It was a standard ceremony, with politicians and local historians and activists saying passionate, eloquent things about the past and offering both mea culpas and we-shall-overcomes. I wanted to attend to feel the African-American connections between Richmond today and that horrible past, hoping that I will be able to link that vibe with the one between my island's current residents and their ancestors, who were also enslaved on Loyalist plantations.
Going was a good idea. Not only did I get what I went for, but also I had a few extra observations that someday might translate into a character detail, a motivation, or even another story. Here are some notes and comments, both trivial and serious:
- To really pull off the "African" look -- kinte cloth prints, head wraps, chunky jewelry -- you have to be tall, black, and have a long neck. Me? None of the above. Pity, because I love the look. Here in Richmond, Delores McQuinn and Janine Bell do it so well.
- Over at C'est Le Vin, the wine shop/art gallery where the post-ceremony reception was planned, a posted comment from one of the artists was, "We are all African." What a lovely, encompassing, non-political statement! I plan on plagiarizing that.
- I have watched my cat catch a lizard, open its gut just enough to hobble its movement for his amusement, then play a while before eating his snack. That's nowhere near as cruelly as the slaves at Lumpkin's Jail were treated, according to the new marker. Animals? The word was applied to the wrong race, and even reversed it's much too mild an epithet. At least Kit had hunger as a good reason.
- I love the fact that C'est Le Vin, run by business partners who both have roots in Ethiopia, is thriving in Shockoe Bottom, right where the slaves were auctioned. Ditto for the black farmers who work their stands at what's now the 17th Street Farmers' Market. Sometimes there is poetic justice.
- Ah, but the most fun of the day was hanging with Donnie Corker, aka Dirt Woman. (For non-Richmond readers, Corker is sort of a Richmond institution: an immense, handicapped transvestite street presence who combines personal quirkiness, political passion and a sense of social responsibility with a wicked sense of humor.) Watching him politely stop the governor en route to the stage -- noting McDonnell's "let me outta here" body language -- and hearing Corker's dig mentioning that the former (Democrat) governor restored his voting rights -- well, it was priceless.