The Ibo Landing myth – there are two myths and one reality…
Ibo captives, African captives of the Ibo [ethnic group, also spelled “Igbo”], when they were brought to the New World, they refused to live in slavery. There are accounts of them having walked into the water, and then on top of the water all the way back to Africa, you know, rather than live in slavery in chains. There are also myths of them having flown from the water, flown all the way back to Africa. And then there is the story – the truth or the myth – of them walking into the water and drowning themselves in front of the captors.
I was able, in my research [for “Daughters of the Dust”], to read some of the accounts from the sailors who were on the ship when supposedly it happened, and a lot of the shipmates, the sailors or other crew members, they had nervous breakdowns watching this. Watching the Ibo men and women and children in shackles, walking into the water and holding themselves under the water until they in fact drowned.
And then interestingly enough, in my research, I found that almost every Sea Island has a little inlet, or a little area where the people say, “This is Ibo Landing. This is where it happened. This is where this thing really happened.” And so, why is it that on every little island – and there are so many places – people say, “This is actually Ibo Landing”? It’s because that message is so strong, so powerful, so sustaining to the tradition of resistance, by any means possible, that every Gullah community embraces this myth. So I learned that myth is very important in the struggle to maintain a sense of self and to move forward into the future.
“Who’s The Illegal Alien, Pilgrim?”
Yolanda M. López 1978
National Museum of Mexican Art, Permanent Collection
Read more about the artist and her work at our blog: http://thinkmexican.tumblr.com/post/610879260/
#pilgrims #illegalaliens #immigration #classic #chicanoart #sfmission #chicago #pilsen #mexicanmuseum #thinkmexican
Theresa Harlan, “Creating A Visual History: A Question of Ownership” (via anishinaabequay)
One ever feels his twoness—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
—William E.B. DuBois
It was a hot, humid day, the middle of the summer of 1963 in Lake Charles, Louisiana, I had awakened early on a Saturday in anticipation of a birthday party which was being held in the late afternoon. Throughout the day I waited for my mother to return from downtown with my new shoes. Prior to leaving the house, she had promised that after all of the bills were paid and the groceries bought, she would, if there was any money left, buy me a new pair. Well, she returned but without the shoes; moreover, this was always a fact, there was never enough money to buy anything, after all the bills were paid and the groceries bought. I was deeply hurt by not getting a new pair of shoes; you see, I had planned to wear these shoes with my new blue suit, which had also been given to me. My mother, who is a very kind and gentle woman, talked me into going to the party without a pair of shoes. Somehow she had convinced me that it would be all right to wear a blue suit and a pair of black and white tennis shoes.
While walking through the project, on my way to the birthday party, all my friends laughed at me. They could not understand how someone in his right mind could wear a blued suit and black/white tennis shoes. But I had put a shield around my ears to the insults because, after all, my mother had told me that it was all right to dress like this. At the party, I quickly decided not to go through such abuse again, so by taking off the top coat and opening the vest, I made myself look casual. Near the end of the day, I came to understand why my mother cried late at night, and why my father had left for California. I realized what it meant to be Black in America, put into a situation of being incompletely dressed, unprepared to meet the challenge, not because of any innate reason, but due to the fact that one is poor, and Black.
This particular experience has worked its way to my consciousness in the past weeks because I had been asked to answer a question concerning whether American society promotes alienation. The question was asked by a personality psychologist, and he demanded that my answer be rooted in a psychological theory, specifically the theory of Erich Fromm. According to Fromm, human beings strive for freedom and autonomy, but this very struggle may result in feelings of alienation from nature and society. The rise of capitalism enhanced and emphasized individual opportunity, freedom of choice, and personal responsibility, but the price for all of this, Fromm argued, was intense feelings of isolation and loneliness—the individual becomes alienated. But one issue which Fromm failed to address is what if one’s society deliberately makes it difficult for one to be a part of it? Then, if this is so, how does an individual cope with alienation (imposed)? Nor did Fromm’s theory address the issue of alienation as being a survival mechanism to enable one to maintain his/her sanity in an often hostile society.
