History Race The World Policy Inequality

Why do Holocaust survivors get reparations, but Black Americans are told to forget their history?

In October 2015, then-Vice President Biden awarded $12 million in “assistance” to Holocaust survivors. The money was given to help the “quarter of whom live below the poverty line.”

This gift was a continuation of Germany’s efforts to pay Jews reparations from 1952. Then, Germany awarded over a billion dollars primarily to the government of Israel, which had resettled many Holocaust survivors. This money genuinely helped a community who had lost everything – family members, friends, homes, clothing, jewelry, their livelihoods. It helped people who had lost everything and had to rebuild with nothing.

Reparations helped these people put their lives back on track. Much of the original reparations payment in 1952 went to building Israeli infrastructure, and look at how powerful and strong Israel is today.

Reparations helped these people put their lives back on track.

As a Jew, when I read about the Holocaust, it boiled my blood and made me sick. I remember as a young girl, I was obsessed with Hitler and World War II and learning about every circumstance that led to this enormous event in the history of my people. On my father’s side, we lost many family members to the Holocaust. It wasn’t just reading about history.

It was personal.

When I learned about the reparations that were paid by the German government, I was pleased. No, it did not bring back my lost family members, and it didn’t reverse the blow dealt to thousands of my people, but it was comforting to know that at least survivors weren’t being sent home empty-handed. At the very least, it ensured a roof over the heads of the victims.

No, it wasn’t everything, but it was at least something.

Yet I will never forget the night when I was driving home with a family friend and we were arguing about many things: the election, the state of our economy, etc. We had been clashing over our opposing socio-political views for some time, but she really shocked me when we started talking about our views on racism in the United States.

For over three hundred years, Black people suffered extreme hardships under slavery.

I mentioned something off-hand about reparations for the Black descendants of slaves in our country, and she turned to me, the Manhattan skyline behind her. The lights in Manhattan glimmered, hearkening passersby to a world of diversity, the first stop for immigrants – but none of that mattered at that moment.

My friend exploded in anger.  “Oh, come ON! Slavery was 150 years ago! They need to get over it! Just stop already!”

“Why?” I retorted. “Why not? What, us Jews can holler ‘Remember the Holocaust’ until our throats are sore, but Black people have to forget their history?”

“Come on Liz, it’s not the same, and you know it.” The conversation was over for her, but not for me.

Why? Why isn’t it the same?

Consider this. A government paid billions of dollars to a group of people its former leader tortured for a period of twelve years. Twelve years.

Amidst this – a quick note: this conversation is not meant to derail those classic arguments that some posit: our people have suffered because of anti-Semitism for thousands of years, so reparations were obviously owed.

I am focusing on the fact that Jews suffered extreme hardships (bodies enslaved, children torn from their mothers, over 6 million dead, business destroyed, homes ransacked, wealth stolen) from one government in particular for just twelve years, and that government paid the survivors billions of dollars.

Now, take the issue of reparations for Black people in this country – those descended from slaves, which is estimated to be approximately 85-90% of the Black population.

For over three hundred years, Black people suffered extreme hardships under slavery – bodies enslaved, children torn from their mothers, hundreds of thousands of innocents dead, wealth stolen.

True, many of these atrocities were committed by “regular” white people, but the U.S. government often sponsored and supported their actions, going so far as to enact the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, which bound law enforcement to return runaway slaves to their master.

Even if the slave was in a free state. Even if that “free” state no longer believed in slavery.

Even after slavery was outlawed, Black people still suffered extreme hardships, sponsored and protected by the U.S. government. They were lynched, had their businesses destroyed, homes ransacked, wealth stolen – just like Jews.

The only difference? The Black community suffered at the hands of the state-sponsored violence for much longer than twelve years.

Between slavery, Jim Crow, and the contemporary school to prison pipeline, the suffering lasted (and continues to) for over four hundred years.

The Black community suffered at the hands of the state-sponsored violence for more than twelve years.

So why is it ridiculous for Black Americans to ask the U.S. government for reparations? After all, our administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has now set aside millions to Holocaust survivors, to be distributed through the Jewish Federations of North America.

