The original subject scheduled for this post was the 100th anniversary of the "Harlem Hellfighter's" celebratory parade through New York City in February, 1919, following the United States' and allies' successful campaign to end World War I in Europe. For the African Americans who comprised the unit, participation had meant another step toward gaining racial equality and ending unwarranted violence against them at home. With Black History Month only a couple of weeks away and commemorations of the Harlem Renaissance Centennial now kicking off around the globe, the subject would have been timely and appropriate.
However: just as humanity had to address the impact of various forms of violence--such as war, lynching, and race riots--during the Jazz Age Harlem Renaissance, we find ourselves doing the same in 2019, an entire century later. Too often, the casualties you might anticipate hearing about are not the military personnel or police officers who confront danger as part of their profession. They tend to be children in school classrooms, at parties, attending concerts, playing in front yards, immigrating from one oppressive situation to another, or just nestled at home among family members assumed to be dedicated to their safety and wellness.
The beauty of all they were or may have become is gone in the flash of one horrific moment. Rather than revisit yet again the question of why so many of us exercise so little compassion toward children and disregard the potential inherent in every child, I launched the Kaleidoscope Moons Art Series as one way to reclaim with compassion the beauty of lives lost too soon.
A New Perspective on an Old Wound
How to survive and cope with grief over the loss of an offspring is a dilemma I began exploring as a writer through poems in my first book, I Made My Boy Out of Poetry, and then later in essays in The American Poet Who Went Home Again. As the year 2019 slowly gains momentum, I am viewing the subject through a distinctly 21st century lens and re-engaging it as a visual artist via the Kaleidoscope Moons series. Why at this precise time? Largely because of what I expressed in these notes on the series:
STORY BEHIND THE SERIES
The American media has proclaimed the heroics of 13-year-old Jayme Closs for managing after three months to escape her kidnapper. However, she lost her parents to the abductor's shotgun blasts and in that instant experienced the destruction of her childhood. Clearly the concept of compassion held no meaning for him and a civilized society is obligated to reflect on possible reasons why.
What roles, for example, might the glamorization of hatred and sustained monetization of war play in Closs's abductor's choice to ignore the excruciating pain he would cause a child and her family? How did institutionalized practices which place the well-being of children toward the lower end of any list of priorities possibly intensify his nihilism? When reflecting on likely answers, this much becomes clear: the degree to which any given individual might be held accountable for helping maintain a culture of indifference and, by doing so, contribute to the malevolent destruction of human life is a consideration which can no longer be avoided.
NEXT: Kaleidoscope Moons Reclaim with Compassion the Beauty of Lives Lost Too Soon Part 2
Founder of the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance Initiative and creator of the Silk-Featherbrush Art Style, Aberjhani's work as both an author & an artist have been acclaimed by critics, readers, and cultural arts supporters around the world.
Journalist Patricia C. Stumb, in a 1999 Connect Savannah news magazine story titled “Peace, love & blessings…,” wrote of how I “found worldly consciousness in the heart of [my] hometown.” Her observation was surprisingly precise because during that period while living in Savannah, Georgia, I had indeed become more aware of my hometown on the global scale of things. I had also become more cognizant of myself as an author whose influences and inspirations tended often to derive from regions far beyond it.
However, expanded consciousness or not, there was no such thing as overlooking the profound thematic shift that occurred in the city’s history when Floyd Adams became its first African-American mayor in 1996. That event prompted the composition of these lines:
By way of an African wind
The thematic transition grew even more powerful in 2003 with the election of Otis Johnson as mayor of the city and in 2011 when Edna Branch Jackson won the office. Up until this point, too much of the story of African Americans in Savannah had been one of a people continuously oppressed and suppressed by history itself. Different industries (such as film) and individuals benefited economically from that history but Blacks native to the city have rarely done so to any significant degree.
The Re-Historicization of a Narrative
The elections of Adams, Johnson, and Jackson created a thematic evolution that has helped the city prepare for even more dramatic and culturally inclusive demographic shifts already in progress. Call it the re-historicization of a narrative that dates back at least to late 1800s Reconstruction.
It was then that the privileges of freedom bestowed upon African-Americans certain political and social responsibilities pertaining to both themselves and their lighter-hued brothers and sisters. They learned what all before and since then have had to learn: democracy is not simply a license to indulge individual whims and proclivities. It is also holding oneself accountable to some reasonable degree for the conditions of peace and chaos that impact the lives of those who inhabit one’s beloved extended community.
The years had been a long time coming before citizens of Savannah could begin to envision new sociopolitical dynamics that involved something other than oppression in its various nefarious forms. Leadership has never been an exact science but it has always found itself particularly challenged when tasked with elevating one segment of a society onto a level more politically, socially, and economically equitable with another.
However, the 2015 bid for power and history in Savannah is about more than practicing leadership to balance weighted scales. It is about giving shape to an historical context capable of sustaining progress on multiple fronts. It is about negotiating changes which some may find difficult to accept but which in fact cannot be avoided. Fortunately, city residents can choose between two excellent candidates for the tasks at hand: contender Eddie DeLoach and incumbent Mayor Jackson. A run-off election between the two is slated for December 1, 2015.
Video Notes on Past and Future Growth
Contemporary award-winning author of classically-styled works in history, poetry, creative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and journalism.