Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
who I'm thinking of when I'm
out on our land
After all these years?
You can't really
I'm thinking of my father, rest in peace,
and my father's father, rest in peace,
and my great grandfather, rest in peace,
and my birth mother's father, rest in peace,
and my birth father, live in peace,
and all those Jamaican farmers from his line, rest in peace,
and all those slaves and sharecroppers
and earth magicians from my fathers' lines,
rest in peace,
who stand over my shoulder when
I'm Opening the Earth,
who whisper music, whisk
mosquitoes away from my
ears so I can hear it more clearly,
who show the way.
I'm thinking of Dutch clay--
Maine too has so much
putty, tart and heavy and fertile--
of typical Dutch kut weer--
Maine too has so many
overcast, water-logged days throughout
the growing season--
of Dutch tulips, and green-
houses and stone barns and boers--
Maine has so many farmers and rocks
and plastic-covered laboratories
in pursuit of the perfect growing thing--
flower, herb, vegetable, tree.
I'm thinking of the Netherlands.
Your mother land, the mother
ship of the trade that
brought my ancestors to
these western hemisphere shores,
these craggy bleeding shores that
dart into this other half's, this other land's
earth, desperate for deep, tender love.
I'm thinking of you--
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and their daughters Malia and Sasha, arrive at the White House from Ghana, early Sunday, July 12, 2009, in Washington. AP photo
Air Force One has carried President Barack Obama and his family out of the skies of Ghana back to Washington, after a whirlwind visit to the first sub-Saharan country he has gone to since he became the first black President of the USA.
He received tremendous cheers from Ghanaians when, in a speech to Ghana’s Parliament, he acknowledged that yes, the blood of a Kenyan runs in his veins.
But I suspect that in the private apartment he and Michelle Obama shared on board Air Force One. the President would have noticed that; despite their bravery, something other than cheer was present in the psyche of his in his wife and two daughters.
Their unhappiness, not too difficult to decipher, was captured in a photograph which shows a grimfaced Obama with his arms around his eldest daughter, as they emerged from Cape Coast castle.
Why did he take them inside the castle? It is a whited sepulcher that does justice to Christ’s depiction of hypocrisy and true evil.
In there, the President and his family would have undergone the indescribable trauma of having to imagine what conditions were like on the spot where they stood, for millions of African-Americans, who were chained together in the dungeons of the castle - sometimes made to sit in their own excreta, the women washed and raped – before being shipped across the cruel sea, from Ghana to North America and the Caribbean, on a journey that took them into chattel slavery.
A chattel slavery that condemned them to endless labour, planting and harvesting cotton, tobacco, sugar and other crops, on plantations that yielded the wealth upon which the West’s prosperity and industrial might was built.
I am told by one of the Ghanaians who organized the trip for the Obamas that “in the dungeon, the tears of the President of the United States were flowing freely, Michelle Obama just broke down.
I figured the experience had taken her to the lowest point a human being can reach. The kids were asking many questions and registering the answers with shock.
It was a terribly distressing emotional moment for all of them.”
In truth, the slave trade was the most inhuman trade ever carried out in the history of mankind.
And it went on day after day after day for almost 300 years.
Of course, history written by westerners does acknowledge it (even if briefly} as The Atlantic Slave Trade.
But published accounts by freed slaves, such as that by Olaudo Equiano and slave-ship crewmen, such as Robert Barker, show that it was so horrible that descriptions of it were by Europeans, was either muted or suppressed..
In Cape Coast castle, everything that was bestial The Atlantic Slave Trade comes together – there is a door there labeled
“The door of No Return’, which was the slaves’ last exit from Africa.
From the forests of the African interior and the savannah, men and women who had once been the most unfettered creatures on earth, in both body and mind, were carted off to a perilous journey of no return.
At least a quarter of their number perished at sea, dying through disease and hunger, and being gifted to the fishes of the sea.
Personally, even before I heard an eyewitness account of the Obamas” experience, I just could not see how Mrs Obama, a descendant of a couple of the surviving slaves, could stand in that Door of No Return and look into it to the wide cruel sea that ate up millions of her ancestors, without needing to suppress an outflow of tears.
Read the rest...
I haven't been able to reflect on this trip. Haven't seen the YouTube video of the President's speech to the Ghanaian parliament. The photo posted is about all I needed to keep me from going there just yet.
As I find so many insightful comments from the readers of Jack and Jill Politics, as I found the story quoted above, I've also found this:
Just thinking here: Why would the Obama's bring the girls- now? I mean anyone born of the Middle Passage, in my opinion, has to make peace with that history and visit to just acknowledge its existence. Our history books work hard to not acknowledge it. But just now, reading this piece I have have to believe that the Obama parents HAD to make REAL what their lives are committed to correcting.
It all started THERE. What they inherited (among many things,) is a legacy for Black people that goes back to the foundation of our nation. Slavery. How can they really explain the level of hate some people have for their family without going back THERE of all places. Sasha and Malia must have a foundation for understanding how their father is revered and also hated by so many people. Why there is such a fear for their little lives? They cannot do what they used to do. It is impossible not matter how hard they try.
Slavery. You can read about it, hear about it- but there is nothing like being there. You feel dread, fear, anger, sadness, and even gratitude for our ancestors who endured and willed themselves to survive. Their family made that trip together- what a blessing to get to share that moment.
I have to think this castle visit HAD to happen for their girls. This trip, this experience will truly and unequivocally unite them as a family and it will provide those beautiful baby girls a foundation for understanding the sacrifices and opportunities that will be before them.
Originally posted as a comment by evita on Jack and Jill Politics using Disqus.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
Saturday, July 04, 2009
From Frederick Douglass:
“The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”
Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too Ñ great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory….
…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?
Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”
But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.ÑThe rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”
Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America.is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery Ñ the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.
But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, “It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed.” But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!
For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Amercans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.
What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their mastcrs? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.
At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.
What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival….
…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. — Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.
The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. ‘Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:
God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But to all manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive –
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II
Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950
Thursday, July 02, 2009
And it won't stop raining. My plants are literally going to drown.