Tendaji Talk: “The deep sting of slavery”

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By Harold C. Ford

“It’s really not enough to say, ‘These were horrible days and let them go.’ Uncovering this buried history… could also help alleviate the kind of intergenerational trauma that silence can mask, trauma that can seep into entire communities.

–Margaret Burnham, Professor at Northeastern University, of “Healing Requires Truth” by Samantha Michaels, November-December 2021 issue of Mother Jones

“Slavery has tentacles and they are deeply rooted in today’s society.”

–Kenyetta Dotson, moderator of Tendaji Talk, October 12, 2021

The most recent Tendaji Talk, “The Deep Sting of Slavery” featured eight panelists at the New McCree Theater, 4801 Clio Road in Flint on October 12th.

Panelists included:

  • Ashnee Young: strategy consultant; military veteran; Legal Services of Eastern Michigan, Fair Housing Education Coordinator; strategy consultant
  • Ladel Lewis: Jane Key Solutions CEO; self-proclaimed “champion of the community”
  • Tarnesa Martin: Hurley Medical Center, Nurse, Patient Resource and Community Services Advocate; describes herself as “mother of two, future grandmother”.

    The “Unity” dancers perform at the end of the Tendaji Talk on October 12th. (Photo by Harold Ford)

  • Charles winfrey: New McCree Theater, General Manager; District 2 Genesee County Board of Commissioners, Commissioner
  • Ella Greene-Moton: Partners Community organizations Partners – Ethics review committee, administrator; NAACP ACT-SO (Academics, Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics), president; Community public health and genomics center, community liaison; former member of the Flint Board of Education.

    Tendaji Talk panelists (left to right): Ashnee Young; Ladel Lewis; Tarnesa Martin; Charles Winfrey; Ella Greene-Moton; Sharon Sadler; Pridgeon toy; Alexis Murphy-Morris. (Photo by Harold Ford)

  • Sharon sadler: Bethlehem Temple Church, Associate Pastor; School of Freedom, Director; State of Michigan, Certified Prevention Specialist; Flint Odyssey House, representative
  • Pridgeon toy: Inside the Haven, Founder and Director; self-proclaimed “author, wife, mother, grandmother, community activist”
  • Alexis Murphy-Morris: “Health, wellness and fitness professional” (Linkedin profile); retired from the Genesee County Preschool Program; Quinn Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Flint, Board Member

(Note: The biographical descriptions above are based on self-presentations at the October 12 event and on various websites. The panelist comments below are edited and organized for clarity and brevity.)

The conference moderator was Kenyetta Dotson, a military veteran, social worker and winner of several awards including Zeta Phi Beta Woman of the Year (2014) and the Sybil Award (2011).

Not so distant past

At least two of the Oct. 12 Tendaji Talk panelists – Greene-Moton and Lewis – shared vivid memories of slavery’s “deep sting”.

Greene-Moton recounted her early years in the 1950s on a plantation in the Mississippi Delta where she was born.

“There were a lot of plantings,” says Greene-Moton. “Some plantation owners were cruel. By the grace of God, we ended up on a plantation where people had a sense of fairness.

“I remember being a little girl”, remembers Greene-Moton, “my first job was to go to the cotton field, to work in this cotton field, to cut cotton. “

Greene-Moton was paid $ 2.50 for a day that could start at 6 a.m. and end 12 hours later at 6 p.m. She said the elders in the family were paid less.

“We didn’t have an indoor toilet,” she recalls. “I had to walk to the ‘big house’ to get water.”

Greene-Moton lived on this plantation with the “big house” until his third year of school.

Sharecropping

“There are different levels of slavery,” Lewis said. She explained that sharecropping has replaced movable slavery as an institution of repression. His grandmother’s grandmother was born a slave. A few generations later, his parents were sharecroppers in Tylertown, MS.

“The laws weren’t in our favor back then,” Lewis recalls. “They [Lewis’s parents] had to escape in the middle of the night. Lewis said if they were caught leaving the plantation it could cost them their lives.

“They had to leave everything they knew, everything they had,” she said. “They had no quality of life (and) wanted better.” His family moved to Michigan in the 1960s.

Devastating

“It (slavery) is having a devastating effect,” Winfrey said. “It overwhelmed us. It has put us down. It humbled us. He instilled many values ​​that divide us today. We always slander, we are envious, we are jealous.

“So here we are now, still feeling the lingering effects of slavery, the psychological effects of slavery, PTSD,” Winfrey continued. “It’s almost like we’re locked in and can’t really break free from this slavery.”

