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Black People Resisting Bans Over the Years

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For, "Playing Mas in the Caribbean as a Ghanaian Canadian," and other projects I'm [slowly] working on, I've been reading about the history of the theft and enslavement of Black African peoples brought to places like Turtle Island, or what is now known as the United States, Canada, and parts of the Caribbean, including Trinidad and Barbados.

The literature speaks of resistance on the part of the enslaved. They fought back and said no to what was happening to them. In, "Acts of Resistance: Black Men and Women Engage Slavery in Upper Canada, 1793-1803," Dr. Afua Cooper, Ph.D. shares how on some plantations, the Africans would sabotage things around the property on purpose, ruining machines, and making themselves unable to work temporarily.

In, "Losing our Masks: Traditional Masquerade and Changing Constructs of Barbadian Identity," Dr. Marcia Burrowes talked about how in Barbados during slavery, drums were banned, and drumming made illegal. They feared that back in Africa, drums were used as communication, especially during times of war. They didn't want an uprising or revolt, so they used the Slave Consolidation Act to ban drums. The Africans would make drums anyway. They would beat their drums to their heart's content. They took it underground and still snuck out of the plantation to meet up with others down the road.

During The Highway Act in Barbados, which banned anyone from marching on the highway in a procession, people still took to the streets anyway. When Carnival was banned, masquerades still took place. They even created Mr. Harding in Barbados, where they stuffed a suit jacket and dress pants to mimic a man which they placed on stilts and burned. This represented them burning their overseers and owners. When they made wearing masks illegal, guess what happened, the Black Africans went ahead and risked getting caught wearing their masks anyway!

All to say, this is what they do. They weaponize the law to bend it in their favor. They make it illegal for us to be who we are. They ban what for us is natural, normal, and blessed. We still do us anyway. For a long time resistance has been in our DNA. That’s how our ancestors stayed.

I have to pause and say that not everyone was as rebellious. There were those, who as Harriet Tubman said, could have been saved, if they wanted to be saved. Like we have Clarence Thomas’ in today’s world, there were those who did not want to ruffle feathers or rock the boat. You had those who learned that abiding by the rules meant survival. They played by the books and avoided trouble to stay alive. It wasn’t worth risking their lives to “act bad.”

I started listening to the Slow Burn podcast yesterday presented by Slate and Joel Anderson. Season 8 is all about Clarence Thomas. Today I listened to episode 2 which talks about affirmative action, and how he benefited from it, leading up to him striking it down today at the Supreme Court level.

He was very bitter about getting into Yale and being accused of only being there because of his race. I’m only on episode 8, but it seems he changed a lot. From protesting on the streets, and leading Black campus clubs, to advocating for Black men protecting Black women.

His story, his personality, his ideologies, they seem familiar. He was raised Catholic so that brand of conservative is something we have in common. From certain negative experiences he had because of his skin colour, I already know those make some of the best conservatives. The episode ended by saying that him being a Black Republican didn’t ruin his career, if anything, it helped make him as powerful as he is now.

This is why we’re going to see more and more Black men switching over to the Republican side. If success, money, and power are what you want, without caring about where you came from. If you blame your sister for being on welfare rather than taking steps to help advance her, as others have given you free hand-outs. He’s not the type to beat a drum if a white man in power says not to. I’m remembering the level of fear and intergenerational trauma it must take to remain docile and complacent. I’m apathetic and give up often. Only, my excuse now is, I’m tired. Which I am.

I'm thinking about this today, as the Supreme Court does what it does. Using the legal system to push agendas, irrespective of what side they are on.

Make and beat your drum anyway.

Just know there are consequences and a hard price to pay for it sometimes, including death. Those who came before us risked it all for where we are today. It's so sad seeing patterns repeat themselves as bans get enacted and things that once protected people get struck down. I dream of a world where there aren't any casualties for resisting what is demonic and unjust.

Until next time, in solidarity.

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