It is not my intention to talk about man’s personality, but to share with you, and hopefully gain more insight, into how that blue suit and those black and white tennis shoes affected my personality. I want to share with you how I think alienation is similar, especially if one is black, to being forced to exist in a society in which one is incompletely prepared to meet the challenge not because of some innate reason, but because the color of one’s skin is black. I would like you to know how I came to the realization, which I originally ran from, that I was a marginal member of “my” country, quasi-alienated from the mainstream society with such quotes as “to maintain the status quo,” in other words, “maintain the black man in his place,” poor. And last, I want you to understand that what I am fighting for is to be recognized as a man first, and secondly, as an American.
This is not an easy task to accomplish, for it is psychologically better to suppress the fact that white Americans continue to oppress Black Folk. It may not seem so evident today because there are many programs established to alleviate the “black problem.” But most programs are only cosmetic; they only perpetuate the “status quo” by creating a no win situation. For example, welfare programs basically maintain people on welfare by taking away their self-pride and substituting motivation with helplessness. One of the consequences of repression is displacement. Displacement refers to repressed or blocked feelings and actions that are expressed toward an innocent. Target. Usually, we find displaced behavior in the form of riots, killings, and psychopathology. Sociologists call these behaviors social unrest, and they have convinced the government to pour more money into the same programs which have created the no win situation.
In my high school days, I tried to suppress the fact that I was different, Black, and that it made a difference. My plan was to immerse myself into all things considered American, at all levels in my life; politically, socially, and personally. I went as far as to support with my time and effort the campaign of George McGovern—at that time it seemed that he would have made a difference. My conversion was complete, even to the point of trying to get A’s in my classes. This type of lifestyle did not last long because in America one does not live in a vacuum. The American society eventually gets around to informing you, especially if you are black, of your place in life, which is precarious to the extreme. My teachers had decided, in agreement with the white community, that they did not want blacks in their neighborhood school. In 1972 My motivation to learn was squelched.
This was a very difficult year for me; Richard Nixon won the Presidency, forced busing was in, and I quickly learned of the effects of hatred. All my conscious efforts were focused on maintaining the impulse in me to strike out and destroy. On a warm May morning in 1973, all the suppressed anger and frustration burst out of me during a riot that was inevitable. As one of the leaders of the Black student’s action committee, I was singled out by white teachers and rednecks for harassment. The school administrators realizing the potential riot possibility, asked me to help defuse the situation. I declined on the grounds that there was no other way to get changes, that something must happen to wake people up to the problems on campus; but I did promise that if something did happen there would be no participation on my part. The riot occurred and I participated. I was drawn into it by a call for help from one of my friends who was being beaten by three or four guts. With all of my strength, I pulled two of them off of him, let one go, and began to slam the other guy’s head into a locker, repeatedly. My only thought was that of revenge, for all the limits put on me because of my color, for the condition of my people living in the ghetto, for the poor education I was receiving, and lastly, this may seem strange, for the blue suit and black and white tennis shoes. I had reached my breaking point; the only thing that could satisfy me was to see the fear in those blue eyes as I slowly drained them of life. If it had not been for the quick action of a policeman I would have killed that man. “Hatred,” Baldwin said, “which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated and this was an immutable law.” After this event something happened to me which made me withdraw into myself, away from my friends, away from society. For me self-imposed alienation was a survival mechanism, to be used to keep me from getting killed or from killing someone.
It was a long time before I understood my reason for withdrawing into myself. I was afraid of unleashing the dark forces of hatred and vengeance that festered in my psyche, threatening to erupt and destroy me. I had needed time to control these forces, and possibly to learn to sublimate the energy into desirable and acceptable ways to fight for equality. School had become a nightmare, so, two weeks after graduation I enlisted into the Air Force, hoping that this move would give me time to pull my life together.
The period I spent in the military, which is in itself outside the mainstream society and as such a place to breathe, gave me the opportunity to come to grip with some fundamental realities. First, I had to accept the fact that people in this country, at least in my lifetime, will continue to be racist, that racism is now institutionalized throughout the structure of American society, and that one must ‘truly’ accept this fact before accepting any other if one is to make it in America. Secondly, knowing these fundamental truths, one must not acquiesce, but continue to fight with all of one’s strength. And lastly, if I may use the words of James Baldwin: “This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my heart free of hatred and despair.”