Critics of Black reparations say that reparations to Holocaust survivors are just that: payments to survivors, not the descendants of survivors. They argue that paying reparations to people who never “did the time” is foolish and not useful.

However, I would argue for reparations for descendants of survivors if the original survivors did not receive any benefits to their hardships.

Why? When wealth is stolen, it is not easily replaced.

After slavery ended in the United States, slaves were supposed to receive reparations of 40 acres and a mule. This sentiment was not enforced, and so Black people were sent out in the world with nothing. Even when something was built and a moderate amount of wealth was created, like in the town of Durham, North Carolina, threatened Whites would burn businesses to the ground.

Why? When wealth is stolen, it is not easily replaced.

A quick Google of “black wealth vs. white wealth” brings forth an abundance of articles that all state the same thing: Black wealth is significantly lagging in comparison to white wealth.

One article even says that it will take Black families over 200 years to amass the wealth that white people have today. How can one confidently say that billions of dollars given to former slaves, especially at the time that slavery ended, would not have narrowed this gap?

As a Jewish woman, who has family living in Israel, I wholeheartedly support reparations for the thousands of Black descendants of slaves. I can only think back to when I learned about German reparations to Jews, and the thought that crossed my mind: “…at least that. It’s not everything, but AT LEAST THAT.”

I cannot imagine reading about the atrocities of the damage that was inflicted on my people, only to learn that nothing was done in an attempt to help remediate that damage.

It’s time for all Jews to stand up and support the Black community when it comes to requests for reparations. Even if symbolic.

It’s simple: if the United States found it in its heart (and budget) to help Holocaust survivors, then it can certainly help slavery survivors.

Race The World Inequality

This is why we need a new rendition of Roots: The Next Generation

The fourth episode of the 2016 version of Roots entails Chicken George (played by Regé-Jean Page) returning to his family as a free man after being sold in England; it also entails his involvement in the Civil War, as well as his son’s, Tom (played by Sedale Threatt, Jr.).

Because Chicken George was away for twenty years, this is the first parent-child relationship that doesn’t have warm and fuzzy beginnings. That’s why, for a while, Tom wasn’t willing to hear his father’s stories of Kunta Kinte and where he came from. However, towards the end of the episode, he wants to tell his newborn daughter, Haley’s grandmother, his ancestral story, because she is the first child of his who wasn’t born a slave. It goes to show how even as traditions are either taken away or forgotten, they are also exchanged and honored in some form and fashion.

This is a beautiful remake of the 1977 original we grew up to know and gain influence from. But after this final episode, why can’t further the homage to Haley’s story? In 1979, another series to display all of the areas of Haley’s legacy from his grandmother to Haley himself in the present-day aired on television: Roots: The Next Generations. I can’t speak for everyone, but I wouldn’t mind a new version of that original.

I can see why the fourth episode ended this Roots season as it did, because it’s similar to how and why the original Roots ended. Viewers had to witness the sweetness of freedom for these beloved characters, and how their ancestors before them did not die in vain. Moreover, the symbolic tradition of picking up the dirt of one’s footprints indicate how they’ll find a way to return to them, shows how Alex Haley was willing to return to his roots, as a rite of passage for those in his lineage who couldn’t return.

However, an important point is brought up by someone who says to Chicken George: “Some white men ain’t never gonna let that go. Won’t like us being free.” Therefore, there may always be a towering majority force, trying to take certain bits of freedom away.

This interaction highlights how we as viewers should acknowledge the form of discrimination and struggles African Americans continued to face after the Civil War. In Roots: the Next Generations, Haley displays how African Americans were kept from voting, assaulted by the Ku Klux Klan, and weren’t offered as many stable opportunities as their white counterparts. To say that the struggles of the black community ended once slavery ended is false, the stories after that is our proof.

A retelling of Roots was able to acknowledge how the black community, as laborers, soldiers, and more, is what made America continue to stand on its own two feet. I believe a retelling of Roots: the Next Generations could be another great opportunity to educate viewers on a continuous depth of historical contributions.

