“What we now know as Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” in the immediate aftermath of the U.S. Civil War. It was a tradition initiated by former slaves to celebrate emancipation and commemorate those who died for that cause.
These days, Memorial Day is arranged as a day “without politics”—a general patriotic celebration of all soldiers and veterans, regardless of the nature of the wars in which they participated. This is the opposite of how the day emerged, with explicitly partisan motivations, to celebrate those who fought for justice and liberation.” – Ben Becker
i came across this article on the origins of Memorial Day being rooted in an African American holiday called Decoration Day which remembered Black soldiers who fought in the Civil War. The article was called The Revolutionary Origins Of Memorial Day And It’s Political Hijacking – A day celebrated for Black liberation used for white supremacy. i found the article on a blog that i follow called Moorby’s which focuses on issues from a Nu-Afrikan perspective. The article was written by Ben Becker and was originally posted on the web site Liberation News which is put out by the Party for Socialism and Liberation.
After reading the article i was inspired to create the piece of art that is at the top of this post. i call it Who WIll Visit My Grave On Decoration Day. It’s a digital triptych that in a way tells a story from left to right. It begins with a recruitment poster targeting former Black slaves into the Union Army who will then be segregated into Colored Regiments. The center is a photo of a Black Union Army soldier posing with his pistol. The marked grave in the final third of the triptych is of an unknown colored soldier. From left to right the story of Black soldiers in the Civil War is told.
Incorporated into the triptych are two images of lynchings of Black men hung and swinging from trees with the confederate flag and the then Union Army flag imposed over them. The Civil War may have ended slavery but the vestiges of racism still haunt us, whether you be in the North or in the South, whether the flag be Confederate or American there is no escaping the ongoing nightmare that is racism in this country.
And for those who are reading this and confused as to how we can still have racism in America with a Black President look no further than the NYPD’s Stop And Frisk policy which targets non-whites 85% of the time. Or the complexities of the Trayvon Martin case. A Latino male racist treated by the police as a white male because he was doing the work of white supremacists.
The final element in the piece is the type FATHER SON HOLY GHOST that both cuts across the center and unifies each section of the triptych. The concept of a triptych always brings to mind the Christian trinity for me. It’s something you can find a lot in my work as a filmmaker and in my writing and even in my art. The idea of the trinity is that the FATHER is America, where this particular brand of slavery and racism begin.
America the FATHER gives birth to the layered and complex SON of slavery and racism. That SON is burdened with not only with being the object of hatred but is also forced to undo the damage of that hatred as this Black Union soldier did. The sad part of it all is that this tyrannical destiny we are locked into will eventually kills us making us a restless HOLY GHOST that haunts the present and potentially haunts the future with the work that goes undone in undoing racism. It’s a HOLY GHOST because as the saying goes… ‘Disobedience to tyranny is obedience to god’…
The final element of the triptych is the flowers placed on the grave. Decoration day was a day set aside by Blacks to tend to the graves of those who sacrificed everything to end slavery and to decorate those graves with flags and flowers. The Decoration day served as a reminder of those who sacrificed everything so that the next generation would be free from the burden of being haunted by these vestiges of slavery. Instead of that happening Decoration Day becomes Memorial Day and it’s origins are diluted into an attempt to forget the shame that if America would stop denying would lead to true and complete emancipation. Both for the oppressed and the oppressor…
Shortlink: – http://wp.me/p1eniL-KT