Cahokia Creek

For the last five years I’ve been working on a piece of historical fiction which takes place largely in East St. Louis, Missouri, during the race riots of 1917.  One of the more atrocious scenarios of the white-inspired race riots occurred at the hands of a group of white men who marched Black people into Cahokia Creek at gunpoint as the town behind them burned.  According to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the creek was also a dumping ground for many burned Black bodies.

He can’t wipe the grains of dirt from his eyes…choking in the creek with the fire from the town hot on his wet clothes and the men yelling. If he could clear the dirt from his eyes he could see which direction the baby’s echoes were coming from, but it’s all he can do to stay above water. How can this be happening? Something is on his shoulder, pushing him under. A foot. Someone is stepping on him. NO! He thrashes and ducks below the current to swim away. The creek is thick with limbs and hair tangling around his ankles and wrists. NO! He remembers now, he was looking for someone…he has to stay alive…who…

“There! There! Get that one!” He’s come up for breath and now they’re coming for him. It’s not raining…There was a man hanging above him…Everything turns on its side while the men drag him from the river. He can’t kick and he can’t scream. There is nothing left in his body. Ernestina.

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