Tag Archives: slavery

On parks and land and coded language

North Georgia is beautiful. I say this grudgingly, as someone who counts Florida’s beaches, glorious dawns and scenic sunsets among my favorite things to experience. Born and raised a Georgia Peach, I know Georgia’s winters are short, summers long, springs fragrant, and falls gorgeous. It’s beautiful here.

IMG_8360I also know Georgia was a slave state, and the legacy of slavery is unmistakeable in these here hills.

Today’s trip to a nearby park was a good reminder of that.

While exploring the area for places to write and think, I noticed a plaque. Memorials are always fascinating documents to examine, and even more so in light of actual history and the language used to disguise it.

The plaque mentions a “beloved plantation” and notes “cotton was grown,” but there’s no mention of people being involved in any way. Certainly no mention of slavery or anything unpleasant as southerners are wont to say. Nope, just cows, cotton, and trees.

Some could argue that the purposeful use of passive voice helps the community heal and come together. Kumbaya and all that. Others could say it obscures the truth for no good damn reason.

Guess what I’d say?

The People Could Fly

IMG_8324On a recent visit to the public library, The People Could Fly jumped off the shelf and into my hands. I knew the author, Virginia Hamilton, and the title was familiar, but one I’d not yet read.

It demanded to come home with me.

It did.

Today I cracked it open and was struck. The pictures and storytelling moved me. So much so I could see it – as dance. I could see the brilliant bodies of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater making these pictures. And flying.

Revelations is my favorite thing. This would give it a run for the money.

I’m currently adapting a children’s book into a play. But if I were born with different talents, I would adapt this for dance. If you have this talent, I invite you to interpret this piece for the world. It’s Black people dancing pain. Then dancing magic, freedom. Flying away.

IMG_8325This work moves me because I’m interested in helping adults tap into their imagination. I believe many problems in society are due to lack of imagination. Too many don’t believe in the possibilities of change. They think the way things are is the way they’ve always been, and subsequently, have to be.

But if you are imaginative, you know better.

We need more art in the world that forces people to reckon with possibility.

Did you create art today?

The deeper business of being beautiful inside.

Blue and I saw 12 Years a Slave as soon as it was released in Atlanta.

The film was stunning.

We dined afterward and talked for hours about the the movie and the myriad topics it inspired: slavery, racism, privilege, wealth, the power of story, literacy, critical literacy and public schooling. We discussed the stories that get told or lost. We noted, with a healthy dose of cynicism, who “history” deems worthy of remembrance.

We retold scenes to each other. Relived predictions, twists. What made us look away, hold our breath, or more tightly to the other’s hand.

The writing, directing and performances were brilliant. And yet as moved as I was during and after, it was Lupita Nyong’o as Patsey who brought me to tears:

At some point I want to truly express what Patsey meant to me, but this post is about Lupita.

I’m overjoyed she has received accolades during this awards season, including the Oscar for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. She is being honored for being herself. Not a shrinking violet of herself, but a lantern. A ray of sunshine in what can sometimes be the the darkness of Hollywood. She overcame a childhood of self loathing to become someone who, quite literally, puts herself on stage, on screen, on view, for all the world to see.

Lupita relates her story in a loving response to a young woman drawn to her light. Watch it below:

And so I hope that my presence on your screens and in the magazines may lead you, young girl, on a similar journey. That you will feel the validation of your external beauty but also get to the deeper business of being beautiful inside. ~Lupita Nyong’o