|Congo Square, New Orleans|
In August i had the privilege of spending time with folks in the Gulf South Rising Initiative in the lead up to and during the week of action. At the same time, i was reading what proved to be a very difficult and painful book (The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism) as part of my research for an upcoming book from the University of Kmt Press. The reminders of the brutal birth and development of capitalism and the social relations reflected in this social system and the intergenerational memories conjured up by walking in some of the same places where human beings were bought/sold and worked to death made it difficult to write. As the days turned to weeks, i lost momentum to keep this blog up to date.
However a new set of circumstances and recent developments are pushing me to get a bit more serious about this forum. Before introducing the new, i will take this opportunity to post some reflections i wrote back in August of my time in New Orleans.
August 2015: I've been trying to get through a book. It has been challenging because of the content and the memories it brings up...memories which are mine only because of a shared history, a cultural genetic imprint that is part of a shared memory. The half has never been told. What ordinarily would have only taken a week or so to read has turned into months.
New Orleans...where Hurricane Katrina swept in ten years ago, triggering the ocean to take thousands with her. Inspiring the systematic mass removal and displacement of blacks, many of whom haven't been able to make it back here. The place where each year people from around the world converge for Mardi Gras. New Orleans, the place where great music is born. The economic center of the cotton industry only a few generations ago. It was in New Orleans that an already brutal system of enslavement reached new levels of brutality as the rush to meet the demand for cotton on the world stage made black lives more expendable. Enslavers demanded through their violence maximum output with minimum input. Enslaved blacks were pushed to work longer, harder and under even worse conditions. Pregnant women were forced to work until delivery and put back to work with baby on back. To produce cotton at the levels needed to meet the demand, there was no time for breaks, no time to recover from sickness. And if a person died in the field, to the enslaver, this was at worst an unfortunate loss of investment; but one remedied by the purchase of another.
In this book the author takes you there to the auction blocks, allowing you to see through the eyes of people - smelling what they smelled, feeling the elevating levels of anxiety and worry and pain and dismay.
As i return to this place called New Orleans, right now, in this lifetime...as i walk down Dauphine or Rampart or any of these streets - i imagine what it would've been like in 1820. As i walk these streets, i remember the tens of thousands of black people bought sold and speculated on as part of a growing economic system. I imagine the indigenous people whose lives and lands were taken by force, who were displaced. I remember and honor the souls of those who fought back, many of whose names we'll never know. Their spirits gone but not forgotten.
From all this - out of all this tragedy is born a story of hope...resilience. But more than that, more than hope, i feel walking down these streets a challenge, a call to action for changing the economic system and global markets that were born out of this brutal system of enslavement. And i feel a call to overhaul a political system that created people and policies to reinforce and advance the economic interests of wealthy white land owners and a legal system that compelled behavior of the masses to support the interests of this group and an evolving culture that holds it all together, justifying the mistreatment of the majority in favor of a minority.
By the words and actions of folks i see at Congo Square and other places where we've gathered at this time, i know that others are hearing this call to action too. A group of we - priestesses, initiates and spiritual warriors and healers - gathered at the big tree in Congo Square Saturday morning to call for the healing and elevation of our ancestors and to invite them to work with us in the fight for justice. Our brothers cleansed the space for powerful transformation to take place during Rhythmic Alchemy. So many are stepping forward. Our legions are growing.