race · spatial politics

musings

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I am still smiling. I attended the Dance Alabama Film Festival this evening at Tuscaloosa’s River Market where our local farmer’s market is held on the weekends.

The students at the University of Alabama remind me again of the biggest joy of teaching: their energy.

I especially enjoyed seeing tonight a piece titled “Elsewhere.” Kori Frye, a dancer and junior at UA, sat at a table that brought to mind the work of photographer Carrie Mae Weems. In the credits, I saw indeed the name Carrie Mae Weems.

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Take a look at the photo at the top of this post and the one immediately above by Weems. Both tell a story that is far more urgent about black womanhood and what it means to be human and alive than anything else I can write.

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The day was also made rich by Franklin Kennamer of our eTech department. He is a native of Michigan. We had a rich conversation before and after his interview with me about my next book on race and space in Miami with the University of Miami’s football program during its initial hey-day in the eighties in view. While talking to him, I emphasized the difference between place and space. The latter is far more politically charged. This is an idea I hope my graduate students continue to understand as we turn to Saidiya Hartman’s sojourn in Ghana. She was shocked to learn about the degree to which she emerged as an obruni, or stranger to people who looked like her on the other side of the pond.

Africa and Ghana are places. They appear on maps. The word obruni was a space she inhabited as the descendant of enslaved people. Her restlessness and statelessness possibly present more questions than answers. Perhaps the same will be true of Aline Helg’s study on Colombia. How did it come to be that people of African descent there who are known as the costenos often identified more on the basis of their position on the coast, or the rim of the Caribbean, than by the color of their skin?

Coasts are a politically charged space. So is water. This is what I told Franklin today. Water helps us move through space. What does such an ability mean for marginalized people? Water is also very calming. It also holds unmentionable horrors.

Obruni.

Costenos.

Both words speak volumes about separation. But what brings us closer?

So much through which to sort, as I say again and again. As I prep for tomorrow’s class, I will do as much with the dance festival in mind. I will think, too, about our students including Kori who was kind enough to give me her autograph. I will remember, too, the younger students from Tuscaloosa’s Alberta School of the Performing Arts who also appeared in films this evening at DAFF.

 

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Roll Tide!

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