The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday June 7th

Column: To all my Black people


Columnist Jalynn Harris

Recently, I visited Cape Coast castle, the sight along the coast of Ghana, West Africa where millions of enslaved Ghanaians were violently shipped to the Americas.

Before departure, European colonists would purchase or steal Ghanaians from their villages, force them to journey by foot to the castle, stuff them by the hundreds in cells the size of a living room, incubate them for two weeks and then make them row their own boats across the Atlantic ocean. While standing on the dried excrement of my ancestors, breathing in the taut air they breathed, in the same suffocating cells — no windows, no light, no ventilation — I could feel this living history.

From 1650 to 1860, the U.S and Canada were the dumping grounds for 4.4 percent of the West Africans. Today, it continues to be the soil still stained with our blood. And the Black child is tired of the continued condoning of her death.

At UNC, Black academics — Real Silent Sam Coalition, the National Pan-Hellenic Council, Black Student Movement and others — have come together to demand, under the hashtag #WeDemandUNC that the legacies of normalizing Black death, invisiblizing Black pain and promoting Black exploitation come to an end.

Outside of the sneering and empty-handed critique, there has also been pushback in the realm of pragmatism, with students asking: are the demands practical?

First, let it be understood that the world is an imagined space. That nothing of progress happens accepting the rules of this limited social imaginary. What’s more, this social imaginary — cisheteropatriarchal capitalism — is in total opposition to the Black body. We must interrogate then what, to the Black child, is pragmatism and what is its utility? Pragmatism is a device used to plant fear of and sprout allegiance to an oppressive system, all the while suffocating the Black imagination.

This being said, the reclamation of ourselves — our dynamic imaginations, our unity as African kin-folk within and outside the diaspora — is the only way about our liberation.

Secondly, we are the survivors. As Africans stolen across whole oceans, swallowed small into forced slavery and cut off from native tongue, native country and native peoples, we must not forget those who came before us. That in this euphemistic “translatlantic slave trade,” millions of our ancestors died. Died in castles. Died in the ocean. Died on plantations. But we have our lives.

This is a living history. Slavery to the Black person is a contemporary, and daily, social death labeled with a different name, stamped with a different date, acted by different players. Not only must we remember the sacrifices of our ancestors, but our ancestors continue to live within us —calling, pleading, whispering, singing, offering. And we cannot ignore their stirring.

They are inciting us to resist in collective self-love. To reclaim our swallowed imaginations. And we must respond, by any means necessary, to their call to terraform the Earth to meet the imagination of the Black child.


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