“The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit.”

Proverbs 14:8, The Holy Bible (NIV)

The Black Aristocrats © 2017

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“Sometimes being carefree and Black is an act of revolution.”

Dear White People (Season 1, Netflix)

The Black Aristocrats © 2017

Tangerine Street

I grew up through Tangerine Street. Aptly named ’cause life was sweet.

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Tangerine Street Illustration by Nastassia Pratt

Waking up on school days to every other car on the street gassing up to take other kids to school. Rushing home to a hot dinner and changing quickly into yard clothes the minute my homework was done to race outside with my twin sister, little brother and big sister if we could drag her from her precious books. Life was sweet.

Dragging out bikes from the back and patching holes in the inner tube with tape so we can ride down the street and see if we can spot any other kids to race with.

It’s summer time. Is Aunty Ismae home? She’s just around the corner so we’ll ride over to beg some mangoes and drool as she brings out a bag full. How are we gonna bring them all back to the house on our bikes? We found a way.

My brother pulls out his water guns so we know what time it is. The hose is running all afternoon now (thank God for the well) and we’re running around the yard and into the street shooting each other in the back.  No mercy, we were heartless kids.

Someone remembered that we have a berry tree so mummy comes home to a bunch of sweaty, black bodies in her backyard looking guilty.  Those berries were too sweet mum, we had to share them.

Is Keisha home? We’ll say hi to her mum and hang out in her dad’s broken-down security car for an hour or two, or maybe until the sun sets.  Jokes are coming and laughter is all evening.

When did the sun set?  Who turned on the street lights?

That’s our big sister calling us inside.  We’re not ready yet and we tell her so with attitude. She threatens to call mummy. We jump out of the car real quick and wave goodbye to Keisha, Aunty Ismae, her mangoes and the kids running home with berry-filled tummies. We wave goodbye to Tangerine Street and holler “Tomorrow!”

The lights dim a little in response.  Just like us they’ll all be back tomorrow. Can’t wait.

Nastassia Pratt

Black Aristocrat

 

The Black Settler, Pioneer and Machine

“They say that we are free, only to be chained in poverty. Oh Lord I think it is illiteracy, ’cause only machine ah make money.” Slave Driver, Bob Marley

When I was younger I loved taking things apart. Little electronic devices, like radios and remote controls, and pulling apart the motor in order to rewire them to run little fans in each device. I didn’t know what I was doing at any given time and once the devices lay in pieces good luck getting them back together again, but I always seemed to know which wires would create a new machine, a conduit for a fan to spin or a new connection to see the tiny motor in another machine whir to life. I’d see these new things as my creations. I owned them and could do with them what I like. They worked at my pleasure. These new devices could not regress or progress into any one thing unless I said so and because I never put any of these devices back together again then in my mind, they will forever be my new creations and me the mad scientist.

Are you a black body? Then this may be what was expected of you in the past and is expected of you in the future, to be a machine.  As a machine there is no regression or progression, only the existence as a wealth generator for the pioneer or settler for whom you were engineered.  Because what is university if not a factory?  What I hope for is that more black bodies emerge on the other side of tertiary education unfinished and unspoiled Elon Musks, Steve Jobs or Oprah Winfreys, because somewhere during their journeys through academia they resisted conformity and the “norm”. They became pioneers.

The terms settler and pioneer were brought to my attention during a church service that I attended. Will you plant your flag two feet into your professional careers or will you pioneer into the promise land of your dreams and vision?  It’s years later and I still meditate on that pastor’s message, will I choose to be a settler or a pioneer? I’d never thought of myself in those terms before then or realized that I had a choice in the matter, settling is what I was taught, what I was trained to do. When I heard that message I was a young woman without a university degree working in a quasi-government institution hanging the art of dead and not-so-dead people on its walls for other Bahamians to celebrate. I was neither a pioneer or a settler. I was a machine until the moment I exhibited my own art works and watched them being celebrated (four incredibly blessed pioneer moments). I read about rich settlers and wealthy pioneers, I don’t know of any wealthy machines.

At the time I was beginning to ask questions of my world. This made sense as I was on hiatus from my North American studies, filled with knowledge if not intelligence. I asked questions of my mother but like so many of her generation, discussing the past was like pulling teeth without anesthesia. So I turned to my peers, or the few who seemed enlightened and curious, many of whom had no answers save one young man I worked with, he offered direction to some answers.  I remember one day we had a heated discussion about religion.  Like many discussions about religion it turned into a meandering philosophical conversation.  “How do you know that what you know is the truth?” he asked. “I just know! I have faith.” I replied. “You just know…” was his sarcastic response.  His instruction was to investigate, even the things that I’m “sure” about, like my purpose at that very moment at that very job.

