As Black folk in America, what does “here” mean? What is our relationship with the country of which were are citizens?
I hate it here
A phrase that a lot of Black folk have said lately. My partner noting it a lot among former students in their late twenties and early thirties. A response to the collective exhaustion of grieving the loss of Ma’Khiah Bryant, grieving the loss of Breonna Taylor, grieving the loss of Sandra Bland, grieving the loss of Charleena Lyles, grieving for so many aunts and mothers lost to Covid or some other disease because they weren’t worth saving, grieving too many receipts of a nation that wants Black women, Black trans women, Black teenage girls, boys, babies, grandfathers, aunts, deacons, hustlers, autistic laborers, doctors, gas station attendants, in short, that wants all Black people eliminated, subjugated, diminished, chained, raped, forgotten, criminalized…ended.
I hate it here
But what is “here”. What is it that is hated? What is it that is loved? Where is “here”?
My partner reminds me that cursing the land is a concept alien to African belief systems. That a person is always a person among people.
The writer Robert Jones (sonofbaldwin) tweeted that the camel’s back has broken for many
James Baldwin, Kwame Toure, W.E.B. DuBois, Shirley Graham DuBois, Claudia Jones, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman. Do you know there names? They all left a “here”, each died far from what was their “here”, all loved and never stopped fighting to free the people that they left “here”.
If Assata Shakur were allowed to come back “here” would she? Did Toussaint L’Ouverture ever stop loving his “here”?
Is the Earth our “here”?
I don’t have much in the way of answers. I know that a nation-state is not necessarily a “here”. Nations fall and are rebuilt and re-imagined and redefined all the time. There have been many French Republics. There have been several South Africas. Is Rhodesia still on your map?
I think that the “here” we want does not yet exist. Maybe, as Mariame Kaba writes, in We Do This Til We Free Us.
None of us has all of the answers, or we would have ended oppression already. But if we keep building the world we want, trying new things, and learning from our mistakes, new possibilities emerge.
We have to imagine and create “here” that holds all life sacred, a “here” that nurtures and respects the Earth, a “here” that is dedicated to most of all to the lives of it’s people, a “here” that is beyond border, beyond the supremacy of one people over another.
The photo that I selected for this post is the cover of Traci Sorrell‘s book We Are Still Here!: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know. Traci Sorrell is a member of the Cherokee Nation. Her family was removed from the place where I now live by the U.S. government nearly two hundred years ago, and forced onto the place where she and her family now reside. She, her family, and the Cherokee Nation are still “here”. The Muscogee who still reside close to where I live now are still “here”.
Justine Teba, Orien Longknife, and Demetrius Johnson of The Red Nation recently gave an interview articulating one of the most profound notions of “here”-ness. Simply put:
We were put on this Earth not to own things but to care for it and each other
By existing in a “here”, by caring for the people in our “here”, do we abolish that which is destroying our “here”? Is the ancestral knowledge of those of us who are Indigenous, enslaved, or brought to “here” the force that creates a new “here”.
I contemplate Ruth Gilmore’s words from her Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence
…abolition geography requires challenging the normative presumption that territory and liberation are at once alienable and exclusive — that they should be partitionable by sales, documents, or walls. Rather, by seizing the particular capacities we have, and repeating ourselves–trying as C.L.R. Javes wrote about the run-up to revolution, trying every little thing, going and going again–we will, because we do, change ourselves and the external world. Even under extreme constraint.
2 thoughts on “Where is here?”
Interesting. Kind of like I, being a Jewish boy, started feeling towards what then was USSR in the late ’80s. But now I have my “here”, and I don’t care how many people claim that this “here” isn’t mine.
I was recounting that experience as my partner and I talked through this.
I would encourage listening to the interview https://millennialsarekillingcapitalism.libsyn.com/a-really-deep-seated-notion-of-love-on-the-red-deal-indigenous-action-to-save-our-earth. The notion of indigenous sovereignty they (Orien?) articulate is a radical departure from the Western notion of ownership, control, and borders. Rather it centers caretaking — for the earth, humans and non-human kin;to visitors, migrants, co-habitants.
These things I kind of knew in the abstract, but it really didn’t begin sinking in until talking them through.
The interview also contained a discussion of how Diné and Pueblo (nations that cohabit but have historically had disagreement) gave and continue to support each other — food sovereignty being one example https://www.sltrib.com/news/2020/05/14/seeds-sheep-program-is/
Like I say, I just have questions.