On the Eve of the Whitney Plantation

Once in Decatur, Georgia, a conversation on Race led to one of my hosts getting up and coming back with a folded white piece of paper. He extended it out to me and my hand reflexively lifted until my mind finally could process what my eyes were seeing. I couldn’t bring myself to touch the piece of paper. It was a flyer for a KKK rally that he’d found on a hike on a mountainside in rural Georgia. Merely ink on a page, I couldn’t touch it.

I have had that same feeling in my gut as I’ve visualized walking onto the Whitney Plantation and Slavery Museum in Warren, LA. Tomorrow, it will happen. I will walk in this place. I will do it with my friend, Reggie Harris, knowing that our ancestors were on opposite sides of what we are about to experience, knowing that history funneled them through a tiny fifteen mile space on this huge planet, knowing that music brought us together.

I once sat on a stage with a full blooded Mohawk on Columbus Day. In jest, I said something to the point of “Columbus Day, there goes the neighborhood.” He looked at me and replied in earnest, “those Eupopeans were oppressed for thousands of years.” Tomorrow, I’ll witness the physical reality of that “training.” History is a brutal place. History is now.

Our entire history as a species is carried in the strands of our DNA – we are built to survive any and all conditions. It is a broad approach by necessity. The code that makes us has made Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Aristotle. It has also made Hitler, Nero, and Stalin. This is our horrible and beautiful potential. I have to be grateful that these same forces will allow two sons of disperate history to take a journey together, to walk in this place of ignominy, to see and feel the dark reality of the past, and commit ourselves to making the light of what has brought us here together, the reality of the future.

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The Hallelujah Statue at the Whitney Plantation