by Erin James
I grew up in the Northeast, a very specific mosaic of immigrant communities where the same English vowel can be stretched curled and clipped into a million dazzling tones. The rich peat moss that absorbs and transforms until it gives way concrete and center hall colonials muffling that holy cacophony. I grew up in one of those prized boxes eating cereal and watching Rugrats. There I remember learning the concept of an “old country.” It came rolling out of the TV in Tommy Pickle’s grandmas thick Yiddish accent.
There is no old country for me or at least no far off place a grandparent, a great grandparent or five times great grandparent could speak of. There’s no Ellis Island for some of us.
And that’s okay.
History unwritten isn’t history erased, it’s scattered and unbound and dances and twists and shouts; it makes mixtapes and says “on punishment.” It weaves rows in hairs and claps and skips. Sometimes it leaves traces and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s always there and rushes to fill the space when needed. No concrete can stop a thousand ghosts. African American is history in motion.