NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 102

100 The term homegoing represents a later hybrid of traditional African and Euro- Christian cosmologies, and is something very different from a homecoming. The latter signifies a return from out there (wherever that is) to back here, to the home as it is defined relationally, that which is established and known. In a homecoming, the individual returns to his or her family, friends, or community, to a familiar point of origin, and in doing so affirms one’s relation to the past. In contrast, homegoing refers to the individual’s departure from what is known or familiar, from the encompassing circle of family or community, and toward the realm that, while unknown, posits faith’s fixed, ultimate destination, the spiritual fulfillment realized by rejoining God. Rather than the past, it is the future that is affirmed, even as the white and watery world of the dead is fraught with fear and trembling. As Thompson and others have suggested, the Bakongo encounter with Europeans mapped easily onto traditions in which the Kaolin-tinted dead represented the loss of what was familiar, the shadow-realm through which the departed passed on their way to the afterlife. These symbols and their meanings, including the fugitive history through which they were transformed by transport and enslavement, were very much on my mind as we left the Trace at Jackson. In his notebooks and in scattered published accounts, Tom Dent had described the tours he took with the Free Southern Theater, driving as we had from New Orleans into northern Louisiana and neighboring Mississippi. I remembered, in particular, his description of driving lonely highways at night to places like Yazoo City and Indianola, communities still actively defined by the codes of white violence. The distance from the old blues-town of Greenville, Mississippi, to Jackson isn’t simply geographical. In an unpublished poetry manuscript from the mid-seventies, Dent described his own “Delta Journey,” beginning along the main route between these two cities, a journey bounded by the starkly different poles of Mississippi’s history: “49 spacin out now / jackson not far. / no towns. / fields sparse. / greenville soul disappear. / jackson soul near.” “GLENDORA, MS, JANUARY 2015” PHOTOGRAPHS BY LADY PEREZ. LARGE FORMAT ANALOG TO 35MM DIGITAL TRANSFER. As symbolized by the cosmogram, this journey proceeds from Life (the 12:00 high position on a clock face, corresponding also to the North of a compass rose) to Death (the 9:00 or Westerly position) to Afterlife (6:00 or South) to Birth (3:00 or East); in this counterclockwise journey, the individual passes from the upright realm of solid ground through the inverse, watery world of death. The circle is quartered by the cross that unites each position with its structural opposite, the image of Western time turned inside out, upside down. Without the mechanical clock, extensive open-water sea voyages would have been impossible, and the clock is — like the slide-rule, the thermometer, the volume control, the accelerator pedal, the sextant, and the protractor — one of the primitive goal-seeking or cybernetic devices that enabled global exploration and commerce, including the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The goal sought by such devices is to reconcile and regulate the difference between two discrete realms, the living and the dead, to organize or coerce an efficient, machine-like, profit-yielding communication between them.