The hood kids had it right. In the americas, the forced removal of our African and Native languages was a step in erasing our history. The identity of communities of color have been eroded by a corrupted narrative. We have bent some under the weight of corrosive imagery and bias judicial policy, but we are not broken. This series of installations is part of our response.
The objective of this movement is to contribute to the reshaping of our identities through public art and performance. The name of this movement is Sunu Gaal. The phrase means "Our Boat" in a language native to Western Africa, specifically Senegal. Though the participating neighborhoods are often many miles apart, the residents in each location have a shared experience and struggle. Within that context, these expressions of sound, movement, structure and color are a culmination of our collective revolution.
The power of language cannot be overstated. In the absence of our original tongues, linguistics has covertly operated as a device of abuse. Nearly half of the Africans forcibly brought to the United States came from Senegambia – a part of present day Senegal. Wolof is a language spoken in Senegal and surrounding areas. This work was installed on the street where a lone Negro gunman victoriously battled several police officers. It uses a tongue indigenous to West Africa to translate a colloquialism used in our community.
by Sarah Pruitt
Though exact totals will never be known, the transatlantic slave trade is believed to have forcibly displaced some 12.5 million Africans between the 17th and 19th centuries; some 10.6 million survived the infamous Middle Passage across the Atlantic. Though descendants of these enslaved Africans now make up considerable segments of the population in the United States, Brazil and many Caribbean islands . . . .
Our communities have stories of heroism and rebellion. We should embrace those stories and pursue courage unapologetically. This piece was affixed on the South Bronx apartment where approximately nine police officers forcibly entered a residence to apprehend a suspect; a gun battle ensued. The negro gunman shot and wounded nearly all the police officers while escaping unharmed. He was later acquitted after being charged with the attempted murder of those police officers.
by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage — And have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white. — James Baldwin Son, Last Sunday the host of a popular news show asked me what it meant to lose my body. The host was broadcasting from Washington, D.C., and I was seated in a remote studio on the Far West Side of Manhattan. A satellite closed the miles between us, but no machinery could close the gap between her world and the world for which I had been summoned. . . . .
A Black military veteran of Miami was chased and brutally beaten by four white police officers. The aftermath of those events and acquittal of those officers resulted in the 1980 Miami race riots. Starting at the Downtown Miami Metro Justice Building, the riots concentrated in Liberty City, Black Grove, Overtown and Brownsville. With the police cornered and overwhelmed by sniper fire and rampant reprisals, the governor sent in nearly 4000 National Guard troops to quell the uprising.
The notion of freedom is these communities is hindered by a multitude of factors, many unconscious, fueled by covert and caustic messaging. This series presents itself as a contrasting narrative, roused by the high speech of the Douglass broadside originally written as a “call to arms” for a people teetering on the edges of freedom. Today communities of color are instead covertly shackled to an existence that offers few options. Too often, productive dialogues about the most disenfranchised segments of the community take place in safe spaces far and away from the very peoples being discussed. And yet, the folklores of these communities are used to fuel profits and further dismantle African identities.
Transcript of speech by Frederick Douglass
He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study . . . .
The Jamaican Maroons are a group of former captives in the seventeenth century who were able to establish free communities in the mountainous interior and eastern parishes of Jamaica. They were a part of two wars for their freedom. The Windward Maroons and the Cockpit Country participated in the First Maroon War. This was resolved by government treaties from which the european aristocrats soon backtracked. The Second Maroon War involved the Leeward Maroons who eventually found their way to Freetown in present-day Sierra Leone. This installation was inspired by those stories and the brewing conflict for authority over Colored bodies globally.
In repurposing these land movers as musing of a coming cerebral mutiny, I am interested in the conversation sparked within the laborers who participate. It is important to understand how your labor in key to this displacement. Seemingly necessary for survival, the blue-collar colored feels the conflict no matter how deeply layered. He or she, in exchange for paper dreams, is part of an equation of disenfranchisement. Though the necessity feels unavoidable, there are lessons that can adjust this equation.
Construction vehicles are a symbol of upheaval. In marginalized communities these large movers of land and debris are often a precursor to gentrification. Residents are conflicted. Intuitively they understand that those vehicles represent something new and the building of an alternative future. They also understand that that future is not meant to include them.
Transcript of speech by Frederick Douglass
I congratulate you, upon what may be called the greatest event of our nation’s history, if not the greatest event of the century. In the eye of the Constitution, the supreme law of the land, there is not now, and there has not been, since the 1 st day of January, a single slave lawfully deprived of Liberty in any of the States now recognized as in Rebellion against the National Government. In all these States Slavery is now in law, as in fact, a system of lawless violence, against which the slave may lawfully defend . . . .
In the midst of the most sought-after blocks in Manhattan stands the Fulton Houses and the Chelsea-Elliot housing projects. They exist in contrast to the gangs of wealth who barely notice or acknowledge their presence. As a stark example of gentrification, I felt that this setting would be a suitable inaugural location for this series of work.