Race Inequality

“Roots” remake sheds light on mixed race slaves

My family and I grew up watching the original Roots and Roots: the Next Generation. When the remake was announced, I had high hopes for the upcoming episodes. So while I sat down to watch the next two episodes, two things came to my mind:

One: They actually got a mixed guy to play Chicken George! Yay!
Two: Why did they add all of that new stuff to the story?

Well, in regards to Chicken George:

In the original Roots, Chicken George’s multiraciality is barely touched on. In this version, Chicken George’s biological father and slave owner, Tom Lea, tries to maintain the legitimacy of his Irish identity while his mother, Kizzy, tries to maintain a hold on her African American roots (being bilingual, remembering her father’s ancestors). Chicken George enjoys the privileges of having lighter skin – receiving money from the cock fights and working alongside his father – while also remaining enslaved and bound to his slave owner’s demands.

Although artistic license continues to be used at its fullest, which can be a bit jarring, using it to display the historical context of one’s heritage like Chicken George’s provides layers that each of the characters have. It reemphasizes the intentions of Alex Haley telling his family stories in Roots (1976), in order for us to talk about all of our stories.

Which brings me to my second point: “Why does this all matter?”

Kizzy’s story line in the second episode and third episode very much reminds me of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, about a female slave who tried to kill her children to keep them from slavery. In addition, Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, an autobiographical account of her physical and sexual abuse as a slave before running to freedom in the North, came to mind. Jacobs writes to her audience of white women, reemphasizing how black and white women should form an alliance against the white men who harm black women to cheat on their white women.

In this new rendition of Roots, they keep the original story line of Kizzy’s rape by her slave owner, Tom Lea. Instead of pitting Kizzy and Tom’s wife, Tricia, against one another (as most of these narratives tend to go), they form an alliance by having Kizzy teach Tricia how to read better. Moreover, after her son George is born, we see the young Kizzy, attempt to kill her son and herself. However, Kizzy chooses to live, in order to honor her father’s legacy of strength. Whether this happened to Kizzy or not, we needed to see that because it did happen to women and children like her who were stuck in slavery, who needed to find a form of unity or who thought the only way they could find an escape from their lives was through death.

As we can see – there are similar plot lines between these books and episodes 2 & 3 of Roots.

The upcoming final installment of Roots is sure to be a powerful ending to what is already a brilliant remake.

Race The World Inequality

Here’s why the “Roots” remake hit home for me

When I saw the advertisements that claimed “a new vision” when creating a reboot of the classic miniseries, Roots, I was a bit skeptical. If the product isn’t good, “a new vision” usually equates with “a new version of what you love that we didn’t have to make.” And if the product doesn’t maintain the intentions of the original, “a new vision” translates to “a white people remake.”

However, neither of that was the case in this rendition of Roots on the History Channel. This new version does have a particular vision in representing the variety of African and African American culture and the traumas of slavery without stealing the spotlight and hype of the 1977 version. Moreover, to my surprise, there is a more diverse set of producers and directors on this project compared to the 1977 version. A lot of thought was placed into the 2016 rendition of Roots, and it shows.

So let’s talk about this first episode.

Alex Haley (played by Laurence Fishburne) narrates how Kunta Kinte (played by Malachi Kirby) grew up in the Mandinka village of Juffre, Gambia, before being captured into slavery and placed in Virginia. Despite being uprooted from his home, Kunta Kinte tries to maintain his culture and name, despite being almost beaten to death for not referring to himself as his new name given by his slave owner’s wife (played by Katie McGuiness): Toby.

We’re in this age of TV and film production where everything has to be fast-paced in order for it to make it more exhilarating. The cinematography between the scenes and flashbacks of Juffre, Gambia and the scenes of Kunta Kinte’s enslavement in Virginia provide a great visual contrast that we don’t see often in media depictions of slavery. The scenes in Juffre are full of light; the ship and Virginia area are dark and gloomy. It’s also necessary that there be more graphic depictions of slavery in this rendition (e.g. the sleeping in their own blood and vomit on the ship, the whippings).

