July 15, 2020
Last night I dreamt of you for the first time since your death. I woke up with tears in my eyes. Although you have been dead for a little more than 38 years, in the middle of the night it came to me with such clarity – you live on in me. Even if it is just one drop of your blood….
I don’t know if you came to me last night because of what is happening in our country, what is happening in your beloved South, what is being called a “racial reckoning.” This so-called racial reckoning is actually the weight of history, the combined weight of all the Confederate monuments, memorials and statues in this country, coming down on America.
You should know that I resented you for not taking me on your trips down South in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. I resented you until I learned the history of this country, including your beloved South and its obsession with subjugating and destroying Black males and raping Black women. I came to understand that you were protecting me in the only way you could, by not taking me on your trips down South, to what I now think of as forever the Confederacy, despite its defeat, and subjecting me to the evil ways of white folk. Of course, we had/have issues in New York, but Northerners have been a little more sophisticated in their discrimination and segregation of Black folk.
Whenever I think of you, I think of a proud native Southern son. You always stood military erect, and one could argue that that comes from serving in the segregated U.S. Army during World War II as a teenager, but I think it’s in the blood. I stand as you did, and people always ask me if I was in the military. I say no, though I have fought other battles. DNA analysis has advanced to such an extent that I can tell you that at this moment in time we trace our blood, our roots, to Nigeria, Benin and Togo, Cameroon, Congo and Southern Bantu peoples, and Ghana. Most of our DNA is found in Nigeria, and Nigeria as a country is a concept and product of colonialism that brought together more than 250 ethnic groups within arbitrary borders – thus our genetic connection to all those other West Coast African nations — but that’s another story.
This so-called racial reckoning in America is perhaps a moment in time unlike any other in American history. Those Confederate monuments, memorials and statues that overshadowed your youth are coming down all these years later after the Civil War, more than 150 years. Some people think it’s amazing, but it’s long overdue. They never should have been.
I began this letter stating that I woke up with tears in my eyes. They were your tears. Through your tears you showed me the South you were born in, Yeatesville, NC, and grew up in, throughout Virginia. As I wrote above, I later learned why you never took me South, but seeing the South through your eyes, having tapped into what Jung called the collective unconscious, I understand.
I understand that 14-year-old Emmett Till’s brutal murder at the hands of white men in 1955, five years before my birth, was in the forefront of your consciousness every time you traveled South and perhaps thought about traveling with your first-born son to meet your family, my family. I understand that as a proud Southerner whose roots I’ve traced to 1805 in the Township of Bath, NC, serving in the segregated U.S. Army as a teenager, must’ve stung and brought tears to your eyes. I understand that my Bajan maternal grandparents, having been colonized by the British – many descendants of Africans in the Caribbean have inherited that British arrogance and dislike of Yankees – probably disapproved of you, a native Southern son, because of how white folk have drove a wedge between Africans in the diaspora, telling one, Caribbean born, that they are better than the other, American born. Note that my maternal grandparents came to America on a ship in 1919 and 1923, respectively, not a slave ship, and by way of Ellis Island. On the ship’s manifest their race is listed as “African.” I know this was white folk’s doing, to differentiate them from us, native born “Negroes.” I need to repeat that you served during World War II, and that one of your uncles served during World War I, and I would bet someone in our ancestral line even fought during the Civil War! So for all descendants of Africans in the Diaspora, as well as indigenous Africans, who come to America to experience her liberty and bounty should know that both exist in large part because Black people in America, concentrated in the South at certain points in American history, fought for this country, “to make the world safe for democracy,” and to “end all wars,” and to fight the evil of white supremacy personified in Hitler’s Third Reich, bore the whips and scorns so you could travel on a ship that was not a slave ship and enjoy the “blessings of liberty” and freedom.
Daddy, please feel free to visit me again! An older cousin told me you were writing or working on writing a book. If true, I want to learn that story. Note that I have four books published.