Tickling my thoughts these days is the expression of African American experience through Reconstruction Era during the massive migration of African Americans from the South into other parts of the country. In writing this week, I have been mostly sitting quietly and listening. On sheets of scrap paper in front of me lie many new drafts of a few scenes of Lala’s third play, her spiritual journey through the 1898 American West. I am contemplating the themes of the blues, and the feelings and experiences of a young woman, alone, in a world beyond her community, who has left it seeking more knowledge and wisdom to help not just herself, but her whole town. There is a great loneliness in this, but also a deep quest similar to the migrating African Americans seeking better work opportunities or towns with less deep-seated hatred and racism.
Ysaye Barnwell, in her week long “Building A Vocal Community” Workshop at Esalen told us that the Blues are an expression of solitude, loneliness, and the leaving of the African American from community and group setting. It is easy to imagine this as you listen to the songs of the Blues. And also to hear the struggle of those communities as they shifted, changed and adapted to living as free people in a still very discriminatory United States. Ideals and visions of freedom clashed with the realities of segregation, economic depression and inequality. And yet, generations struggled, fought, and sang their ways through those times into ours. And they keep on singing and working to resolve injustice.
I feel contemporary times hold great opportunities for the harmonizing of many voices, many people, and many perspectives. Sojourners and seekers from many ethnicities and cultures throughout the United States are reaching out to traditions from East and West, North and South to find wisdom that helps balance the perspectives of their own communities. This is an amazing time of cross-cultural pollination giving rise to a kind of human being that has never existed before. As a young person, it gives me great joy to watch this evolution and to be a part and participant to it.
Rivera Sun Cook