FACES OF THE FLOODS: Cary native Alfred Thomas Sr. says he feels ‘expendable’

Published 1:11 pm Friday, August 26, 2022

Faces of the Floods is now a podcast, Voices of the Floods. Listen here.

Faces of the Floods is a series by The Vicksburg Post that tells the stories of people impacted by catastrophic floods in the Yazoo Backwater area. 

Cary resident Alfred Thomas Sr. has waded in the floodwaters of the South Mississippi Delta his whole life, just as his father did before him and his grandfather before that.

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But on Wednesday night, Thomas took up the mantle of his fellow South Delta residents and shared his concerns with a delegation from Washington, D.C. invited to the area by Sen. Roger Wicker and Rep. Bennie Thompson. As far as he’s seen, Thomas said, he and his neighbors are expendable to the federal government.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people in the community, and we’ve begun to feel that we’re expendable,” Thomas said at the listening session. “I’m not being offensive, but it’s just like this: This past flood, deer were dead all over here. Deer and wildlife were dying everywhere. And the way I see that, is you have to relax some of the rules. Human life is more important than animal life.”

Thomas, 67, has vivid memories of the 1973, 2011 and 2019 floods in the Yazoo Backwater area as well as the minor floods in between.

It’s cost him jobs cutting pulpwood because the water was too high to get to the timber — or worse, too high to leave his home safely. Thomas said he’s not the only one who’s been in that situation, either.

Even worse, when floodwaters come, he said those with little resources are often left stranded.

For example, Thomas recalled to The Post his father’s stories of the 1927 Flood.

“My father was born in 1904, and he would tell me about the 1927 flood and how a lot of Black people drowned because they either weren’t properly notified, were too poor to leave or had no way to get out even if they wanted to,” Thomas said. “In 2019, I was blessed. My wife and I went to stay with our daughter — but there were so many people around me who, when I asked why they weren’t leaving they told me, ‘Where am I to go?’

“When I spoke at the meeting, that’s what I was frustrated about. Yes, we need the pumps, but there are disparities that they also need to think about,” Thomas added. “That’s why I said we feel expendable.”

Thomas said at first, the significance of hearing others in the meeting point out the ways South Delta residents living below the poverty line — primarily Black people — didn’t resonate with him. But after prayer and reflection, he said he realized the gravity of those statements.

“It’s really an uncomfortable situation but, with it raining like this, I really hope we don’t see that water this time coming in,” Thomas said. “I’m not just saying finish the pumps; work with the Corps of Engineers and the Levee Board and see what other options we can come up with. Please, being a Christian, I say this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ — please consider that we’re not expendable. It’s not about Black and white. It’s about people. We’re American citizens, we pay taxes. And we’ve basically become expendable.”

If you or someone you know is a South Delta resident impacted by the Yazoo Backwater Floods, email The Vicksburg Post’s Managing Editor at anna.guizerix@vicksburgpost.com to share your story.