I jumped out, camera in hand and breathed in the cool air. The sandy soil with sprigs of green grass here and there cradled the dry sticks with the white tufts. I had longed for this moment for years and here I was, in a cotton field. I was bursting with joy as I took pictures from every angle.
Bending down to touch and pick up a cotton ball I froze in my stoop. I saw before me a field of women, bent over wearing their wide skirts and cloth head covers. They picked the cotton and tucked it in the bags slung across their bodies.
As I caressed the white fluff in my hand I closed my eyes and was transported to my homeland, South Africa, and could see the sweat drenched workers emerging from the black pit of the earth. In my hand was a cold black lump of coal. Black and white. Slaves, workers.
A gust of wind brought me back to the cotton field and I pondered about the section of the documentary I saw last week, “Slavery by Another Name”. Sadness filled my soul. Both my country of birth and my home now here in Savannah, GA, has this pain filled history.
I realize now that my yearning to set foot in a cotton field was an expression of my grieving. I had not known what transpired in South Africa until a few years ago living in America. What pain, what shame I felt. Seeing the movie last week, deepened my insight into life here.
I can’t go back and fix it. Can’t go back and fight for human rights. So I grieve and let the cotton ball catch my tears.
I sit here at my desk writing and a glint of sunlight dances on the keyboards. I smile. It’s over. No more slavery, no tolerance of it by another name. I know injustice continues, for so is the nature of humankind.
My joy does return for this is now the land of the free as is my homeland. There will always be sadness on reflection, but joy will triumph as we determine to live lives with deep respect for one another, not seeing color, or race, or gender or disability.
“Slavery by Another Name” can be seen February 12, 2012 9/8c PBS. It is based on the book by Douglas A Blackmon.