I have many memories of being a machine with my guts lying all over the place and someone putting me together again to make all of me or a little part of me operate just the way they like. The perfect greeter, the perfect receptionist, the perfect sales associate, the perfect artist. Considering that there isn’t a soul on earth who can put me back together again just the way God made me, I’m not at all fond of anyone poking around my psyche, talents and intellect like a mad scientist for the purpose of their prosperity and detriment of my own.  How about you?

Black poverty is due in a large part to the above mentioned; to the creation and evolution of the Black machine. Black wealth will depend on the self-destruction of the Black machine, embracing of the Black pioneer and a vision for sustainable industrialization in every facet of society.  We have to start here, with vision, because without vision a people will perish, you can count on that.

Take a look through the 1767 lens of The Bahamian Slave Act of that same year [1].  This was one Slave Act of several.  Key to this act was that slaves were forbidden to trade or plant on their own accord. No individual, black, white or mixed race was allowed to trade with black slaves for fear of creating “black slave plantations” aka, black wealth.  If caught, a slave could be imprisoned, beaten or killed and whites could be fined or imprisoned.  Another term for this language is legislative racial oppression. Like the 19th Century Negro Jim Crow Laws you might ask? Yes, just like that but worse. Its very title distances its authors from acknowledgement of their subjects as human beings but as machines.

White British subjects and those loyal to the British Crown were dispatched to lands like The Bahamas in the late 16th Century for the main purpose of expanding British power and wealth.  Black slaves were never intended to be more than the machines used to facilitate this expansion. Many were called but few were chosen from among the subjects of Great Britain for this task and this was due mostly to a desire to keep it’s people for building industry in Great Britain. These dispatched British Europeans were the pioneers. I cannot remember a period in my life when my country (free of British rule since 1973) took such a stance for its people to remain behind while a chosen few were sent to “lay claim” to some industry for personal wealth and the growth and prosperity of The Bahamas.  The stance today is more along the lines of “Don’t go because we need you to work in our resort.”  The only industry there seems to be any interest in sustaining and building is tourism.  A fickle lover at best.

Is it possible that of the thousands of Afro-Caribbeans who attained higher education that there is not a single “Oprah Winfrey” in the bunch? Not a single “Steve Jobs”?

Perhaps it requires deeper investigation, because how can a people think to pull themselves into an expectancy of entrepreneurship and industrial wealth when they were intended to be used for wealth generation? How can they see that they are not machines but are in fact contributing members of the human race? The Black Race? A key individual to be considered in creating the wealth of their nation?  How can they believe this so that it comes as naturally as breathing?

Someone must tell them that very thing consistently and demonstrate it.  Then remove the red tape that we mummify other Blacks with.  (In my home country other races are not as quickly and efficiently road-blocked on the road to industry as blacks).

A voice has to call out in the wilderness and declare it. Words are often-time underestimated in day-to-day life but there are countless proverbs concerning the power of words and thoughts (#TheHolyBible).  We must create and declare a new act because the only acts I know of concerning black people and industry are the Slave Acts. I introduce a new Act for every man, woman or child of African decent. The Act of Man for Black Industry. An act that grants you, a black woman or child, permission to create and support industry. A new legislation among our own people, wherever you are and within our consciousness and sub-consciousness to create jobs, stir up industry, demolish the human machine factories and create think tanks and incubation centers instead for innovative thought and invention. Then when these innovators present well-thought out plans and ideas, support the hell out of them.

Sometimes a people have to be told “You now have permission” in order for them to believe that they are indeed free to act, to innovate. So I grant us, Black People, permission to move, to grow, to plant, to nurture and to harvest.  Whatever it is that you can add to our society to aid in its progress and prosperity, add it, share it, fight for it. You’re finally allowed.

I’ve heard talk of black people needing to be a mirror for other black people. Taking a step back, sometimes a person has to peer into a mirror so that they can see the machine parts that were fused onto their psyches.  Only then can those parts be removed because no one is letting a doctor near them unless they’re convinced that something is wrong.  Colonial Bahamas is over, look like it, act like it, and then reflect it.

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I believe that we are called for more than renting, we’re entitled to ownership.  We yearn to be technological innovators, not just to be consumers of it.  We are capable of not just importing over 80% if our food but of growing and fishing over 80% of our food.  We should be manufacturers for clothing companies, not just one of their largest markets.  We have permission now. We can do this. The Act of Man for Black Industry has been passed and every Black can now go forth and generate wealth and prosperity for our great, great grandchildren.

So the next time you feel overwhelmed by the weight of your desires and vivid dreams of getting up and out of Black poverty; whether financial, spiritual or psychological, remember this day.  July 12 2017, The Act of Man for Black Industry for all Afro Caribbeans was passed this day.

Nastassia Pratt

Black Aristocrat

 

References:

1. Craton, Michael, Saunders, Gail. Islanders in the Stream: A History of the Bahamian People. Volume 1: From Aboriginal Times to the End of Slavery. University of Georgia Press, 1992, Georgia, U.S.A.

The Black Aristocrats © 2017

 

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