Hey Clive Bundy, Freedom Beats Picking Cotton
Sooo…I heard about this rancher who was angry about not being able to graze on “his land,” (Let’s ask the Ute and Paiute and other First Nations about that claim…) and I was really disturbed that someone with some sort of ancestral or historical connection might lose their land or ties or livelihood-you know I kinda get passionate about that kinda stuff. I actually felt sorry for him-or at least based on first impressions I felt some sort of kinship or empathy.
I pick cotton every year if possible to remind me that my father and grandfather picked cotton, so did at least four generations before him. I’ve written extensively about the experience of picking cotton on this blog. It has a lot to do with food and how people were nutritionally, intellectually, spiritually and politically malnourished all in service to the King. I’m not nearsighted enough to claim that it was only African Americans who suffered from their service to his Majesty. Poor whites knew the life as well-especially after 1870-but certainly Black history was irrevocably changed when the American economy was kept in boom thanks to its exports of enslaved grown(free labor) cotton.
When I see comments like Mr. Bundy’s I am not angry nor bitter. I am emboldened to continue my work to see that food becomes a message of cultural and social justice for all-and to let every American and every other human know that my Ancestor’s story is a beacon of hope for all who as the Passover Haggadah says-“hunger for freedom.” Getting out of the Cotton Jail inspired Grandpa Will’s son, and that inspired my Father, and it inspires me. In fact, without Grandpa Will I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog post right now.
Read the whole thing here: Hey Clive Bundy, Freedom Beats Picking Cotton.
About Michael W. Twitty: I am a Judaics teacher and Culinary Historian focusing on the foodways of Africa, enslaved African Americans, African America and the African and Jewish diasporas.
Michael W. Twitty
For me, on an 80 degree plus day in Surry County, Virginia, I will brave sun, snakes, cotton burrs and mosquitoes to recreate a day’s labor on a cotton plantation. I will not have the benefit of real company, and as the pictures and videos we take will show, it will be a fairly lonely exercise. I cannot be a scholar of American slavery and African American foodways and not walk the walk..and that walk is leading me straight into a part of American history that so many would rather forget. My food will be a piece of cornbread, a biscuit, beef bacon and water. That’s it. I will work for 8 hours–sun to sun–although we are being flexible about that. I am going into the field to create a record—that in 2012, we still care, we still remember, we still understand how indebted we are to the 3.9 million antebellum enslaved people who laid a foundation-not only for wealth and progress, but also for resistance, struggle, freedom and democracy.