When I Visualize Slavery, This Is Literally What It Looks Like
On a bright and sunny day in LA, I was in the car with a friend who is more like a sister at this point. I mean I love her more than a sister loves her own sister.
Perfect afternoon, with the breeze sailing by and traffic reassuringly on standby. Bellies filled with margaritas and chips dipped in salsa. Conversation echoing in the chambers of her mini cooper (sorry mini-something), as we took in the pleasantness of neighborhood tranquility — on a Sunday.
Then, she saw it. She begged for us to turn back, and I obliged. Why not! I wasn’t in a rush to go indoors — and based on her track record, I knew whatever it was that sucked her in — would be worth the abrupt reverse maneuver.
We were both right.
She lives for murals that are activated by artists that get to express themselves with vibrancy within the walls that are panting for that particular kind of attention.
It was a very tight fit, but we managed to wrangle her small car into the break of a short lifetime. What a feat! The view from the window catapulted a series events that warranted the need to pay homage to what was on display in the basking shower of the cued sun.
We got out and stood with authority as the raw brilliance of street art hit us with undiluted authority. My breath escaped without permission as I took in the vision of what hits me when I dare to contemplate the tragedy of slavery. I realized that no script could be coerced to overrun the imagery that was presently knocking my insides with non-consolable fury.
Not so long ago — I was outraged at the audacity of two White men with money and power in Hollywood — authorizing the privilege of being able to produce an endorsed spectacle of a modernized template — that would depict the fantastical elements of slavery— with a futuristic twist.
My outrage at how White people casually minimize the depth of Black pain for profit has never been motivated by the need to to seize the advantages of a climate — that is presently catering to racially motivated tendencies. I completely understand how relevant Black people are to the greater population.
It’s imperative to capitalize on anything and everything that evokes the spirit of a forcibly sectioned population — that have undergone tremendous shit to get here. Now, we are worthy of outlets that can’t get enough. Movies that showcase us begging for permission to exist like White folks do without qualms. Think pieces that uplift the value of diversity in work places that trade millions on the bet that Black Lives do Matter — when the first draft justifies the investment.
Stories can be told from the perspective of those who never lived it or the ones that heard it from the mouths of historians who didn’t ask for the responsibility of proof.
Or, we can wait and see how two White men with nothing to lose and everything to gain — decide to reshape a period that we tend to romanticize — despite carrying a significant amount of ugliness that is still plastered in the system that we currently answer to.
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay didn’t hold back when she unleashed her documentary — 13th — a thought-provoking masterpiece that basically exposes how justice is reserved for those who have the freedom to creatively mock slavery and all its breathtakingly abhorrent characteristics.
A senior writer for The Undefeated — recently pleaded with us to not “rush to condemn HBO’s Confederate,” and my response was — WTF?
Why are we the ones that need to be calm and considerate under duress — when enough of us perished — under the weight of chains and immaculate hatred — that still permeates every facet of our being. How is it that we are ordered to shove away the instinct to scream out loud when being faced with another celebration of an event — that eradicated our ancestors with furious glory.
How the hell can any person of color not be appalled at the realization that the most unfathomable undertaking that wrecked our very foundation without mercy — can turn into a critically-acclaimed vehicle for a slew of henchmen that recognize the potential for maximizing the obvious trends of Blackness and societal betrayal.
This fodder is packaged under a logo that signals — substance and the assurance that you won’t be bored — viewing Those People in bedazzled chains against the backdrop of floating cotton — that won’t touch the ground until the colored people jump for it.
I jumped and touched the sky when the mural came too close for comfort.
How dare this artist capture my nightmares with blinding awareness. It’s rattling to be reminded how and why my people remain enslaved — despite the sacrifices of so many — who never really admitted their hope that the water engulfing their lungs would provide air for so many.
I’m breathing now, and literally summoning what slavery really looked like back when Trinidad and Tobago was the hub of my discarded relatives. The mere shattering of hearts, begging for reasons why they are dark enough for such mistreatment — can’t be regulated to a Hollywood lot that has been revamped to depict Detroit at it’s worst — or White bastards at their very worst.
I took the picture — basked in the rays of a dying a sun and jumped back into the car and waited patiently as my friend in life — backed up her cute little car away from our survival.
Ladies and gentleman of White America — slavery wasn’t a fantastical tale that rests in the bosoms of guys on Thrones who are ready to conquer the latest trend in Black history.
It was ugly as fuck. And damn you for getting paid to remind us over and over again.