A lot of artistic license has been taken into account in this version, but there is a purpose behind it. In the 1977 version, the viewer can only see how slavery affects African men and their viewpoint on their surroundings on the ship, and their resiliency. The only form of acknowledgement of African women’s struggle was rape, and we don’t see a form of resiliency. However, In the 2016 version, the viewer can see African men and women trying to fight back on the ship in response to a woman about to be raped by the captain of the ship. We needed to see equal representation of struggle and strength in that respect.

And I’m not going to lie: it gave me chills to see a black woman stabbing a white man to death in this episode.

The music immediately grabs one’s attention from the beginning of the episode to the end. From the traditional African songs, particularly the songs of prayer to Allah, displaying religious diversity, to the mantra the African men sing on the ship defending their fellow Mandinka sister, to the song Kunta Kinte’s mother sings to him – all of these play a part in setting the emotional atmosphere. 

Fiddler (played by Forrest Whitaker) plays Kunta Kinte’s mother’s song on his violin to the slave owners and the overseer in an effort to help Kunta Kinte escape to freedom. His character stands out to me in this version of Roots, because he is more outspoken here than in the 1977 version. He plays more of an active role in Kunta Kinte’s thirst for freedom, and the viewer can see how he has as much of a valid backstory as Kunta Kinte. Initially, Kunta Kinte doesn’t want Fiddler playing his mother’s song on the violin, because he believes it only belongs to him. However, the song resonates with Fiddler and just as much because it was a song his grandmother used to sing to him before he was sold off into slavery.

We as people may be selfish about the treasures we have in our cultures, but this shows how important it is to preserve our cultures by forming a unit in the backgrounds we share

Kunta Kinte is not the only one who had to go through a name change either. Him being willing to ask Fiddler what his real name is, Henry, before he escapes, is one of the most poignant scenes of the episode. It is touching because every person has their roots that make them who they are, and their roots must be acknowledged. It emphasizes the plight of black people seeking and definitely losing their roots because of the oppression they have faced in slavery.

Of course, this subject is tough to watch. But in order to make people aware of the oppression of black people, and to make people aware of how that oppression rebrands itself today, content like this has to be made.

I’m glad the decision of a reboot of Roots was made.

Race Inequality

We refuse to be silenced any longer

I don’t think any quote encapsulates the madness at the University of Missouri and Yale better than the following written by Arundhati Roy in her first novel, The God of Small Things: “On their shoulders they carried a keg of ancient anger, lit with a recent fuse.”

Tired of being silenced by those in charge at their institutions, students at Mizzou, Yale, and colleges across the country have protested, marched, and changed their school histories. After Wesleyan faced debate after debate on the topic of free speech regarding the school’s paper, college students at various institutions have been very vocal about freedom of speech and press, especially as they pertain to racial and cultural discomfort. The protesting students at Wesleyan and beyond have been met with criticism from faculty, from the media, and from classmates, their lives have been threatened, and their voices have been silenced – all so that the rest of the student body could enjoy their right to free speech. Black students at other schools could feel the tension from their own campuses. As I read the nasty emails and reports of racism at other institutions, I could not help but feel empathy, for the experiences of Mizzou and Yale students of color are not unique. We notice the microaggressions and the perpetual silencing at our own schools. We read the opinion pieces in our school papers attacking us, our methods, and our motives for demanding change. We feel a similar hurt.

Yes, everyone has the right to have and voice their opinions, but others have the right to be offended by and respond to those opinions. In this case, the response has been through action instead of words. While the preservation of human rights is important, it should never be prioritized over the humans. Protocol needs to be set in place for when free speech interferes with the students’ right to feel safe and supported on their campuses, particularly black students, who are constantly being made aware that nothing on those campuses was created with them in mind. It seems almost weekly now that I read an column or an anonymous comment made by a fellow university student that is either subtly or overtly racist. A friend of mine, a black man, posted a piece in response to a white student’s column, which condemned black students for stifling free speech. In the comment section of my friend’s article, an anonymous person responded that thoughts like his are “why affirmative action needs to end.” Imagine that. Some anonymous (likely white) student gets angry that the blacks are speaking too loudly to hear his privileged opinions and immediately wants to kick those darn colored folks off of his campus.

