NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 89

AMERICAN BEAUTY Whoever thought those slaves we bought and damn near caught would count? Hands up. The gorgeousness of Chaka Khan and others’ subtleties. The dignity of Phyllis Wheatley, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, peanut butter. Green light, ragtime, Scott Joplin. Red light, Jelly Roll Morton. Sophistication, Duke Ellington. Gas masks. Motown. Doomed by whom? Who could’ve dreamed so many ways to bandage tired-ass lineages? Blood plasma. Drama. Minstrelsy. Vaudeville. Transgress. Transform. Transfuse, transfuse, transform them blues! Let’s give slaves what we’re due. Thanks to us, life works through spirit still. We get the job done. Sometimes we turn Mexican or Nicaraguan, Dominican, Haitian, Palestinian, North Korean, Vietnamese. Sometimes we’re all still Chinese — affordable labor, real cheap. Be my neighbor. Who could have dreamed the rivers of forever our clever pain would power? Who remembers how it felt back then, when Irish, Scottish, English men and women “servants” (don’t mention indentured) toiled cheek by jowl, row by row, alongside Africans on the same plantations? We labored, ate and slept. We wed and didn’t; bond-laborers raising babies shoulder to shoulder. We sweated, suffered, perished; young, together. When we tried to bust the back of bonded-labor, smash our deep connection, we slaves reared up with guns — united, Euro, Afro. We turned fast against ourselves — and that’s the way we stay. Whoever thought those slaves we bought and damn near caught would count? Still counting. 87 the Indians! Every last one! Who could predict that’s how we came up with White Folks and Negroes? And who could’ve guessed the rest? BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Who remembers Bacon’s Rebellion, 1676? Off the books, the biggest continental slave rebellion. Tobacco. Virginia. Bacon’s intention: Kill all