Bussa of Bussa's Rebellion, Barbados

 

RESEARCH SCOPE | I am interested in extending pre-existing research on the traditional Black Press as it exists in the United States into the African Diaspora at large and the Caribbean, in particular, in pursuit of developing curricular considerations for linking the field of Journalism to an Africana intellectual genealogy as a foundation for present and future practice, and as a pedagogical tool.

Very early in the text “Intellectual Warfare” the late Jacob Carruthers wrote about how Jamaican-born Dutty Boukman made his way to Haiti in 1791 to incite the insurrection in Saint-Domingue that ignited what we call the Haitian Revolution. What inspired me even moreso, however, were the ripples from this revolution, and, specifically, the medium that was used to channel it through time and space. In Barbados, in 1816, several of the enslaved Africans who could read and speak English, such as Nanny Grigg, had access to English-written newspapers from which they learned about what was happening in the Diaspora, namely Haiti, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.

 

After reading about the successful Haitian uprising in the paper, she advised her comrades, one of which was a man named Bussa (shown above), the namesake of the Bussa Rebellion, to “set fire like they did in St. Domingo.” In that very moment – the press became a liberation tool, a direct precursor to the insurgent media spaces that would emerge in the 19th and 20th centuries. 

The goal of the curriculum is to develop skills that intersect journalism with socio-cultural-political discourse that focuses on African Diasporic communities and spaces. We will study Journalism on two levels — (1) macro: a wide landscape survey to witness the sweep of movements and innovations emanating in multiple temporal directions from the Haitian Revolution-inspired Bussa’s Rebellion in Barbados via the press; and (2) micro: in-depth, close-up research to examine events and media topics in a narrow time frame. The intended outcome is for students to be able to articulate the connection between journalism and an Africana-rooted intellectual genealogy – beginning to suture the practice/profession as a thinking tradition and mode of inscription and cultural continuity from antiquity to present.

 

Always fitting: "The past," Edouard Glissant wrote, "to which we were subjected, which has yet emerged as history for us but that is, however, obsessively present."  

 

"PERHAPS, TO BLOOM" will be an audio storytelling project that includes oral histories and oral futurities that excavate the growing cultural impact of the Caribbean presence in Atlanta and the South at large. People of Caribbean ascent represent one of the fastest growing population demographics in Atlanta according to census data.

So much of the story is in the language, the tongue, so in podcast form and published over eight episodes in time for Caribbean carnival season of 2021 (early summer, late spring), Perhaps, to Bloom will document, through narratives, the subtle veneer that the Caribbean presence has formed on the city, framed first with Julius Scott's ("The Common Wind") geographical conceptions of the Caribbean's northern contours; lingering around The Institute of the Black World which convened Caribbean thinkers such as Sylvia Wynter, Walter Rodney and C.L.R. James; and spilling into the still-running Atlanta Caribbean Carnival that started the same year as the National Black Arts Festival – a year after the City’s Office of Cultural Affairs was formed.

I think of Atlanta’s many artists and cultural producers that I have come to find are of Caribbean ascent -- from the urban farmers in West End and Southwest Atlanta to the culinary arts curators reimagining new culinary fusions and how that feeds into Atlanta's culture and artscape. The conversations will suss out what it means to be Caribbean and Southern – a combination of identities that, to date, has only been quietly experienced but its edges not fully articulated.

I want to investigate how people are expanding geographies of the circum-Caribbean to incorporate their sense of place for now and into the future; to document the experience of a moving people whose claim to Southern land leans future and past, equally.

Finally, I want to look at one way Atlanta can understand itself as a diasporic city – not as a gateway or pass-through, but as a catchment for all the cultural makings of a home for people who decide to stay – be it in the music, foodways, art, festivals, rituals and politics.

The title of the podcast, Perhaps, to Bloom, comes from an early edition of "Black Boy," written by Richard Wright. Wright's words also appear in the epigraph for Isabel Wilkerson's nonfiction text, "The Warmth of Other Suns."

"I was leaving the South
To fling myself into the unknown….
I was taking a part of the South
To transplant in alien soil,
To see if it could grow differently,
If it could drink of new and cool rains,
Bend in strange winds,
Respond to the warmth of other suns
And, perhaps, to bloom."

Babies at the Atlanta Caribbean Carnival

 

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