Where did all of the tension come from? One could easily argue that racial tension on college campuses began with slavery and educational discrimination, but more recently, specific events have been triggering major responses from marginalized students. At Yale, a faculty member sent an email to the entire school defending students’ rights to offensive Halloween costumes. Over Halloween weekend, black people’s favorite frat, SAE, was accused of turning away women of color because they were “only letting in white girls.” At the University of Missouri, many incidents of microaggressions and racial insensitivity built up over the school year, resulting in a massive push for the resignation of the school’s president, Tim Wolfe. The resignation came only two days after over 30 members of the school’s football team resolved not to play until Wolfe resigned.

And that is the power of protest. Students demanded to be heard and made serious changes at their institution. They protested so powerfully and efficiently that the president stepped down. Think about that. Students took on the president and won, due to their overwhelming solidarity and determination. I find that concept inspirational; once again, we proved that there is power in togetherness, in solidarity.

Speaking of solidarity, social media is one of the greatest tools for activists today. What used to be fairly limited to local groups, or at least severely slowed down due to lack of communication, has accelerated and connected groups across the country and across the globe. Shared statuses garner exposure for individual incidents of racism and micro-agression. Hashtags like #BlackOnCampus, #WeAreMizzou, and #WeAreYale have allowed thousands of black students to share similar stories and support each other remotely. Twitter and Facebook events allowed groups to organize marches and protests quickly. As activists, social media has become one of our greatest weapons.

The relationship between black people and education has always been strained in this country. From 19th century anti-literacy laws to “Separate-but-Equal” to affirmative action (which has mostly helped white women, but I’ll leave that alone this time), black students have struggled and suffered for every piece of education we have received. Black students today have made it further than our ancestors could have dreamed, and further than the founders of these predominantly white institutions would have wanted.

This anger that we feel is deep-seated. It is generations old. We are simply running into more and more incendiary issues. For our experiences and our needs to be consistently undermined and ignored is a familiar kind of pain, but a pain nonetheless.

Culture Family Gender & Identity Life

I am forever an outsider amidst my family’s ghosts

We walk into the sea.

Our black bodies moving against a lilac-blue sky, grey rainclouds sitting above the evening tide breaking in the distance, towards a disappearing point behind which the sun is already set. Here is a picture burned into the ancestral memory, as I—a girl whose blood runs with saltwater and yet doesn’t belong—remember it, of an island called Sapelo that my grandmother calls home, and that my father talks about as if it were the whole world. I look out—see a rowboat far offshore and think I hear a baby’s cry. But that must be myself, because I am lost.

The children play in the shallow pools behind a sandbar and watch as we pull the seine net into the water.

First, a personal history.

In the early nineties, in a small apartment in Toronto, I was born—no, let’s go back—in the early sixties, a young married couple moved from Jamaica with their small children to a beautiful saltmine town in rural Canada. They have since been committed to the earth; my mother is their eldest child.

Circa, an island off the coast of the state of Georgia, USA, where my paternal grandmother gives birth in the second year of John F. Kennedy’s presidency in the terrible heat of July.

Her son becomes my father, in downtown Toronto, in 1994. A plane lands in Savannah in early July on a Monday. It is coming in from John F. Kennedy airport.

And here I am, the child of distance and loss who talks with a soft, generalized English accent standing in the airport with a borrowed suitcase, in Timberland boots and a metallic sea-foam shift dress, waiting to be picked up. Across the back, a patch on my blue denim jacket reads CUTE GIRLS CLUB. This should set the scene.

All my childhood memories are haunted.

Not by the ghost of an absentee father—he did not “leave,” in the way black fathers are famous for leaving but statistically do not—no, the early years were haunted by stranger specters than a missing parent: ancestors’ ghosts, walking in chains through my bedroom, gaunt faces appearing in the blue walls; the ghost of a song, an old Negro spiritual; plat-eyes running wild in a maritime forest at dusk, Spanish moss blowing in the wind coming off the sea; my grandmothers, who were then both still alive, in Jamaica stirring a pot of curried goat, and on Sapelo Island, weaving a basket out of sweetgrass; and the first man to lay hands on me, not because he was my father and was absent, but because someone had told me that he wrestled alligators and this made him alive in my imagination.

