Sunday, July 8, 2018

Reparations

When apartheid ended, South Africa had Truth and Reconciliation hearings. The Australian Government publicly and formally apologized to the Aboriginal population for what the European settlers did. The Topography of Terror Museum in Berlin looks the Nazi horror square in the face and makes sure all school children visit concentration camps to fulfill their mission statement of “Never again.”

And yet in the good ole U.S.A, we still have not officially apologized to Native Americans for stealing their homes and genocide nor to African Americans for getting rich off of the brutality of slavery. The only public apology ever made by our government has been to Japanese-Americans for Internment during World War II.  An appropriate apology, to be sure, but isn’t it a bit strange to say sorry about 4 years of injustice and not for the 250 years of what we did to Native and African-Americans? And so every day in our country, unjust actions continue to make these groups suffer partly because of our refusal to begin this first step toward healing.


But here in Dzodze, Kofi took the matter into his own hands and in collaboration with the Chief of his district, created a ceremony of Homecoming in which the Chief blessed each of the African-Americans in this new group I’m with, put a necklace on them and said, “Welcome home.” There was not a dry eye in the group, including the Chief’s. It’s one thing to feel like one has come home when you’re a black person suddenly not in the minority, surrounded by people who remind you of your Aunt Mabel or Uncle Fred, but the icing on the cake is the formal acknowledgement of what happened all those years back, which in addition to the brutality of the Europeans also involved some complicity from the local Ewes. To say “we are sorry” and welcome those who suffered so much back into the land of their ancestors—well, that’s deep.

How about if all the money the Fascist-in-Training is proposing for a military parade be given to all African-Americans who want to fly to Ghana or Senegal or the Gambia to take place in such ceremonies of apology and welcome? Wouldn’t that be a remarkable step in reparations? And while we’re at it, at the very least, send all the police officers involved in murders of innocent black folks for rehabilitation in Ghana. Feel the welcome they would receive before people knew what they did and the forgiveness they would receive after some work in restorative justice.

As for the story line, I’m back at the White Dove Hotel with some 50 new folks from around the world come to Keith Terry’s Body Music Festival. There is definitely overlap with the Orff-Afrique folks, partly because the Orff approach takes body percussion seriously and partly because it is another gathering of musicians. But whereas the Orff-Afrique participants are folks who spend their spare time planning classes for children, these folks spend their days thinking of new ways to slap themselves on the body and make new intriguing vocal sounds. They are rhythmic down to their bones and as someone who’s known in the Orff world for my hot body percussion skills, I’m in kindergarten here. And happily so.

Many of the people in the photo are from a Steppin’ group called Molodi who live and perform in Las Vegas. Here I’m seeing a true cultural exchange, as they are learning some challenging Ewe dances and are well-primed to do so. One of the incredible stories of the African diaspora is the unbroken sense of body movement both in dancing and just generally carrying oneself. So these African-American folks feel deeply the style and quality of movement that their Ghanaian cousins have and it’s just a question of picking up the steps. Then their dance teachers go to their Steppin’ class and it’s the same thing in reverse. It’s an extraordinary thing to witness.

I’m here for four of the ten days of the Festival before heading to Spain and had some doubts about staying so long and doing again some of the things I did two weeks ago—the Chief’s welcome, the trance dance today, etc. But no problem, it remains in the every-day-a-miracle realm and I suspect I’m going to miss it greatly when I finally move on.

Meanwhile, after we get through the near slide into Fascism, let’s get to work on reparations.

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