The Black residents of Lowndes County—over 70% of the population—are (still) beholden to the priorities and interests of White landowners, who now control their futures from faraway cities, rather than from plantation estates next door.
The Black towns didn’t have the infrastructure. I think White Hall should’ve had the infrastructure more than 30 years ago by virtue of where it was located. And it could’ve thrived with that infrastructure in place.
Black folk of a certain age, with left-of political leanings, respond in specific ways to mention of Lowndes County, Alabama. There’s the slow knowing nod, the lean-forward, the sudden exclamation, as though I’d brought an old friend into the room.
Whether or not they still live in those places, their relationship to them is stubborn, tender. They rely on these places not only because they hold life memories, but also because they carry ideas of who they are, and whence they came.
Our collective freedom is bound up with the eradication of racial hierarchy, which from its inception has placed Blackness at the very bottom, and has been utilized for the collective exploitation of workers and poor folk of all races. I believe that when all Black lives flourish, all lives will flourish.
If folk had come last night wanting a war, there would have been one, especially after the shooting. Instead, people chanted, sang, danced, and supported one another. They stopped one man from getting into a fight with a White guy who had been throwing fireworks, allegedly in solidarity. Someone yelled—"that's not what we're here for."
For two weeks, our Studio South Zero sat in West End just beyond the shade of a massive nut tree, in between a 148-year-old church and the even older graves of former slaves, buried a second time in a small wooded area.
Brenda Wilson, now a long-time resident of North Carolina, remembers summer Saturday block parties growing up in her North Philadelphia neighborhood. There was good food, music, and dancing. But before that, there was community street maintenance.
Newly emancipated Blacks laid the cornerstone of the Mebane First Presbyterian Church in 1868, in the community that became West End. The brick building gave visibility and permanence to Black tradition, to Black placemaking. To Black power.