And, sadly—in a way, for if it had turned out otherwise I would be another I and I am fond of this I—the background to all this wild imagining was the warm grey concrete and brown glass of North London in the summertime and, after the move, Wales’ green valleys.

This is all to say that there was a cultural history that I perceived and craved, and was denied access to informal education…where I was instead inundated with the minutiae of feudal law in England post-Norman conquest.

I grew up with little white girls telling me to come over to their house to scrub the kitchen floors with my hair, I was proud of the way I spoke—so well that I forgot, in 2006-8, that I was not-white.

This history—or the way I remembered, imagined and interacted with the black imaginary populating my own private diaspora—became bound in, set against, forced to compete with Whiteness. Interest in the ghost of a grandmother weaving sweetgrass waxed and waned as a strange blue moon. I admit, there were two years or maybe more, when I was a young teenager, that the island off the coast of Georgia crossed my mind infrequently and only in passing. We were not in contact until later when the Whiteness spat me out in 2009 and we learned to commune in spirit, this island and I.

Back to the airplane, slowing to an idle engine in a parking bay at Savannah Hilton Head airport, to the girl improperly dressed for a humid summer in Georgia, who waits in the shade of the multi-storey arrivals carpark and waves, seeing her brother’s partner, and rolls her suitcase toward the car slowly, because it weighs 49lbs. This is impractical, to carry a heavy suitcase full of sequin dresses and kitten heels halfway down the East Coast to an island in the middle of summer. And it is, also, a portrait of the way I talk to the island where my grandmother lives in the flesh, no longer reduced to a ghost.

My grandmother welcomes me with joy, as if I had been raised here and now I was come home, at last. We talk slowly to each other or, no, our conversations move slowly because the island talks fast and I have the slow ears of a girl who went to a Church of England boarding school and took, briefly, elocution lessons.

Like the moment Granddaddy says, “Do you like grits?”


“Do you like grits?”


“You eats grits?”


“You eat them?”

“…oh! Yes.”

In true English-girl form, for a while, I mistook this island fast-talk as being about me, hearing a cry without remorse, for my departure. Only, my grandmother would say that I was a Geechee girl because it was her running in my blood, wherever I fly in from disregarded. And would you slow down for someone you claimed as one of your own?

At first, I resented this inclusion into the familial dialect—and we are all family on Sapelo, nearly—forcing me as it did to talk slowly and gracelessly, fighting with weak syntax and an English-girl voice that can’t pronounce Geechee words right. I felt comfortable with the women asking, “Doesn’t it rain in England?” only to listen to me talk in soft Received Pronunciation, referred to as the Queen’s English by old cabbies in London’s East End, mockingly. Talking entered into the negative curriculum vitae of a girl who always knew herself to be black but once forgot that she was not-white. Drive, eat a crab, pull a fishing net—all talents found in the repertoire of Sapelo Jane that a girl who had once forgotten the ghost of her own living grandmother might have trouble with. How I felt, and feel now, was as when Salman Rushdie wrote of loss and home and the imaginary motherlands we carry with us, how “we feel we straddle two cultures; at other times, that we fall between two stools.”

[Image description: A woman wearing a turban works in the midst of a field.] Courtesy of the author.
[Image description: A woman wearing a turban works in the midst of a field.] Courtesy of the author.
A strange feeling of disbelonging rises when I walk barefoot on Sapelo Island, eat shrimp and grits and sit up under the tree in my grandmother’s yard and watch the children play. It is the emotional and spiritual recognition of a geographical location as a place where maybe you are Home, in another life—where your mother boards a flight bound for Brunswick, GA, in 1998, instead of London, UK. And it is not so much that I feel unwelcome—I feel welcomed with open arms, my father hyphenating all the places that I would call home, maybe, in those other lives: “English-Welsh-Jamaican-Canadian-Geechee girl.” You will understand me if you are a child like the girl I was, a baby for the diasporas’ diaspora—divorced from a motherland receding into abstraction after centuries of enslavement, and separated again by the circumstances which drive a person, with wife and young children in tow, to emigrate far north to a country where the winters are dead cold and the summers are dead hot. Then estranged again by love.

