Friday, June 30, 2017

“Free People of Color” in Dixie


This article is the abbreviated address that I made at the Upcountry Literary Festival 2017, at the University of South Carolina, in Union South, Carolina.

Some people come for the land down under (Australia). I come from the land where old times are not forgotten.

I started my presentation by singing the old spiritual entitled, Wade in the Water, God’s Gonne Trouble the Water. This song is part of our cultural southern music heritage which reaches back into antebellum and perhaps colonial times. I heard it song a lot in my childhood and I was always left asking myself, “Why the hell would you wade in the water if you know God’s going to trouble the water?” Later when I was older I realized that it’s a partition for you to venture forth on an act of faith.

A few weeks ago when I opened with that song, a lady in the audience gave me the biblical scripture from which the song takes its inspiration, John 5:1-9. In that story, it is troubled waters that have the power of healing. So in that spirit, what I write may trouble the water for some of us but I’m hoping that you will remember that troubled waters can be healing waters.

However, before we dive into those “troubled waters” there is another verse from the song entitled, The Yankees Came to Baldwin that I’d like you to keep in mind which goes as follows, “Jeff Davis is a gentleman, Abe Lincoln is a fool. Jeff Davis rides a dapple gray, Abe Lincoln rides a mule.” You should see the looks on the faces of elementary school children when I sing that line. I then say to them, “point of view children, it’s all about point of view.”

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