We Carry the Legacy Forward
I'm a great-grandaughter of the Great Migration, the great-niece of sharecroppers, the child of people who love the earth. I was schooled by parents to see people, even when the eyes that beheld me saw a curiosity or a less than. When I was 16, I wanted to leave home to discover where I ended and the rest of the world began; I went to Chile, South America and found myself. Came home and discovered my calling in the migrant camps near my home. Hidden communities with awful secrets crying to be seen and heard. Stories of power abuse, human rights snatched away, kids like me unable to go to school because they worked to keep the food on my table.
The journey later landed me in the Dominican Republic; I went where I could blend in this time so as not to be the standout Negrita Linda in every city street, as I had been in Chile. Focused on my studies in political science but the education occurring outside the classroom was transformative. No Pretty Black Girl calls in the streets of that town; instead, turmoil of what it means to be Dark Brown in a shades-of-brown society that honors The Light Bright that I comfortably was not. A pivotal conversation with a young Dominican brother who shed tears for his cinnamon-dust complexioned and pecan-crust hued sisters whose "too darkness" was impacting their social, and thus, economic mobility. A trap. I was educated at the knees of my momma, daddy, aunties and learned in Baldwin, Angelou, Hooks, Giavonni, X (who else did we read that was transformative?) all whom told me in unison that the ME was seen and valued. The trap. An odd experience to have people who resembled my momma, daddy, aunties, Baldwin, Angelou and Hooks, Giavonni, X treating me as invisible. How much more difficult to shake the messages of invisibility here, than it had been back home in my native Indiana. There those messages came mostly from people who did not look like me. Yet, hope was there, in the eyes of my friend, who cried for his sisters and in the eyes of so many of my beautiful truth-seeing Dominican brothers and sisters. Hope was in his mouth when he said "We look up to those who fought and struggled for Civil Rights...but where are you? Why don't you help us?
Meanwhile, back in the classroom, Afro-Caribbean History and Culture gave me the Massacre. The Cutting. The Parsley. I walked around campus, an oddity in proudly worn dark-skin and braids, carrying the stories of those who had been silenced because they looked like me and spoke Spanish with an unfortunate accent. Yet I heard them. That could have been me (as Ana Belique once reminded me); just a ship stop away. (Why don't you help us?) I decided to go home and get the tools needed to do "Something." Understood the common threads that unite us strain and hold in the spaces between us. A black sharecropper, a Mexican migrant worker, a Dominican-Haitian family working sugarcane in the batey, a Dominican wanting his sisters to just be Seen. People migrating from the US-South to the factory-North. Going North; going East; Crossing borders to seek opportunities. Seeking fertile ground to plant their feet. The ground fertile with the blood and sweat of our ancestors, who became the foundation of the prosperity of nations. My heart heard the cry of the Massacre. My eyes beheld the generational legacy of a system that cultivated and nurtured a seed of hatred. And my mouth answered Hope. My feet planted firmly, and took me forward into this work to continue a legacy of hope and justice that started before me. We are the legacy bearers. And we must carry it forward.