Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Matt Harding has a new "dancing all over the world" video.

I am crying uncontrollably every time I see it. Too many thoughts to chain together coherently...

I notice when the people who join him include no women or girls: That place in the world has us locked down from free expression of our humanity. Too many places like that.

Tonight on PBS I watched Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. This is a documentary made by Katrina Browne, descendant of the DeWolfs of Bristol, Rhode Island. She, along with nine other members of her close and distant family, confront their legacy as the largest slave-holding dynasty in U.S. history. They "retrace the Triangle Trade and gain a powerful new perspective on the black/white divide."

It's the best film I've seen about the reality of how America's wealth is based on human trafficking and centuries of pathology. As one of the DeWolf cousins eventually comes to say, "It was evil they did, they knew it was evil, and they did it anyway." This is especially true for the North, which controlled slave trade in the U.S. but managed to "buy" their way into no longer being held accountable by claiming they fought the Civil War to end slavery.

The emotional and spiritual process experienced by this family is shown in detail. By the end, they are able to also begin naming their class privilege, and to undertake action of reconciliation and reparation. The African and African-American voices in the film, especially that of co-producer Juanita Brown, also play a serious role in its development.

Do whatever you can to watch this film. See if it is being re-run this week on your own PBS channel. The PBS P.O.V. trailer can be viewed here.

From the website: "The issues the DeWolf descendants are confronted with dramatize questions that apply to the nation as a whole: What, concretely, is the legacy of slavery—for diverse whites, for diverse blacks, for diverse others? Who owes who what for the sins of the fathers of this country? What history do we inherit as individuals and as citizens? How does Northern complicity change the equation? What would repair — spiritual and material — really look like and what would it take?"

Last night I received an e-mail from a very distant cousin who also does genealogy who found our shared lineage posted at RootsWeb. She says there is an error in the pedigree I was given by another researcher, in the Davis line. If she's right, then I am possibly not descended from Captain James Davis of Jamestown, who was one of the first white colonists on this continent and one of the men who in 1619 decided to buy Africans as slaves, the first in America.

I've spent my entire adult life owning my heritage and doing the work of atonement. James Davis has loomed large in that landscape. If he is removed from the picture, I wonder what will shift.


Sue Katz said...

Thanks Maggie for the reminder about "Traces of the Trade." I missed it, but I bet they'll repeat it - and your review is a huge motivation.

Maggie Jochild said...

I have a question for any Seattleites, about the Matt Harding video -- this one, too, ends with a scene from Seattle. I think it's Gas Works Park. Can anybody verify that? It's in my novel Ginny Bates but I've not actually been there.

Cowboy Diva said...

does this help?
Gas Works park on Flickr

Maggie Jochild said...

Cowboy Diva, once again you come through! Yep, that's the park. Funnily enough, in the Ginny Bates section where I used the locale, they go to fly kites there, which is shown in another photo at the URL you sent me. It was recommended as a Seattle kite-flying area by my friend Mara Smith, who lives and produces art in Seattle (and is also in GB).

You can read/reread the Gas Works Park section at More Life With Two Bright Children -- it's a long assemblage, you can skip down to the section starting "13 April 1996" if you like.

kat said...

I happened upon Katrina Browne's documentary last night. It was really interesting and powerful. It seemed as though in the beginning, the women were feeling the legacy much more deeply. That did seem to shift by the end, except the one prick who insisted that he'd have gone to Harvard no matter where he'd grown up. He really claimed that fabulous education is ubiquitous....I shouted at the screen a little....
but yeah, it was fascinating.