Where the Ocean Meets the Sky

By Stacey J. Sage – March 27, 2019
Sanibel Island-Captiva

Looking out to where the ocean meets the sky, I think of the ancestors; my people, taken from our land, sold into bondage; forced to relinquish our language, our customs, our identity. I think of the “coasting” period; the close quarters and the intentional division of pre-established Afrikan tribes by terroristic ship crews, forcing different tribes to forge bonds of kinship which I’m sure no sooner evolved into trauma bonding, and then eventually true kinship. It made our connections (then and now) complex. I think of some one million eight hundred thousand of the ancestors who did not survive The Middle Passage; those that were thrown overboard and those that jumped, choosing, and preferring death.

They say that most hurricanes are formed around the coast of Afrika and follow the same path as the slave ships. Folktales are told about hurricanes being the energy source of our ancestors; stolen Afrikans, beaten and lost at sea; Souls of the Sea, who unleash their wrath annually. I am a lover of stories and of the griot, the original “ole G,” and so there is a part of me that delights in the particular story of the djeli. Yet, I ask myself, if the hurricane is the mythical avenger, then what of those who did not die en route? Where is their vengeance?

As I stand on the shore and look far far out to where the ocean kisses the sky; the water, it dances, and glistens, and rumbles, and the wind tickles my ears. Perhaps in the wind are the whispers of those who made it to shore; who walked bare foot and shackled in the sand, shuffling forward, further into bondage, leaving their spirit here at the shore. Spirits of the Wind, hallowed be their names; so lonely for Afrika, so lonely for family, lonely for the kora, the khalam, and the goje, the balafon, the ngoni; lonely for rhythms and tones, moods and melodies that only the Afrikan can create; lonely for freedom.

Here, right now, on this shore, in this moment, I am both familiar and estranged. The whispers of our ancestors through the sea air are still the same for us today. The elusive longing for what it means to be free. Like the ancestors, most of us are lonely and longing for home. Five hundred some odd years later, we are still foreign to this land that our people built. We are still lonely for our true culture, our people; and our single connection to the bigger picture and our place in the universe.

Here on the shore, looking out to where the water pushes back onto the sky, I become one with the Ancient Spirits of the Wind. I can feel them in my skin. I am the same as they, and they are the same as those before them, and we are one. I am reminded that ours is a most amazing story. A remarkable telling of endurance, overcoming, courage, fight, grief, revolution, determination, sorrow, survival, longing, dignity, victory, grace, jubilation, magic,…RISING!

*The history of Sanibel Island and Captiva Island features rich intrigue and adventure.  Historians believe that Sanibel and Captiva were formed as one island about six thousand years ago, as sediment that rose from the sea after being shaped by centuries of storm activity. Dating as far back as 2,500 years, the native Calusa Indians were the first-known residents of the island.  The Calusa skillfully transformed the waterways around the island into abundant riches of food and tools. Whelks, conchs, clams, oysters, and other seafood were used for food, and their empty shells were crafted into tools.  The Calusa proved to be skilled builders and craftsmen, perching their huts high atop shell mounds to provide protection from storm tides.  Some of their shell mounds, which were also used for ceremonial, ritual and burial sites, remain intact today. Famous explorer Juan Ponce de Leon is believed to have discovered Sanibel Island – which he named “Santa Isybella” after Queen Isabella — in 1513 while searching for his “Fountain of Youth.”  [Though we now know that you can’t have discovered a place that was already inhabited.] He and his Spanish seamen battled the hostile Calusas for years, and Ponce de Leon eventually suffered a fatal arrow attack at their hands in 1523, at which time he retreated to Cuba and died.
The Spanish were unsuccessful in establishing any kind of permanent settlement.  However, their infiltration introduced European disease and slavery to Sanibel, and overcome by yellow fever, tuberculosis, and measles, the Calusa population all but became extinct by the late 1700s.  You can read more about the Island’s history here: https://sanibel-captiva.org/sanibel-island-history-captiva-island-history/
I had the recent pleasure of visiting Sanibel Island with a dear friend of mine.  Knowing my love for the beach, she tolerated the sand and we enjoyed a beautiful afternoon and evening with our children on the beach. Our visit to the island inspired the above passage.

After Black Woman is Brutally Attacked by Dallas Neo-Nazi, Rapper T.I. Poses The Question: Where are black men in the fight for black women?

By Stacey J. Sage
March 22, 2019 at 12:30 PM

During what seemed to be a dispute over a parking spot, Dallas Bartender and possible Neo-Nazi Austin Shuffield, a 30 year old white man, can be seen on video repeatedly punching L’Daijohnique Lee, a 25-year old black woman in her face, head, and upper body.  According to a police report obtained by WFAA, an ABC-affiliated television station licensed to Dallas, Texas, Shuffield asked Lee to move her car because it was blocking him in.  After Lee did so without contest, Shuffield approached the car to take a photo of the license plate. That’s when Lee told Shuffield, who was brandishing a gun, to step back or get maced.  Lee, rightfully fearing for her life immediately picked up her and began to dial 911.

