Black/Land Stories: Rememory, Identity and the Pilgrimage Home

Toni Morrison describes rememory as a thing :it is not the act of remembering, but the thing whose historical perpetual existence “out there, in the world” is non- subjective and indestructible. Pilgrimage in the footsteps of ancestors is a way many black people engage rememory of community and freedom, revealing relationships to land that have been distorted by white historical narratives or understandings of land that are unspeakably painful, and thus they exist unspoken. The intimate act of walking across familiar or unfamiliar terrain, dependent on the hospitality of loved ones or strangers, re-members habits of body and mind that have been broken or severed by racism..

Alfreda Harris

Alfreda Harris:  Rememory,  Identity and the Pilgrimage Home

 

Alfreda Harris is a professional storyteller and teacher at Porch Stories in
Flint, Michigan, and a docent at the Flint Institute of Arts.  

[B]lack people's relationship to land and place: a connectedness, a purpose, a reason for having, for being, in that space.  Something that's remembered. When you think about a relationship, often times you think relationship with people, but you don't think about a relationship to something tangible like earth, or a space, or a place, and having that. When I first heard [the phrase black people’s relationship to land”] it was a new perspective, to “have a relationship”. And so it kind of evokes intimacy. Yeah.

When I think about my relationship to land, my family migrated from Mississippi when I was three years old and my father always talked about going back home. […] So inevitably, every summer that was our vacation -- to go to Mississippi. I really appreciated the connection to grandmother's house. And I still remember to this day this long, gravel driveway to get to her house, and this long porch. And on one end was a swing.

When I declare myself as a story teller, that's the memory that evoked Porch Stories for me. It's like looking out at the world, looking out at the world from my grandmother's place, and my grandmother being my first storyteller.