We’ll get back to this theme about migration as a relationship to land in just a minute. But first, I have a story I want to tell you. It’s a story about my own black relationship to land.
As the founder and director of The Back/Land Project, people often assume that I come from, or am passionate about, agricultural land and rural spaces. When I say that I am not, folks get confused. Some people have asked me indignantly “Well then, what IS your black land story?”
I don’t know my entire story yet, but there are two or three things I know for sure. And one of them is about how I feel about Country. That story is generational. It’s personal. It is very, very black. And I finally got it down on paper, just the way I mean to say it.
You can find my short essay about “Country” here, in the journal The Common Online: A Modern Sense of Place.
So, holla if you hear me. (Please holla in the Comments section, below)
And if you have your own black/land story to tell, send it to The Black/Land Project’s MyStory Campaign. Because I’m waiting to hear your story, too.
On the biblical Sabbath of Jubilee, slaves were set free and given leave to return to the land of their people. To African-Americans enslaved in the southern U.S., the Emancipation Proclamation surely sounded like that biblical Jubilee. On December 31, 1862 they gathered in churches– the only places they could call their own– awaiting the liberty promised on the morning to come.
This week marks the 150th observance of Watch Night to mark Freedom’s Eve. It also marks 50 years since the great African-American writer James Baldwin wrote the essay “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to my nephew on the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation,” the essay that opens his incendiary 1963 collection The Fire Next Time.
On January 2nd at 7:00PM , join author Ekwueme Michael Thelwell (The Harder They Fall), Mistinguette Smith (The Black/Land Project) and playwright Lenelle Moïse (Expatriate) at the Forbes Library in Northampton for an evening inspired by the life and work of James Baldwin. Mistinguette will read from new work-in-progress about James Baldwin, transcending historical trauma, and the Jubilee of black relationships to land.
Click here for directions to Forbes Library.