Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Gratitude to Allison Russell and her band

 


Grateful to have lived long enough to hear this voice, these voices, this music on Tiny Desk just now.

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"I met my biological father, Michael George, and my paternal family when I was 30 years old. I learned that I am a first-generation Canadian on my father’s side. He was born and raised in Grenada, one of 13 children. I found out that ours is a family that values education deeply. I found out that we have a historian in the family who has traced our line back to an enslaved woman named Quasheba, who was sold off the coast of Ghana.

Such was her strength and resilience that she somehow survived the transatlantic crossing in the hold of a slave ship, and was eventually sold to a large sugar cane plantation in Grenada. She survived multiple rapes and sales. She survived backbreaking labor in the cane fields. She survived her children being taken and sold. She survived, and she founded generations. I wept to learn her name. I am honored to be her many-times-removed daughter and am eternally grateful for the gift of her strength and resilience. Though we can never know if Quasheba was actually from Ghana, in this song I imagine that she is.

When I was in Cameroon in 2007 with my other band, Po’ Girl, I was especially struck by three things: not being a visible minority for the first time in my life (though I was called la petite métisse pretty frequently, since I’m “pale” compared to most Cameroonians); how many Cameroonians felt the need either to apologize for or disclaim their forebears’ involvement in the slave trade—“My village, they never sold any slaves!”—and how many people there told me that I looked Cameroonian. Ghana is just a little ways up the west coast of Africa from Cameroon."

3 comments:

Barbara R. said...

I really enjoyed her music! Thanks for sharing it!

Pixie said...

The past echoes on.

Sabine said...

Oh I love her. Thanks.

As I have written about, I lived for a couple of years in an African country and I remember my first initial shock, Oh yes I admit that, upon arrival that all the people around me were Black. In time, I forgot about it until I would see my very white hand holding onto the grip in a crowded bus and it was always obvious in the smiles and grins and looks people gave me, out of curiosity, anger, whatever. I remember meeting two Black American women who came to work with a Peace Corps project and their delight of living in a Black country, of being able to hide in a crowd of equals, they said.