Young agreed, “Everything that happened to our ancestors had a residual impact on the way we exist today, from the way we treat each other, to how we were able to create life. wealth, the way we try to fit in… There are still things today that enslave us.

Transition to Jim Crow

“Jim Crow legalized segregation,” said Pridgeon. Redlining and other discriminatory practices denied African Americans home ownership, a major source of wealth, she said.

Homeownership, she continued, can provide opportunities for wealth creation in other ways by taking out loans and using them for business investments and tuition fees.

“This country was founded on slavery,” said Pridgeon. “We were the wealth. The old money was generated on our backs (but) the wealth is not passed on to us… Those who are the descendants of slave masters (benefit) still (slavery and Jim Crow).

Sadler experienced Jim Crow segregation up close when, after graduating from Flint Central High School, she moved to Alabama with her husband where they resided near Birmingham from the mid-1970s to the late 1980s. .

They inadvertently entered a separate restaurant, after which the cook exited the kitchen and excitedly pointed to the “Whites Only” sign and advised them to leave. The cook escorted them out of the restaurant and showed them a window through which African Americans passed and received their food orders.

Sadler also recalled the impossibility of buying a house in a neighborhood where black people were not allowed to live.

Sadler admitted: “It wasn’t until I was in the south [I discovered] Jim Crow was alive and well.

Frantz Fanon

Winfrey noted the work of black psychiatrist and author Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), a French West Indian Pan-Africanist who opposed struggles for independence in Algeria and the United States:

“What he decided was that, because what the Algerians fought for and won their freedom for, there was a distinct difference between the African Americans who got their freedom. The difference is that fighting for your freedom has a cataclysmic effect that purges you of all those things that slavery instilled in you so that you become a free man.

“When someone gives you your freedom,” Winfrey continued, “you wear all of these things that slavery has instilled in you down the generations.”

Health disparities

“When white America catches a cold, black America catches the flu,” commented host Dotson, introducing the topic of health disparities.

“We are not preventive,” said Martin. “Often, African Americans, we don’t take care of ourselves. Poor diet, lack of exercise and a lack of water contribute to health disparities, she said.

Martin also noted that higher rates of diabetes, hypertension, COPD and other illnesses in the African American community may be due to a lack of health knowledge and the cost of staying healthy.

As a healthcare professional, Martin observed “a lot of distrust of healthcare systems… When we go to the doctor, when we go to the hospital, our pain is not taken seriously.

Sadler raised the specter of epigenetics. “They now find the link between slavery and healthcare today,” she said. “Through extreme trauma and stresses like passing through the middle, rebuilding, and slavery, he actually has the ability to change the way genes read and work.”

Pridgeon has pointed an accusing finger at the food traditions that began during slavery as a legacy of unwanted health. “The porridge and the leftovers that were given to us to eat, and we passed it on from generation to generation,” she said.

Generational divide

Several panelists highlighted a current generational gap in the African American community as both a challenge and a potential stimulus for progress.

“There is so much history, so much tradition, so much wealth that our (young) generation often misses out,” Young said. “It was not necessarily presented to us in an acceptable manner.”

Lewis speculated on a generational wealth gap within the black community. “The majority of our money is held in the pockets and bank accounts of our baby boomers,” she said. “It’s not in our Millennial generation.”

Lewis identified the Baby Boomer Generation (1946-1964) as the generation that acquired jobs, pensions, homes, automobiles, and lifestyles during the Civil Rights Era that were not possible before. this and were less accessible in subsequent generations.

“Our generation,” Lewis lamented, “the fight has been lost.”

Sadler noted the “adopt an older person” and “adopt a younger person” programs in his church to reduce the generation gap.

Young agreed that “dynamic learning opportunities” could be a way to pass tradition and history from one generation to the next.

“I think the way we position young people to learn is how we’re going to be able to progress,” Young concluded.

* * * * *

The monthly Tendaji Talks, based in Flint, are sponsored by Quartiers sans frontières. Information can be found on the following websites: Quartiers sans frontières; Facebook page Quartiers Sans Frontières; Flint United quarters; or the Flint Public Library. The public is invited to join the Tendaji Talks planning sessions at 5:30 p.m., monthly, on second Tuesdays.

The talks were created to honor the memory of Tendaji Ganges, a social justice activist and Flint educator at the University of Michigan-Flint, who died in 2014.

The subject of the next Tendaji Talk is “Education, Racism and Health”.

GEV reporter Harold C. Ford can be reached at [email protected]


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