Black American History 2017: The Root of Oppression is Loss of Memory, Our Remembrance Renaissance

Standing in truth’s place
At the interface of land and water
Untold stories rattle spirits
Remembrance revives souls
A foot poised above ancestral footsteps
Makes present moment awareness
surreal and transcendent
– Truth’s Place: A Pilgrimage to Historic U.S. Transatlantic Slave Trade Ports, Part I,
Kim-Marie Walker Copyright© 2016   (In-progress nonfiction work as of January 2017)

So much is going on, these days, as we enter Black American History Month, February 2017. Americans awake and activate to a new reality. Our many disenfranchised and powerful voices, heavy with potential to unite, are also, as Jean Shinoda Bolen eloquently states, “…on the leading edge of transformational change anticipated by ancient, indigenous and astrological calendars. […helping to] bring what mothers universally want their children to everyone: a peaceful world, good food, air, and water, universal education, medical care, the chance to develop and grow physically, intellectually, and spiritually.”

Yes, we’re doing that work while individually, manifesting change through varied passionate and dynamic pursuits. (BTW… ‘we’ is anybody who is for inner and global peace [of mind] and justice whilst activated in the present moment for the highest good of all.)

With so many righteous voices and the ‘browning’ of America, Black Americans remain vigilant in remembering our history. What I’ve found to be true is that, since the latter part of the 20th century, more Black Americans are redefining/rewriting/expanding Black American history with greater clarity and truth, dispelling centuries of lies/half-truths and stingy acknowledgement of our incredibly layered past. Did you know:

  • Today’s 48 million Black Americans are descended from an estimated 450,000 of the estimated 12 million enslaved Africans shipped to South and North America, and the Caribbean, over four hundred years (16th to 19th centuries)?

  • “… as late as 1820, nearly four Africans had crossed the Atlantic for every [one] European, and, given the differences in the sex ratios between European and African migrant streams, about four out of every five females that traversed the Atlantic were from Africa.”-From: http://www.slavevoyages.org/assessment/essays, A Brief Overview of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade by David Eltis (Emory University), 2007

  • There are hundreds of National African American Historic Landmarks across the US? “Since the beginning of the 20th Century, the U.S. Government and most states have identified landmarks associated with African American history. Listed are the African American National Historic Landmarks by State, as certified by the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, as well as some state landmarks. – See more at: http://www.blackpast.org/national-african-american-historic-landmarks-state

Have you ever heard of:

  • The Gullah Geechee Peoples and their fight for their Cultural Heritage Corridor? “The sites, sounds and tastes of Gullah Geechee culture have been slowly vanishing along the coasts of North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Stories and traditions of this fusion of African and European cultures brought long ago to these shores have been slipping away along with the marsh and sand that are disappearing because of the encroachment of developments and the pressures to assimilate into the “modern” world. Small enclaves of “Gullah,” in the Carolinas, and “Geechee,” in Georgia and Florida, remain.”

  • The American Melungeons? According to writer/historian Tim Hashaw, “They settled in Virginia one year before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. They sparked a major conflict between the English Crown and American colonies one hundred and fifty years before the American Revolution. They lived free in the South nearly two hundred and forty years before the American Civil War. Yet the African ancestors of the American Melungeons have remained elusive ghosts for the past four centuries; the missing characters in the developing saga of America’s largest mixed community. Now finally, though stridently denied by some descendants and misunderstood by others, the African fathers and mothers of Melungia are beginning to emerge from the dim pages of the past to take their rightful places of honor in American history.”

Have you reframed you’re understanding/narrative of America’s past enslavement trade and centuries-long domestic terrorism, to something along the lines of:

•“In addition to the decimation, enslavement, and oppression of indigenous North Americans, the enforced labor and oppression of enslaved Africans, over two hundred and fifty years, helped build colonial ports and infrastructure (roads, buildings, wharves), allowed European settlers to build a thriving economy, fund the American Revolution, and establish America as a sovereign nation. From slave trade investments in ship building and slave procurement, to the exportation of tobacco, cotton, rice and textiles, and even, New England colony manufacturing of ‘Negro cloth’ purchased by deep South slave owners to clothe ‘their’ slaves, human oppression was deemed critical to America’s independence.”-Excerpt from Truth’s Place: A Pilgrimage to Historic U.S. Transatlantic Slave Trade Ports, Part I ©by Kim-Marie Walker (In-progress nonfiction)

As a descendent of America’s 450,000 ‘first Africans’, who arrived direct from West African or the Caribbean over 400 years, I pilgrimage to the place memories of their arrival, some 48-documented transatlantic slave trade ports, which dot the shorelines of America’s east coast and Gulf states (see MPCPMP image below, visit website).

mpcpmp-us-48-ports-graphic

 

In 2016, I drove 2,000 miles to 18 ports along the coasts of Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. I continue the pilgrimage in 2017, anticipating that “…At the edges of things, I will learn to face the past with a brave heart and hopefully, receive healing for the centuries-old, genetic trauma still ghosting my bones.”

Tracing ancestor footsteps, from slave ship port to holding pen to slave marts and auction blocks I’ve met and discovered like-minded persons, authors, and organizations who continue to build upon and expose truths about our rich and complex African-American history upon these shores.

In celebration of Black History Month 2017, here are a few links to orgs/authors, encountered on my sojourn:

African American Intellectual History Society, March 2017 Conference, Podcasts

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc.

Association for Black Culture Centers

Association for the Study of African-American Life – ASALH, 91rst MLK Luncheon 2017, Conferences

Association of African American Museums

Black Caucus – American Library Associations – 2017 10th National Conference of African American Librarians

Equal Justice Initiative – EJI (2017 Lynching Memorial)

Joseph McGill, Founder, Slave Dwelling Project, Conference 2016

Lynne M. Jackson, (Dred Scott Descendant), The Dred Scott Heritage Foundation and in video,  14: Dred Scott, Wong Kim Ark & Vanessa Lopez; A documentary

Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP)

National Council for Black Studies (2017 Conference)

New York Public Library Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Lapidus Center for the Historical Analysis of Transatlantic Slavery, Conferences, Podcasts

Robin Hickman, Soultouch Productions – (Gordon Parks Descendant leading a movement to establish a public Memorial in Minnesota)

http://www.theroot.com/tag/history

Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database (Compiled by David Eltis and others over a decade and made public in late 1990s)

http://usslave.blogspot.com/

Daina Ramey Berry: Historian, Author , The Price for their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation (2017 new release!)

James M. Rose and Alice Eichholz, Black Genesis: A Resource Book for African-American Genealogy

JerriAnne Boggis, Director, Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail; Harriet Wilson’s New England, Editor

Mahmoud El-Kati, The Myth of Race, The Reality of Racism

Keith Stokes and Theresa Guzman Stokes, 1619 Heritage Group, A historical consulting firm dedicated to helping persons and institutions of color to increase their knowledge and access to the light of truth of their unique American heritage.

Tim Hashaw, The birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown

Valerie Cunningham, Black Portsmouth: Three Centuries of African-American Heritage, Founder of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail

Vaughnette Goode-Walker, Footprints of Savannah Walking Tour, coauthor:

Savannah, Immortal City: An Epic lV Volume History: A City & People That Forged A Living Link Between America, Past and Present (Civil War Savannah) and Savannah: Brokers, Bankers, and Bay Lane: Inside the Slave Trade (Civil War Savannah)

Have an educated and prosperous Black History Month! Ashe.

Sojourner Kim-Marie Walker,  01.30.2017

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