Friday, 24 May 2024

CyberSoulMan: Black History Month and a guide from the other side

Image
T. Watts at the KPFZ microphone. Courtesy photo.
 

 

it is no mystery

we makin’ history …

Linton Kwesi Johnson, “Making History” circa 1984


Black History Month is upon us again. Academic Carter G. Woodson, known as the Father of Black History, was responsible for the first Negro History Week celebration in 1926. The week was later expanded into a month and renamed Black History Month.


OK. That was 1926. Separate but equal was the legal status quo, decisioned by the Supreme Court of this land in the 1896 case of Plessy v. Ferguson. The arms of government and its citizenry allowed this purported equal sense of justice to sit on the books unmolested until 1954. In the landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education, public school segregation at the state level was declared illegal. Several later Supreme Court decisions outlawed segregation at the federal level and all race based legal restrictions on marriage.


That, my CyberSoulChildren, is the history of race relations in 145 words. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. There are those among us who view the election of biracial American President Barack Obama as the fruit of the proof of the success of the all-inclusive American melting pot dream. Still others, far, far to the right on the political spectrum, view Obama’s election as the beginning of the end. (I’m speaking here of our right wing TV and radio hosts who are enjoying lucrative careers magically mixing politics and entertainment.)


The point of all this is that it would be oh so grand if American history were really all-inclusive and told the absolute truth about how this mess we call freedom sits simmering on the cauldron of discontent. There would be no need for Black History Month or American Indian Day or any of the schisms that bind us into the little boxes that Malvina Reynolds wrote about and Pete Seeger made famous in song. Our history, like the God, or whatever you choose to call The Great Entity that made us, is too large to be segmented.


*****


I am by no means an authority on any singular aspect of history. But today I am compelled to tell you of what happened to me the first time I attended a Bloody Island sunrise ceremony.


I moved to Lake County finally in 1999. This is after a trial run at living here led me back to the Bay Area in 1998. In 2001, when I became involved with Lake County Community Radio, I met my brother Clayton Duncan and became intrigued with the story of Bloody Island. I became aware of the ceremony that Clayton and the human tribe held every May commemorating the tragic events that happened in Lake County in 1850. (If you don’t know about it, do the research!)


I told Clayton I would come to the ceremony. I think I overslept the first two years I tried to go. Finally, sometime earlier in this decade, I got myself together and got up before daybreak on the designated Saturday morning to attend the ceremony. This particular year, the attendees were to meet at the Robinson Rancheria Education Center at about 4:30 a.m., then caravan over to the site of Bloody Island.


I was living in Nice at the time and drove over by myself. I encouraged my young son and other friends to come with me but there were no takers. It was a clear, cool, crisp morning. The stars dotted the sky as only they can do in these parts. I was sipping coffee as I traveled on Highway 20 toward the Education Center. When I was maybe 2,000 feet away from the right turn I was to make, I could see a swinging light. As I drove closer, I perceived a human figure waving what appeared to be a lantern or flashlight at the intersection. It looked like a woman. Surprisingly though, as I made the right turn, I glanced over to fully identify who or what was waving the light and, THERE WAS NO ONE THERE!


I think there was a group of about 50 people who turned up for the ceremony. We drove over to the site, parked our cars and walked the last yards to where the rock and plaque commemorate the sad event. As we approached, I noticed a group of horses, huddled together. Suddenly, the horses galloped away at a pretty fast clip. It was if they were saying, “Let’s let these human tend to there spiritual business.”


The events really had an impact on my consciousness. Clayton and his brother spoke on the history of Bloody Island. They told of how they believe that the spirits of the ancestors are yet bound to the site and can’t fully transition to the other side until we here on this side fully forgive and come together. I believe I saw evidence of this. I was stone sober. I had been for years.


After the ceremony I asked Clayton if perhaps he stationed someone at the intersection to guide folks into the Education Center parking lot.


“No, brother,” he answered with a smile. “Sounds like you were blessed with a guide from the other side.”


Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts!


Upcoming cool events:


New Orleans Soul Queen Irma Thomas at Yoshi’s San Francisco. Sunday, Feb. 15. Shows at 7 and 9 p.m. 1330 Fillmore St. Telephone 415-655-5600.


Pete Escovedo and Family Feat. Sheila, Juan and Peter Michael at Yoshi’s Oakland. Sunday, Feb. 15. Shows at 7 and 9 p.m. 520 Embarcadero W. Telephone 510-238-9200.


Malo at Cache Creek Casino. Sunday, Feb. 15. 8 p.m. 14455 Highway 16 Brooks. Telephone 800-452-8181.


T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at www.teewatts.biz.


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