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Root Work Journal - Navigating the Ocean - Volume 1, Issue 2

All Mermaids are Black

Teju Adisa-Farrar





I am a geographer, writer, poet, and facilitator. I am focused on environmental and cultural equity. Connecting the dots between issues by centering space, place and identity. Rooted in a politics of de- : decolonization, decentralization and decommodification. I look to historic Black geographies and urban ecologies, including: nature, activism, and art--to imagine alternative futures. I use speculative geography as a type of Sci-Fi to envision Black life after social death and in the wake of climate change. By submitting this piece, I hope to affirm this experimental process and extend my belief in the possibilities. 

"When the giant wave comes washing over our bodies

Black people will become mermaids, and indigenoous people will become


What will you become?"

Black people's connection to water is both an affirmation of life and a memorial of death. In Christina Sharpe's wake, Black life exists in the liminal space... on the currents left on the tops of water by ships. We have found our freedom in water, and have survived disaster by water. We live where the sea level is rising. Rather than understanding climate change as another form of destruction to Black life, what if we reimagine the middle passage as preparing us for life after the sea level rises and takes back the earth.

All Mermaids Are Black 

Two years ago, I heard a young scholar named Kali Tambreé ask: “when they jumped from the slave ships, where do they go?” This is a response. 

Some matter that ends up in the ocean settles to the sea floor as a form of sediment. Over time, this sediment becomes rock and may eventually—through pressure and temperature change—be pushed up above the surface again. When they jumped from the slave ships, they became the sea floor...or rather, returned to the seafloor to become the earth itself. In millions of years, we will know that continents are made up of fugitive Africans who jumped into the ocean to remap their freedom. 

In August of 1619, 20 Africans arrived at Point Comfort after being stolen by British Pirates from a Portugese Slave Ship, which originally stole them from Angola. Earlier than 1500, Portuguese colonists were in the business of stealing bodies from the continent of Africa and sailing them across water. On the coasts of the Americas lie Black communities, scattered there by slave ships. Just as soon as we were “imported,” we were fugitive.

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