Durham News: Opinion

Lamont Lilly: Lennon Lacy, ‘Strange Fruit’

It was on Friday, Aug. 29,2014, that 17-year-old high school student Lennon Lee Lacy was found hanging from a wooden swing set in Bladenboro, N.C.

His lifeless body was left dangling in thin air on a makeshift rope. His neck was visibly marked with dark abrasions from asphyxiation. A belt buckle imprint was found just below his right ear. There were cuts on his face, arms and chest – bruises on his chin, cheeks and nose – and an enlarged knot on the right side of his forehead.

As if Lacy’s hanging was not enough, just a few days after Lennon was laid to rest, someone (or some group) dug a small hole on top of his grave. They also destroyed the floral arrangement that friends and family had placed at his burial marker. While local authorities are suggesting suicide, the black community is calling the Lacy case a 2014 lynching.

Local residents have spoken highly of Lennon’s character, manners and overall demeanor. Lennon was active in his church youth group, had no criminal record, and no history of mental illness. His only “harm to society” was dating a white woman who lived nearby. Local residents were well aware of Lacy and the 31-year-old’s intimate interactions, which of course garnered a heaping of local gossip and disdain.

Bladenboro is a small town of 1,746 residents located just 45 minutes outside of Wilmington. Bladenboro is 80 percent white and well known for its socially engrained racism. For those unfamiliar, Wilmington is home of the 1898 Race Massacre, a two-day armed attack on Wilmington’s black middle class by racist terror mobs. What that moment created was Jim Crow Segregation – an oppressive end to Reconstruction and post-slavery progress. Wilmington was also the site of the 1971 frame up of The Wilmington 10.

This history contributes to the political and social climate of the community. Keep in mind that between 1882 and 1968 there were 86 black folk lynched in this state – and those are just the lynchings we know of. Ironically, neighbors of the Lacy Family had just recently been made to remove a sign in their front yard that read “N------ Keep Out.”

Stating that local authorities have failed to conduct a thorough investigation in this case is an understatement. It has been formally reported by The Guardian that Lacy’s fingernails were not properly swabbed for DNA testing. His hands, body hair and mouth were not examined either. Due to the presumption of suicide, Lennon’s neighbors, friends and ex-girlfriend have not been questioned.

It appears the Bladenboro Police Department has not taken this matter seriously. A 200-pound teenager was found hanging from a swing set in the middle of a trailer park, and no one knows anything?

If you are learning of this case for the first time, please tweet, Instagram and Facebook it. Dig deep and research the history for yourself. Bladenboro Police are claiming Lennon Lee Lacy committed suicide. It appears to others that Strange Fruit is still being hung in this country.

Durham-based activist Lamont Lilly is a contributing editor with the Triangle Free Press and organizer with Workers World Party. Contact him at llilly1@eagles.nccu.