WHAT IS REVIVAL??
My very human, very black journey.
Like a miniature gong, the sound of hickory nuts falling atop the tin roof, disrupt my thoughts; as we enter the shell of what was once my grandfather's childhood home. As my cousin and I slowly creep through this house full of webs, mold, and pop's nostalgia, the anticipation of what we will find is unbearable. This entire day has been full of this feeling, and ever since I decided to trace our lineage Anticipation has become a dear friend. This all started with some research I was doing on the African diaspora, and it's contribution to food. This endless clicking from link to link finally brought me to an article on Mrs. Cornelia Bailey, of Sapelo Island. This Island is right off the coast of Georgia and is one of the few places you can go to witness a community that has preserved the traditions of their west African / Gullah heritage. Mrs. Bailey caught my attention, due to her direct connection to her ancestors through the food she grows. In her garden things like okra, collards, and famously red peas. All a direct link to her roots in West Africa.
It was like a cartoon bulb went off over my head; my grandfather grows a lot of the same things...I wonder if our roots can be traced to West Africa..and then this journey began.
(Phone call) Brooklyn - north carolina 2:38pm
Me: "Hey Pop, what was your moms full name?"
Pop: "Cora Lee Council"
Me: "And her mom, what about her mom...oh and your dad, any uncles?"
Scribbling quickly my best spelling of sweet and very southern names. Names with "Lee" attached and "Mae"...names I'd heard ever so often in conversations between pop and my mother, regarding the funerals of their children. And for every lost relative I felt stories lost, and potential memories washed away. My family tree felt at risk of deforestation.
I needed to move fast.
So I planned a trip to North Carolina. A beautiful place, where the dark and ugly past still seems to rear it's head from time to time via Trump bumper stickers and kkk rally's (no seriously). I digress.
A quick right turn into the driveway is followed by the left turn of my head to peak at pop's garden.
ROWS OF OKRA stand proudly, the start of turnips lay low and humble. I seek truth in these crops, well, truth and dinner. We soon ended up in the garden talking seeds and sustainable practice. Which is a concept that has been passed down from generations high up on the tree, so high that at the moment their names are unknown and faces un-photographed. So far up that they probably were lost in history, sold at auction, displaced, and sadly forgotten due to their forced circumstances. Yes, the original sustainable farmers that taught these practices and passed these principles down were slaves. And currently I only have knowledge up to the share-croppers, those branches hang as low as my Grandfather's brother Andrew. Seed keeping was something very important to them, and as I picked at the beautifully striped sepia goards for decorative value, Pop explained that these are the key to next seasons okra harvest - holding several dried seeds in his hands as they spill from the cracked vessel. For dinner that night, of coarse stewed Okra and tomato, a sweet-acidic combination I recall from childhood at my grandparents dinner table.