African in America Network

AFRICAN IN AMERICA NEW ORLEANS FRENCH QUARTERS

Visiting the historical city of La “Nouvelle-Orléans” or better know today as New Orleans “The Big Easy”; I found myself in ways going back in time coming from Inglewood California where so much of the early history of the 13 Colonies began in the South before moving North or to my hometown out west. My first impression of the city was driven by its multicultural atmosphere, understanding that this settlement along the Mississippi river is one of the largest ports in the United States present day and past; and meant a lot to the expansion of the United States as a Nation after the purchase was made following the Haitian Revolution against Napoleon. You find the architecture of the city is influenced by both the French and the Spanish rule of the territory. Living in Inglewood California where the structures stand more modern, I was blown away by those old remaining French Quarters that after hundred of years are still standing, and currently still being used by the the city of New Orleans.

Walking down Canal street reminded me of the Las Vegas Strip with less of a tourist atmosphere and better looking buildings filled with soulful people of color. However, these were the common folks of the land enjoying the many restaurants, hotels, and attractions this city has to offer. I was invited to New Orleans for the 50th Annual Counsel of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE), and found myself revisiting a 13 Colony early settlement and United States history lesson. Why this became profound to me being of African decent; is because of the way in which my ancestors were brought into the landscape of what was the early colonial settlements. Also, the history of our struggles being enslaved, misguided by false hoods ultimately shaping our experience as a people in this land that is called “The Land of the Free” and “The Home of the “Brave”. After many meetings with top school board officials from across the country, the live entertainment and architecture, great cuisine, I found myself a hour out of New Orleans in a city called Vacherie Louisiana where most of Louisiana’s plantations remain, and most still operate today. As I drove in a uber with an elderly African woman driving who I befriended thanks to her genuine southern hospitality gave me a brief run down of her life growing up in New Orleans, and working on farms with her father. She then explained to me how she and her father lost everything in Hurricane Katrina, and relocated to higher grounds in a more northern region of Louisiana. What stood out to me about this woman was her understanding of slavery, and how not far detached the practice was from our people today, and how it ultimately shaped the landscape of labor in America and beyond through human trafficking for those of African ancestry. I was now ready for my plantation tour, with an open mind ready to embrace the spirits I was getting ready to encounter. Fortunately, the driver knew I would be stranded in Vacherie as it is a very small town still, and they don’t have many drivers in the area. The elderly woman insisted that she waited for me until after the tour was over so I would have a ride back to New Orleans.

I visited the Laura Creole Plantation,  and purchased my ticket for $34 dollars USD. The tour I was told would only last one hour, and it would take us through the families home, through the fields, and ultimately what I wanted to see most which was the slave homes. The tour guide was a local, and had a masters in history who was very informative of the family and the Creole history of this plantation and early New Orleans European settlers. I listened throughout the home of the family, and then is when I noticed the rights of inheritance being a key instrument as to how legacy’s were passed down between generations aiding the idea today that I commonly referred to as “Old Money”. Laura, being the granddaughter of the this Sugar Cane plantation by birth right, and heir earned herself the plantation in its entirety; as well as having it named after her. However, it was described she was the least interested in running the family business and eventually left the plantation to live life outside of the slavery model. I felt a bit concerned by the truths I had studied about slavery, and I didn’t know rather to be angry, informed, or for the purpose of this tour enlightened by the history of the family; so I proceeded to keep and open mind to finish out the tour. The brutal nature of plantations are but a mere memory to the legacy of the plantation system as a whole. Many slaves were not even documented, therefore lost to the world. Many slaves were also ship and sold to other plantations often being separated from their birth parents and siblings at very young ages.

Many slaves were raped, and often birthed children that slave masters would still consider to be slaves and property. As we transitioned to the climax of the tour for myself which was the slave homes. That after hundreds of years mostly made from old wood and stones still stood. Mostly boarded up, the house we toured had old working tools hanging on the walls, and a few images of slaves that lived to tell their story. The tour guide explained that up to 12-15 people at a time would share one side of the house which would often have been adults, and children living in these homes right on top of each other. I say this because the average size of the one side of the house where these people would live at those numbers wasn’t even the size of your average living room today. The tour guide even went on to explain the descendants of the slaves on this plantation lived in these houses all the way up into 1970! After the tour ended I had an opportunity to share some of the images with my circle of people via social media, and it just erupted with support as to the fact that I took these pictures while holding the Gold Spear Ankh’s of a King of ancient Kemet culture. Completely, even in a mere moment fulfill the promise I made to myself after being emerged in history that I would enlighten my people on all the truths, including the ugly ones; while also reshaping the narrative of our people regaining our greatness which was tainted by many years of indecent and inhumane treatments during slavery that allowed groups of people to condemn African people to less than our original self of who we truly are creating a false hood of superiority.

This subject is very sensitive for me as an African descendant with darker skin, I am constantly fighting false stereotypes daily! After looking at history you find where most of the biases originate from, and now is the time to really address reshaping the image of the African man and women in America. Which is why the name of this organization came about. What does it mean to be an African in America? What has it meant over the hundreds of years we’ve been here? Why don’t we receive proper credit for building the nation? Why don’t we get credit for fighting in every American war? Why were we treated less than human? Why are we still paid the least in America based on median household income? Why are we the most incarcerated? Why are our sacrifices not acknowledged? These are all the questions I had leaving the plantation that I thought through rapidly in my head on my way back to New Orleans. My visit ended with the last attraction which was the Mississippi riverboat fairy ride that took you on the historical war stories of the early Louisiana settlements, as well as the purchase of Louisiana Territory by the United States. The story goes Napoleon decided to use New Orleans as an agricultural land for farming to grow food primarily with the constant threat of flooding cotton wasn’t the primary export there anymore, and the land in Haiti was more suitable to grow sugar cane. Napoleon wanted to turn the Caribbean into slave trade and primarily sugar cane farming. When Haiti revolted and ultimately won their independence Napoleon had no use for New Orleans, and with turmoil and renewed war threats in the United Kingdom the land was inevitably sold to the United States known today as the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The purchase included two Canadian provinces, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, a large portion of North Dakota, a large portion of South Dakota, the Northeastern section of New Mexico, the northern portion of Texas, the area of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado east of the Continental Divide, Louisiana west of Mississippi River, and ultimately New Orleans. The Kingdom of France controlled this Louisiana territory from 1699 until it was ceded to Spain in 1762. Then, in the 1800s is when Napoleon hoping to re-establish in North America lost in Saint-Domingue and sold the territory to the United States. This purchase was made to the United States third president Thomas Jefferson. Realizing what colonialism has done to the world, and ultimately those enslaved during its inception has lead to present day United States of America; a land dripping with the blood of indigenous tribes, European settlers, and those of African ancestry. The question I left New Orleans with was this; Who’s sacrifice was more? I believe this is a direct reflection of the many biases, privileges, and inequities we still see all around the world today.

CINEMATOGRAPHY|PHOTOGRAPHY/WRITING by: Willie Max Williams (Mkuu Mrithi)

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AFRICAN IN AMERICA NETWORK[A.i.A] – THE COST OF LIVING [IMPROVISATIONAL FILM]

Richard “Dick” Gregory – [OCT 12, 1932 – AUG 19, 2017] – African civil rights activist, comedian, and Entrepreneur

Richard “Dick” Gregory – [OCT 12, 1932 – AUG 19, 2017] – African civil rights activist, comedian, and Entrepreneur