Saturday, April 06, 2013

Just slipped into a dark place and am struggling to extricate myself from its grip ...

... not sure just why -- maybe because I'm feeling a bit under the weather, but for reasons unknown, have slipped into being lonely instead of alone, a usually comfortable state of being for me.  I found myself recalling the fact that the head scarf "Rosie" is famous for has always been disturbing -- not in any overt way -- but subliminally.  I was aware that -- in slave photos I've seen since childhood the women's hair was always wrapped in bandanas not unlike that of the peasant women in faraway lands, and surely for the same reason that Rosie of the Home Front was required to don such headgear; safety.  But it is only remembered as a positive symbol of women's emanciptation recently, and all memory of the connection with the slave era are long forgotten as I watch present day black women wrapping the brightly polka-dotted symbols in a gesture of honor to the period right along with everyone else.  I've always felt a nagging and unexpressed anger, irrationally, perhaps.

Today in my gloomy mood the picture that flashed before me was that it was the image of the late great Broadway stage and screen star, Ethel Waters, that I've never recovered from.  Then the whole scene rose to be reckoned with -- I'd written about this before.  It is in an October 21, 2007 post (just put the name Ethel Waters into the little white search bar on the left side of the screen above the banner, then scroll down).  It is a post written when I was dealing with an upsurge in incidents in which nooses were being displayed in recent news stories -- and, in isolation, I was trying to process this revival of an evil practiced by White Supremacists over time and into the present.

Thanks to stories I learned from my father's nephew, Armand Charbonnet, on my December 2012 trip to New Orleans, this practice surely effected his family's decision in 1918 to rush my father and his pregnant (with my sister) wife to live out of state for 5 years in Detroit, Michigan, where I was born 4 years later in 1921.  So I did not escape this awful southern practice of intimidation.  In that case southern tradition (as "noose") had risen to become life-threatening enough to displace our family into the North until it was safe to return at the time of my grandfather's death in 1924.  We would again be uprooted in 1927, 3 years later, at the time of the Great Flood of the Mississippi River which brought us to California when I was six.

Makes one wonder how much of the history of black folks gets buried, as surely as this story did, in the process of simply living a life -- and just how much must be repressed in order to just get through it all without crashing ... . 

Maybe that's what's happening today.  Maybe I'm finally recognizing just how closely my life is tied to all those other black lives in the great American narrative -- the incomplete narrative that is yet being lived through and that I will surely not live long enough to see through to any kind of resolution ... .

... and that statement that I make so confidently during my Visitors Center commentaries -- and that I'll surely include in giving the keynote address at the Tradeswomen of California annual conference in Sacramento tomorrow -- that I've reached a place in life where I've outgrown my rage without losing my passion may be only half true.

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