|Artwork by JerriAnne Boggis****|
The event today was the culmination of a long journey home, for thirteen (13) African slaves whose coffins were found under the streets of historic Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It was a momentous event when they were discovered, sometime in 2003, and after much to-do about what to do with the bodies inside the coffins (they had been dug up in the 1800s, and unceremoniously returned to their hiding place, to be found over a century and one-half later), they were sent to their proverbial home, the universe, this time, free of anonymity. A memorial will now stand on the street, where they will eventually be reburied--this time for good, in Spring of next year, when my novel will be available for publishing.
I came to New Hampshire as a caregiver to my mother who had lost her husband (2nd) of only 4 years. The day he died, in 2001, I hopped on a plane from California, where I was attempting to pursue a writing career, to be with my mother. I have not left her side since. Whereas I was born in Oberlin, Ohio, raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and lived over a decade in Washington, D.C. (Arlington, VA) -- I am now from Dover, NH (six miles from Portsmouth).
My creative juices were inspired by that historic Big Dig, so much so that I created a character, Lula Logan, a forensic anthropologist. I changed the setting, however, probably because it was too close to home: she is a Black female, single and childless, like me, navigating through life in a small town; however, not in New Hampshire, but in Louisiana (I came to learn that the connections between the two states is deeper than one would expect, but I digress).
My novel is not about the slaves, per se, but the people who came after them and our incarnation in the present day as a people free, but still enslaved.
Finally, my writing is over, at the same time, that these slaves have gone back home, into the universe. I feel my characters are free, too.
I must acknowledge the above-referenced artist JerriAnne Boggis, who is more than that: she is the Executive Director of the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail (also a champion of my writing efforts), who worked frenetically to make this event a truly one-of-a-kind event. That all people could commune with their ancestors the way I felt I experienced today. Thank you, JerrieAnne. You, Portsmouth's treasured historian, Valerie Cunningham, and Rose Downes, have created history in a big way. I feel honored to have been a part of it as a spectator.