An Interview with James Meredith & Anthony Bourdain on Oxford

James-Meredith-Geno-Lee

John Reyer Afamasaga, Geno Lee, James Howard Meredith – 6/4/18

Early last Monday morning I set out for Jackson MS in the hope of interviewing James Howard Meredith, the first African American student to enroll at Ole Miss.

All week I was nervous whether the interview with Mr. Meredith would happen. His words to me on the phone after I cold-called him were, “we’ll see; first, you got to find me.” Or, something to that effect. So, with nothing more than half a plan, I showed up in Jackson. On arrival, I called him the first time, and it went to his message, so I waited for ten minutes. At that point I had no idea where the interview was going to take place, Mr. Meredith told me that he’d come to me. Looking around the carpark, I had indiscriminately stopped at, I spotted a Big Apple Inn, which I’d seen on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown Mississippi Episode back in New Zealand in 2015. I remembered the owner Geno Lee well and wondered if he’d agree for the interview to take place in his establishment? Long story short, I called Mr. Meredith a second time, and he answered. I offered to book a hotel room, or he could come down to Big Apple Inn. Ten minutes later, he and his wife showed up. Geno wasn’t there, but he let his staff know it was okay for me to film the interview there. Within minutes there was a buzz around Mr. Meredith, locals lined up for photos with a hero, “he paved the way, for us,” one admirer said.

When Geno showed up I blurted out “this guy’s world famous; he’s been on CNN…”

Later that day as I downloaded the footage and sat down to write the narrative, I couldn’t help but drop Anthony Bourdain’s name. Four days later…

This morning I was on the Square here in Oxford filming an interview at sunrise. And as streetlights diminished in daylight and my camera lens found Faulkner on his bench—Bourdain’s words about Oxford—my hometown now, even more profound in the wake of his passing: “It’s a lovely, incongruously eccentric little island, a mutation… a magnet for writers, thinkers, and oddballs.”

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Sunrise, Oxford Square – 6/10/18

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Faulkner statue, Oxford Square – 6/10/18

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