Writing in a Time of Peril: 7.3.2020

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard reported 2.20 million U.S. cases and 118,695 deaths as of 12:30 pm on June 19, 2020 – From Johns Hopkins daily update.

The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard reported 2.64 million US cases and 127,485 deaths as of 11:30pm on July 1.– From Johns Hopkins daily update.

The Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration

Located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved in Montgomery, Alabama, this narrative museum uses interactive media, sculpture, videography and exhibits to immerse visitors in the sights and sounds of the domestic slave trade, racial terrorism, the Jim Crow South, and the world’s largest prison system. – from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) website.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice 

More than 4400 African American children, women, and men were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. Millions more fled the South as refugees from racial terrorism, profoundly impacting the entire nation. Until now, there has been no national acknowledging the victims of racial terror lynchings. On a six acre-acre site atop a rise overlooking Montgomery, the national lynching memorial is a sacred space for truth-telling and reflection about racial terror in America and its legacy. –from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) website.

A Lynching Memorial Is Opening. The Country Has Never Seen

My daughter, Leslie Ebonne, and I traveled the few hours from Atlanta to Montgomery,

Alabama during the summer of 2018. We were on a pilgrimage to a museum and memorial that traced the histories of our foremothers and forefathers’. It was a heart, body, mind, and soul’s journey from our theft from Africa to solemn prayerful remembering and re-remembering of their journeys, our daughter–mother journey, of all Americans of African heritage and survivors of the savage and immoral enslavement of human beings in modern history.  Two African American women, mother and daughter, lesbian and straight, experiencing and re-remembering the hyper-violent and killing racist, misogynist, and homophobic terror times that our foremothers and fathers lived through and died during. Two African American women who live daily lives of the threats of police, military, and judicial oppression and erasure, along with domestic terrorism. This systemic preservation of white supremacy requires constant ruthless attempts to re-enslave, disenfranchise, overpower, disadvantage, underprivilege and dis-remember. 

My family told the stories of enslaved and freedmen of African descent of resistance, defiance and patriotism. They told us about the burning of whole towns and neighborhoods, and the internal immigration of millions of the formerly enslaved and freedmen west and north. One of the stories was the Thibodeaux massacre. The story is the formerly enslaved and freedmen working along poor whites to get better wages and work conditions in the cane fields. They decided to strike and marched toward the sugar mill. The mayor called the governor. The governor sent the state militia. The Knights of the White Camelia and surrounding parish sheriffs and deputies, along with civilians, arrived and fired upon the strikers and surrounded the Colored section of Thibodeaux and slaughtered the inhabitants and burned the neighborhood. The Thibodeaux massacre captured my imagination massacre because it happened about thirty miles from the home and lands of my maternal grandmother, Martha England Ransom’s home near Houma, Louisiana, along Bayou Black. I read everything I could find about this massacre. My reading validated my family’s account except for the number of dead, thirty-sixty in most documents accounts, but hundreds by my family’s account of hunting and killing labor organizers and looting farms owned by black and poor white farms. 

It was a hot summer day. After we visited the Legacy Museum, we drove to the Peace and Justice Memorial. On a six-acre site, a large shed without walls. Within the shed has 805 six-foot Corten steel rectangular boxes that hang from steel poles. On the front and back of each steel plate is engraved the state, parish or county, the name or unknown if the name is not known, the date, and if known, the circumstance of the lynching. Individual children, women and men. Son and mother. Mother and son. Families. Small groups. Large groups. Lynched. Burned. Shot Dismembered. Mutilated. 

In the beginning, the steel memorial boxes hung at eye level. The memorial floor sloped downward until the memorial boxes hang about the visitor’s head. I searched for the counties and parishes that my family lived in from slavery to the present. Escambia County, Alabama, Adams County, Mississippi, Jackson County Mississippi, Orleans Parish, Louisiana, Lafourche Parish, Louisiana and Terrebonne, Parish, Louisiana. When I reached Terrebonne Parish, I look up and see the date with thirty names, all listed as unknown. Mercifully there was a place to sit along a hip level downward curving wall. I sat in shock and bone marrow horror and grief. My family had not said they had been lynched. Lynched. Lynched while still living? Lynched after they were shot or burned or mutilated? 

Why had all the accounts I was told or read only said killed, not lynched as well? 

I wept and prayed. I imagined the organizing meetings and marching after moving the young and the old into town for safety. I imagined the guns shooting them down, their depraved mutilation of the dead, hunting down survivors, burning the Colored part of town, hurriedly burying those they didn’t lynch in shallow graves to hide some of their evil rampages. 

In the near past. Recently. Now. Maybe. Probably. Actually. Lynching a white pastime again. 

Remembering and re-remembering is the awful salve we seek in honor of our ancestors’ resistance, defiance and insistence on the freedom of full and equal U.S. citizenship. Our duty, our joy, is to actualize the miraculous promise of our lives earned by their example and sacrifice. There was no closure there. There was no rest there. There was no peace there–only the promise of peace. There is only remembering and remembering, weeping and weeping, grieving and grieving, honoring and honoring, commitment and re-commitment toward liberty and justice for the living and the dead.  

We pilgrimage again.

The antidotes to despair, internalized oppression, and self-annihilation–what saves:

Books

I choose two books to re-read: Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler: 9781583226902 …

And Voyage of the Sable Venus by Robin Coste Lewis …

Music

Holly Near: I am Open https://search.yahoo.com/search?p=holly+near+i+am+open&fr=iphone&.tsrc=apple&pcarrier=Verizon&pmcc=311&pmnc=480

Regina Carter: Southern Comfort: https://open.spotify.com/album/4KpbU96UTx4DB0ukuTE5vu?si=_nwqTiSTQ32wv-Nv0U6nna

Mickey Guyton – Black Like Me (Official Audio) – YouTube

Spoken Word

Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman Fourth of July Boston Pops 2019

Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman … – YouTube

Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman June 26, 2020 
https://www.cbs.com/shows/cbs_this_morning/video/lFygof12gE3hjeJ8OgOdYf7UGi9sy8NL/youth-poet-laureate-amanda-gorman-on-race-injustice-and-protest/

I go down my to-do list of self-care: avoid contact with police, meditate, eat well, rest well, get exercise, connect, connect, connect, stay home–except for the pharmacy & the grocery & then only with mask and gloves & when there are very few people about. Watch less T.V., but stay informed. Laugh a lot. Channel fear, grief, rage, remembering, honoring, and loving compassion into expression, action and art.

I continue to chronicle these times.

In Joy,

A

© Andrea Canaan, MSW, MFA

andreacanaan@gmail.com

https://andracanaan.blog

https://www.facebook.com/Andrea-Canaan-Author-456010704809232/

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