“First Time I Saw Big Water” Composed and produced by Bernice Johnson Reagon, performed by Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon for the PBS-WGBH film series Africans in America, Executive Producer, Orlando Bagwell
“Betye Saar, National Visionary”: National Visionary Leadership Project: African American History. The video consists of ten interviews in which Ms. Saar personally relates her artistry, family background, professional experiences and influences during a life time dedicated to creating art.
“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” You Tube. Originally presented at the African-American Church Inaugural Ball, January 18, 2009 in Washington,DC. This is a moving video of African American history accompanying James Weldon Johnson’s work which many identify as the Negro National Anthem.
“Slavery by Another Name,” PBS documentary, February 13, 2012. Based upon Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer prize-winning book, tells the story of how nominally free or near-subsistence black laborers were forced to supply free labor to private, individual, corporate, and municipal development projects and enterprises. This was an established and accepted pattern from post-Reconstruction period (1878) until the beginning of World War II.
Ancestors and Relatives: Genealogy, Identity and Community by Eviatar Zerubavel, Oxford University Press (2011). Professor Zerubavel, with numerous references, clearly explains why kinship and identity with a group (belonging) are critical components of human wholeness and sociology. When his analysis is applied to people of the Diaspora and the effects of the transatlantic slave trade, the need for us to know our past is even clearer. One benefit of this work was that we found the plain language of applied science relevant, not confusing or abstract.
The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness by Paul Gilroy, Harvard University Press (1993). This work published in the last decade of the 20th century is the appropriate “book end” to Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk. Reviewing and analyzing the African Diaspora and all its facets with critical understanding, Professor Gilroy coined the widely accepted and endorsed concept “The Black Atlantic.” We think it is required reading for anyone determined to figure out and be involved in the shaping of our present world. We certainly support the central theme that Black people have developed a culture that is shared throughout the Atlantic. This is another work we intend to use as a premise and basis in future posts.
Ferrements, et autres poemes by Aime Cesaire:Paris: Seuil (2008) translated from French by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith, published by the University of California Press, Berkeley. Cesaire was a poet and political activist who was born in Martinique and developed a global black consciousness. Credited as one of the founders of the Negritude Movement during his student years in Paris, Cesaire refused to accept restrictive national boundaries to address his concerns or to distract his attention. Without hesitation he felt compelled to respond to the murder of Emmet Till in Mississippi and racism in the United States. In the truest sense of the description, he was a surreal poet and universalist.
Infernal Traffic: Excavation of a Liberated African Graveyard in Rupert’s Valley, St. Helena by Andrew Pearson, Ben Jeffs, Annsofie Witkin and Helen MacQuarrie, CBA Research Report 169, Council for British Archeology (2011). This report, in large booklet form, was released in spring, 2012. Reflecting the science of archeology with text, pictures, and graphs, this text prompted us to add this small Atlantic Ocean island to our list of Middle Passage port sites, thus requiring a marker and a remembrance ceremony. This discovery vividly and accurately reveals and literally uncovers, the physical history of the transatlantic slave trade in microcosm.
Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora by Stephanie E. Smallwood, Harvard University Press (2007). In this detailed scholarship based on the archives of the Royal African Company, Professor Smallwood presents the record and analysis of a system designed to transform human beings (Africans) into commodities (slaves) for commercial trade and profit. This project has relied heavily on Professor Smallwood’s research and interpretation. We consider this work also as required reading for anyone with more than a cursory interest in the transatlantic slave trade.
“The Slave Ship Dance” by Genevieve Fabre, in Black Imagination and the Middle Passage, edited by Maria Diedrich, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and Carl Pedersen, Oxford University Press (1999). The late Genevieve Fabre excelled during her career in the study of historical memory. To discover her essay on the limbo dance in this very dense academic anthology was similar to finding a hidden treasure. She supports in her paper our firm belief that we in the Diaspora maintain in many forms, often unknowingly, traces of our history; in the same manner that DNA preserves biologically the definitions of who we are, our experiences, and from whom/where we came.
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison, Random House, New York (1977). This is a classic to which we have and will refer repeatedly. Over 25 years ago Ms. Morrison inspired the creation of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project. The body of her work continues to provide topics for thought and exploration related to the African American experience. We are indebted to her talent, skill, and commitment to people of African descent across the Diaspora.