". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, January 29, 2016

Back in Tour State

So dehydrated when we left the store. Jittery from all the talking, all the emotion. Hungry, not having eaten since lunch. We didn't get to the restaurant until some time after 10 PM. (Our dear, extremely patient friends, hanging about, waiting, until the last book was signed, the last exchange of thoughts and ideas took place.)  We didn't get home until long after midnight as the trains running between where we are and Harlem don't run so often, particularly after midnight.  So, since one wishes to sleep, one didn't eat much at all, hoping to fuel up at brekkie.

The big difference is that I did not need to arise at a ridiculous hour, scramble desperately for caffeine of whatever kind and quality, pack and drive for hours to do it all over again tomorrow, or rather, yes, this is also how it goes, today. With a pod cast, radio interview, something else also today before hitting the main event. Feeling sick and sore until the adrenaline kicks in.

Those morning-after sensations out of the way  (it's currently quite cold here, with some snow predicted, which promotes the soreness), the event was fabulous.

The place was packed out. People brought in Slave Coasts they'd already been reading to be signed. There were friends there -- who didn't bring their books to be signed because we've already signed them. And friends of the friends.   Importantly, for the store and publisher, the stacks of TASCs sold through. Quite a few African American history teachers, yay! And many others of all kinds of people.

As per usual at such events, the real stars were those who attended and asked questions, made comments and observations in the q&a, during the signing, and the general mill-around at the end, while the employees patiently wait for the last lingerers to leave, and they too can find dinner and home.. Having one's work come back at oneself this way is indescribably valuable. These are important teaching moments for us. These audiences already, in one way and another, know all what's in the book.

It felt so -- well, we were starting it -- i.e. touring to get the word of TASC out -- all over again and I wasn't quite sure where / when I was.

The community couldn't have been more welcoming, more appreciative, more humbling than it was. Harlem. Malcolm X Blvd. The AME Church around the corner. African American history all around us. NYC African American history.

This is a local audience that gets to know about things first and foremost by word-of-mouth.

What was clear from talking with so many of them after the presentation that someone else they know had already known of the book / read the book and told them they had to read it too. It's exactly like what happened and continues to happen with The World That Made New Orleans, which is then, hopefully, will keep going for years to come.

Walking into Revolution Bookstore last night and seeing title after title of all the books we've read and admired published on slavery and U.S. History in the last 5 years, and TASC prominently among them -- that was an experience.

We got asked about reparations, in a lengthy, well-thought out, sensible, well-informed historically, inquiry by a young African American man. As with some other matters that come up in non-academic venues where the audience is predominately a community audience, this is the kind of question one should expect. There are also questions that can at times indicate a divide, to a degree, between a sense that too much attention is being given to 'feminist' issues of slavery and breeding and not enough to what these horrors have done to the black man.

However, it remains abundantly clear, that in these local, non-academic contexts, the community itself understands the antebellum south, and then the neo-slavery of Jim Crow, was a police state, the plantations, whether worked by slave labor or sharecropped labor, were vast prisons.

The communities know all too well from long family experience, what slavery,  Jim Crow, and now this latest incarnation of it in the police-prison industrial system, has done to the black family.  They know how this has systematically denied them from the moment of Africans setting foot on this continent, the means by which to strengthen the family, expand the family network into other areas of wealth and influence, aggregate personal and family wealth, while white families were able to do the opposite, and at the expense of the African American family.

This, which make no mistake, allowed the slave-owning class, which was the sole political class of the south, who made secession and rebellion, to get back on their economic and political high horses within a generation -- if not even within a year or two after their defeat in the War of Southern Aggression.

These are burning questions in communities all across the USA -- what are we going to do to change this?  What can we do?  How do we get to an equal playing field when we've been denied even the right to have a father for our children?  How indeed, when for hundreds of years we were denied even the right to have our own children, when we want them, and to keep them once we had them?

I do not have the answers.  I hope this nation can come up with some, and soon. Really good answers, for the sake of the nation, and most of all, for the sake of the continuity of this planet as a place that is good for plants, small animals and children.

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