Independence Day. July 4, 1776. Independence for European Americans for slavery in America was not abolished for almost another 100 years. 1865. Not actually official until 1872. It's only come to my attention in the last ten years or so, along with Black women being dismissed in this Establishment. We, the African, Caribbean, Indigenous, live in a hostile environment. We had better chances living in harmony with the natural world for upwards of 10,000 years. Let's be frank, slavery built human civilization, the world economy. With the inception of agriculture we gained the ability to feed and sustain our prisoners of war, whereas before agriculture we had to kill them because we didn't have enough food. So technically, slavery was an evolutionary step forward. A conundrum to be sure.
Old world slavery - African, Asia, Europe, had avenues to freedom. Cash, years of service, manumission to name a few. American slavery sought to strip the slave of any of these options, reducing human beings to animals. If the white man is truly superior, why would he have to pass laws against education and voting for people of color? And what was all the fuss. Why were these - now accepted millions of black bodies needed for the industry? Not food crops but, except for cotton's practical use, luxury items for the European wealthy - sugarcane and tobacco. No nutritional value whatsoever. Items grown to satiate vice.
Cotton (Gossypium hirsutum, G. barbadense, G. arboreum, G. herbaceum, Malvaceae, Shrub, Temperate and tropical Turtle Island, South America, India and Pakistan, southern Africa, Arabian Peninsula). We can make a case for the idea of one's Plant Family, those plants that come to us as allies, Cotton being found all over the world. Cotton is spun into fiber and no doubt make's up one's favorite t-shirt. Cotton has been spun into cotton for over 2500 years. The seeds are pressed for cottonseed oil which is edible. Gossypol, found in untreated seed oil may be a source of hormones and a male contraceptive. Gossypol is also antiviral and antibacterial and eases menstrual pain. Seed hairs from G. herbaceum make cotton wool. Bark root tea infusion can be used to trigger menstruation and contractions during birth and abortion. It is a traditional method of birth control for the indigenous who grow the plant. Cotton root bark infusion can also be used to facilitate labor. Used with other herbs such as Witch Hazel or Lady's Mantle, the tincture of Cotton root bark can be used for postpartum hemorrhage. Cotton is the only Mallow family plant with poisonous properties. Use only with the aid of a professional. The manager of a friend's community garden grew Cotton at the gate so everyone could have the opportunity to see the plant. I think I will grow Cotton next season, just to see it.
There is a prickle in the Cotton ball that made it painful to pick with human hands, but with the invention of the cotton gin those human hands were necessary for production. The cotton gin was said to be invented by Eli Whitney (1765 - 1825), who may have borrowed the idea from a comb used by slaves and a woman, Catherine Greene may also have had input. Slaves were not entitled to patent inventions. cotton was simultaneously domesticated in India and Peru 5000 years ago. The first appearance of a cotton gin is from the 5th century C.E. in India. It was introduced to America mid 18th century but was more suited for long-staple cotton rather than short staple cotton which was what was grown in America.
Sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum, Graminae, Perennial, S.E. Asia). I grew up with Sugarcane because my parents are from the Caribbean. The influx of Caribbeans to America began in the 1940's since colonialism was drawing to a close and folks needed jobs. The Caribbean diaspora encompasses the Caribbean, Europe (England and France (Spain for Latin America)) and America. My parents ended up in Miami looking for that tropical climate that reminded them of home. My father is from Dominica, my mother is from Guyana, both English colonies, which is why they met, married and had my three brothers and I. Dad returned home annually until his mother passed on, Mum never returned to Guyana. Because of the number of Caribbeans in America, especially New York, there are whole grocery stores that carry our traditional crops - callaloo, codfish, root vegetables, yucca, to name a few. Dad said he used Sugarcane like a toothbrush as a child. So it can be said for colonialism, that it meant finding viable crops around the world and exploiting whole countries with the similar climate to produce those crops. In Asia, Sugarcane is used in Thai fish stews, the stem juice is used as a drink. Of course our use of Sugarcane is for brown and refined white sugar with the byproducts yielding mineral rich molasses, syrup and rum. Cane sugar is a preservative. Cane juice can soothe asthma symptoms and is expectorant. It is applied to wounds and boils in Asia and along with the root is diuretic. Stem residue produces ethanol. Along with the now consumption of high fructose corn syrup, responsible for obesity and diabetes in America.
Tobacco (Nicotium rustica, N. tabacum, Solanaceae, Annual or Biennial, N.E. Argentina, Bolivia) Used for millenia by North and South American native tribes in ceremony and poultice on sprains, infected cuts and bites. The juice is applied topically for facial neuralgia and wet leaves used for hemorrhoids. In recent years, I have spent lots of time in native ceremony marveling that this precious plant used for ceremony has been exploited creating a crippling habit akin to heroin addiction destroying countless individuals health in the process. Poetic justice I suppose.
So division in America has real historical content. Yes we love America, but some of us for its definition as a white country and some of us for its definition as a melting pot. To be sure, we are the one country in the world that encompasses every other and America wold not exist without the contribution of all its citizens.
Marc was home for four days for the Fourth of July. Our local fireworks occurred the Saturday before. I have not been eager to attend as much anymore now that I know what I know. I spent the 3rd in the community garden weeding Beets and Kale harvesting for my first pot of greens for the season. The 4th morning was spent negotiating the future of Flora Jones Garden as her relatives and friends DO NOT like its wild look. July 5, I weeded Skullcap at Hiddenbrooke. My father said many years ago when Reagan was elected "it doesn't matter who is in the White House, I still have to work two jobs." The summer has begun and the holidays are upon us, but I still have my daily weeding, watering and harvesting, welcome meditation as we navigate our new challenges. For me it certainly helps to look back and recognize the history that gets us here. Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it? Or does history repeat itself? Or is history simply the tyrant's playbook?