“I got scared, I was like ‘you have a gun?’ The first thing I thought to do was call the police,” she said.

Footage caught on eyewitness Ricky Tan’s cellphone video shows an unprovoked Shuffield slapping the phone out of Lee’s hands to the ground. Lee appears to retaliate by shoving Shuffield, who then begins violently punching her over and over again.  Despite her pleas, Suffield continues attacking her.  After having punched Lee several times, Shuffield then kicks her phone out of reach.  Lee recapped the horrific attack, telling reporters:

“He charged at me, and he just kept hitting me, and I was like ‘ok, ok, ok’,” Lee told reporters.

The attack left Lee with injuries that include post concussion syndrome, cranial swelling,  and physical injuries to her face. Additionally, the 25-year woman is dealing with the emotional trauma sustained from the incident.

“Watching that video literally makes me cry. All I could do was try and protect myself,” she said. “He literally sat there and beat me like a man.”

Just days after the incident took place, rapper, actor, and grassroots social activist T. I. took to social media to express his disgust over the incident.  In his three minute long live video, T.I. indirectly poses the question to “so-called [black] ganstas” Where are black men in the fight against black women.  In his brief yet poignant statement T.I. calls out and calls on the “real certified street cats from Dallas” and  Dallas gangsta rappers Yella Breezy, Trapboy Freddy and essentially all black men in general asking:

“Why is it that a motha fucker that looks like you, and looks like me walk up to you and say something wrong or step on your shoe, you ready to handle your business…, but then somebody (in this case racist Neo-Nazi Austin Shuffield) threatens the women and children and the next generation of your heritage, of your lineage, of your race, and you ain’t gonna respond to that with the same opposition. How is [that] gangsta?”

Back in November, after a four month span of Trump targeting black women with white supremacist tropes like “Low IQ,” “nasty,” “losers,” “dogs,” “stupid,” he scolded a black female reporter during a news conference, chiding her with his ever infamous index finger (one of the noted signs of adult bullying) to “sit down.” In response to the incident, Courtland Milloy -Columnist for The Washington Post in his article Where are black men in the fight for black women?, posed the question that T.I. is now revisiting: Why aren’t more black men outraged into action?

At a news conference Friday, Next Generation Action Network member Olinka Green called for a protest on Saturday in Deep Ellum if Shuffield does not get charged with a hate crime or aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.  Passionately, yet with pain in her voice, Alexander fervently declares:

“We as black women, we as brown women, we cannot feel safe in our own city, when the very judicial system that is supposed to be sworn to protect us, let these people out; but I’ll tell you this, she goes further to proclaim: Austin Shuffield, wherever you at, you might get by but you can’t get away!”

Much like Milloy back in November, I’ve been searching social media and other outlets for signs of a concerted response by black men.  Such responses are scant.  What I have found in abundance are the following responses by black men to T.I.’s call to action:

Tecole Anderson – “They ain’t gone do shat…”

Stephen Furn- “Tip ain’t put nobody on from Dallas so he can’t speak for Dallas.”

Craig Natural-Selection Redmond – “I feel u TI but what about Kendrick Johnson in Valdosta Ga?  What about the ish that goes on in Ga?”

I did however, find a few responses that were in agreement with T.I.’s call to action; Cavan Ellis – Black man in Dallas it’s your responsibility to protect our black women our [out] there.” but no concerted collective response by black men to actually do something.

In 1962 Malcom X uttered these words that still ring true today:

“The Most disrespected person in America is the black woman.  The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman…”  He concludes by saying that a black man should be willing to “lay down his life to support and protect” the black woman.

In 2008 Min. Louis Farrakhan spoke to Hip Hop Artists about what it means to have respect for women. The speech took place at Justins Restaurant on T.I.’s home town Atlanta, GA.  During his speech Farrakhan makes the connection between how hip hop culture portrays black women (as bitches, whores, and as of recently thotianas), and the lack of protection provided by black men. Farrakhan further declares that:

“No people allow their women to be hurt and disrespected and they don’t come back with [something]. What kind of men have we become?”

It is now 2019 and it would seem that black men still have some soul-searching to do.  No one can deny that black men reap the most benefits of the well-being of black woman. Yet, when it comes to understanding why black men are paralyzed in their collective efforts of standing up and speaking out on behalf of black women, activists, celebrities, religious leaders, and scholars alike are perplexed.  Natalie Hopkinson, author, essayist, scholar, and professor at Howard University suggests:

“A lot of black men are just not hearing what black women are saying because they are too busy complaining about their own situation.  When it comes to really supporting black women, nobody has our back but us.” Countless black women on social media and across the nation are watching and waiting for black men to prove Hopkinson wrong.  In the meantime, rather than being charged with a felony for brandishing a weapon, Austin Shuffield has been charged with a misdemeanor, and was released on $1,500 bond.


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