The Grace of Black Folk: Notes on Ubuntu Democracy


  • Johari Jabir


The Mississippi River holds the songs of my people: of how some of us were betrayed and sold back there, while others of us were scattered across a vast somewhere, and how none of us is welcomed anywhere, except where fugitives dare. No fugitive has ever survived by coincidence. The artful genius of the fugitive’s survival has entailed making quilts out of fragments, forging the belonging that can be found in exile, and listening to the songs of the river, those dark winding melodies in mysterious meter. Black poet laureate Langston Hughes wrote of hearing the river sing when Abraham Lincoln made the journey to New Orleans. The songs of the river summon the Sankofa bird, whose presence in our midst is a grace, an invitation for all of us to journey back into the past, to pause and wonder at how we made it over.