tight and faces bloated, grabs my breath. Now I hope Obama remembers what you remember P.

  3. I just stumbled across this and I wanted to politely correct you. The names are two bands Night Trees (plural) and Necktie Party….Necktie Party derived they’re name from the term “Necktie Party” which simply meant a hanging in the old west…not race specific…furthermore one member of Necktie Party is Jewish and another is Cuban..clearly no racist connations were intended. Also the name is meant to be more metaphorical…a commentary on the injustice of anyone being scapegoated for any reason. Please make a little effort to do some research before making claims in a forum where any number of people could read it.

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