In Julie Dash’s 1991 film “Daughters of the Dust,” set on the neighboring St. Simon’s Island at the turn of the twentieth century, a story that my grandmother knows well is recounted. It is the story of Ibo Landing. Embellished, my grandmother will say, to fit the popular imagination. One can only assume it makes for better storytelling for the tourists if, upon arriving on the island shores in chains and seeing a ghost of what will come if they walk on, all the Ibo people turn and walk back into the sea and drown. As if they were going to walk back to Africa. It is the kind of story that aestheticizes the suffering of enslaved Africans, preferring fantasy to the facts, which are that only a few, no more than a couple dozen, tried escape and fewer died. The rest walked on in chains, to meet the ghost.

This story makes me feel more of an outsider than any cousin making fun of the slow and clumsy way I reel in a crab basket, encompassing a kind of suffering that I always knew about in the semantic sense yet did not, I felt, see evidence of in Britain. In Dash’s film, the old matriarch has blue hands from her days as a slave making indigo dye. Her hands would not have been permanently stained in reality, only maybe her eyes would always see her blue hands because some things we are unable to wash away.

Sometimes, I imagine myself with blue hands and it becomes a metaphor for being within and without—because I am imagining, actively creating a narrative in an aesthetic tradition that does not marry well an appreciation of one’s own culture. We can be guilty of Other-ing ourselves, making metaphors of what is ours to reclaim in the real, like this.

I know more stories, like the story of the historic Black island community driven to dissolution by socioeconomic forces with no interest in the preservation of a people whose labour built an economy and whose subjugation was the foundation for the social hierarchy.

I am the sorry outsider, apologetic with polite indignation, asking “what can be done? What do you need?” and I am the granddaughter who will have bad dreams about the soil that keeps my ancestors becoming saturated with salt from the high rising tide…that does not touch the holiday homes of WASP-y retirees, because their homes are built on stilts, as per the new zoning regulations, and their properties can afford the drainage maintenance that the state will not pitch in for.

I know the stories in my grandmother’s memoir “God, Dr. Buzzard and the Bolito Man,” which begins: “Let me tell you how it was.” Other stories, the oral histories that I love to hear my father and my grandmother tell, the anecdotes, the herbal recipes—The old people, my grandmother will say, would drink the tea of Life Everlasting, believing it will give you long life. She will name some of the old ones that I met as a new baby, who lived into remarkable old age before they passed.

We return to the scene at the beach where we are pulling in the seine net, slowly, and I can see the fish jumping as we bring them out. What’s caught in the net? a shark! and then there’s hollering until somebody lets it loose by accident and it swims away against the tide and disappears. I think about “this girl’s” disbelonging being the reason why I can hear an imaginary baby’s cry out to sea. We belong to the Georgia lowcountry and nowhere else, in another life.

And there is Bilali Muhammad, long dead ancestor except for when we remember him and then he comes alive for us. The remembering is imagining; I imagine the boy who would not give up his religion and prayed east, married and bore 12 sons and 7 daughters. A flower we named for the latter, the Seven Sisters’ Rose. Other herbs, like Life Everlasting. Bilali became overseer of the slaves on Sapelo, himself a slave. Did he drink Life Everlasting and live long, did he come to the beach to hear babies cry at night, did he dream of another life where he called his native Sierra Leone home still?

In this moment, in wet sand at eveningtide with the day’s humidity breaking to a cool sea wind, I can imagine being alive when Bilali took his prayer mat to the sunrise. I stop walking because someone tells me to, the net is in. There are a few crabs and some silver fish with black eyes rolling in fear. We come and gather to look, and I won’t say that I see a baby ghost or anything like that but imagine—I watch the fish in the net and seeing a lasting image of myself in a bedroom in London, lit by morning because the window faces east, drinking a tea believed to give long life and thinking of a kidnapped boy sold into slavery who would not give up his religion, the Ibo in iron and saltwater, blue hands and my grandmother’s stewed okra. I will marry my disbelonging; I come from brown concrete and sweetgrass.

To accept this feels like I am sitting on the floor between the two stools with the knowledge that I will make a nice home for myself here.