Discuss: What Hangs on Trees
“In Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, the first widely acclaimed book to wholly examine the long-lasting impact of slavery on its heirs, Dr. Joy Degruy argues that America has yet to fully acknowledge this generational legacy.”
And for the most part they won’t. We’re all the children of heroic folks don’t you know. However it is healthy to have PTSS added to our lexicon.
Nevertheless you have written a thoughtful moving piece. Exploring the historically based dread we all live with in various ways is worth the effort.
I’ll know we have begun to look back at our history when we get rid of Christopher Columbus day because of what he really represents. And it wasn’t “discovering America” 12000 years late.
I am grateful for the hard and necessary brilliance of Glenis Redmond. Her essay troubles our sense of literary genres and expands them. Her voice is lyrical, her sensibility grounded in history. She insists that we listen and listen well. She asks us to examine and accept the rich and challenging complexity of our common American experience.
After hearing the reading, one of my students, Heidi Tornieri, wrote (in part) the following response:
Study of the Tree
Lead me where the body hung.
His survival was ignored so carelessly!
Memory is needed to circle his joy of living
and the truth behind anger past or present.
Together we care….
Thank you Glenis for this incredibly powerful and unflinching look at how nature reflects all our actions and history. One wonderful aspect of being in a larger community via technology is that our stirrings of understanding can suddenly appear in a much more evolved form, and we take a leap. Your writing does that for me. I wrote the poem below in 2009 about an incident that took place in Jena Louisiana in 2007. A noose was hung from an old oak tree on a high school campus…what happened before and after in the racially charged human world is a long story, but the old oak tree was cut down. Line breaks might not survive!
Indictment of an Oak
Jena, Lousiana, 2007
While seasons scrolled
the oak grew imperceptibly
until it found the fulcrum
of the elements, blind
roots whispering down,
glossy leaves lapping the sun.
Two nooses tossed up
and cinched made no crease
in the branch’s hide,
but on the ground
an arterial anger spurted,
Under hot lights and
charges of racism
white men sweating
in gray suits called
for chainsaws to fell the oak.
One branch and another,
the abiding trunk last,
so there could be no ceremony
under the wide horizon of canopy.
What was there to heal?
Now the nooses have the final word,
continuing the work of their
ancestors, the ones who
strangled bruised bodies,
and swung them in the wind.
I’m a white woman who has always loved the outdoors, and never occurred to me that trees, land and bodies of water could have associations with racist acts. I’m so grateful Glenis wrote this article; Orion was the perfect place to publish it.
I also want to mention that I’m awed by one of Glenis’ poems in the article, “Say Carolina.” It’s just a beautiful use of language and images, beauty and pain
Janet: Also white. Also outdoorsy. Also an admirer of Glenis. I take it as a sign of recovery though, that some places, at some times, the great outdoors are not quite as white as they used to be. “This land is made for you AND me.” Yet it remains that the outdoors is fraught with old horrors or is stigmatized in other ways for people of color and immigrants to this, their land.