.the call.

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Both a material and psychic map, the Underground Railroad contained and signified secret knowledge and secret knowledge sharing. These black geographies and travels remained secreted because disclosing the routes to the public would “close the slightest avenue” to black freedoms. The Underground Railroad was an emancipatory lifeline if untold/unwritten, and site of violence/death if told/written. A covert operation, which was developed through human networks rather than scientific/cartographic writings, the Underground Railroad illustrates how historical black geographies are developed alongside clandestine geographic-knowledge practices. These practices signaled that spaces of black liberation were invisibly mapped across the United States and Canada and that this invisibility is, in fact, a real and meaningful geography. The life and death of black subjects was dependent on the unmapped knowledges, while the routes gave fugitives, Frederick Douglass wrote, “invisible agency.” Continuing in a different direction, the middle passage is, obviously, not simply a theoretical concept: it is a body of water and time on a body of water, which is interconnected to black imaginative work and different forms of black politics and black travels and exiles. The meanings of the middle passage are simultaneously multiscalar and contextual. It is a geography that matters because it carries with it (and on it) all sorts of historically painful social encounters and all sorts of contemporary social negotiations.- Katherine McKittrick 

 

 

NAVIGATING THE OCEAN: On the surreal legacy of Black Life & Resistance in the 21st Century 

 

wade in the water

wade in the water children now
wade in the water

god's gonna trouble the water

In our inaugural journal, we gathered in the slave ship—the hold—and from it, conjured the ark of our remaking. 

 

wade in the water

wade in the water children now
wade in the water

god's gonna trouble the water

As our ancestors were forcefully dragged through the door of no return, our umbilical cord to Mama Africa was severed. We were flung out to sea to never return. Slavers attempted to eradicate all notion of who we once were by carving their narrative into our flesh. 

 

In their story, we are a fungible, puddy-like mass, drifting between continents—a non-people of no place, cruelly floating on the source of all life (water) while being denied our own. 

 

The journey across the Atlantic was intended to season and remake us.

 

But no person can ever tame the spirit or ‘master’ the cellular memory of our being. 

 

wade in the water

wade in the water children now
wade in the water

god's gonna trouble the water

 

Cast out into the depths, they attempted to kill our spirits, but the ocean initiated us into new ways and helped our ancestors forge new rhythms and radical visions of existing not tied to land, place, people, customs, or religion, but rather reinvention. 

 

wade in the water

wade in the water children now
wade in the water

god's gonna trouble the water

 

We create beauty out of chaos. 

 

We create life out of death. 

 

wade in the water

wade in the water children now
wade in the water

god's gonna trouble the water

 

Still, centuries after crossing the Atlantic, the slavers continue their quest to disintegrate, compromise, corrupt and employ our dreams, voices, rebellions, and very bodies as raw material to graft on top of Life itself, their own contorted vision of hierarchical huMan existence. 

 

We are living in the diseased edifice of hierarchal civilization - a world too heavy and destructive for even the Earth to sustain- created on the consumption, commodification and capitalization of Black life and death.

 

What has been the effect on us, as Black people, living in a dying world predicated on our own undoing?

 

Where do we find ourselves as this world violently contorts and struggles to take its final breaths?

 

wade in the water

wade in the water children now
wade in the water

god's gonna trouble the water

 

More and more each day, corporations, mass media, contemporary culture, and society at large proclaim their intentions to ‘atone’ for the past by overtly subsuming Black rage, rebellion, and wellness into their narratives. In a desperate attempt to remain in power, they want to incorporate us into their game. The want us to invest—to desire recognition as civilized huMANs and take part—in the devilish afterbirth of their colonization and conquest. 

 

wade in the water

wade in the water children now
wade in the water

god's gonna trouble the water

 

Root Work Journal invites you to wade in the water of our existence with this call to reflect on contemporary Black life after the hold. 

 

This special issue is an invitation to journey through the mucky, rotted fragments of civilization in order to unearth where we are // who we are // and what we’ve become // in the wake of the hold. 

 

This call is immersed in powerful spirit of the water; specifically, water’s ability to permeate our bodies, memories and experiences of time. By invoking the spirit of water, we invite you to step in to, or through, a medium offering more resistance than the air we breathe. To move or proceed with the difficult labor of now (our past/present/future) in search of freedom and the meaning of our existence beyond the confines of the predatory systems that brought us here. 

This call thinks through the limits of the so called human and envisions our kinship past the confines of this position. For as Black people have been deemed inhuman through bondage to police terror (Spillers, 1987; Wynter, 1994), we call for a refusal to reach towards a status of human and rather look to our non-human kin that continues to teach us how to move with, be taught through, and be of water (Gumbs, 2020). Thinking outside of the nomenclature of man reveals possibilities in a hierarchical standard of being that necessitates the subjugation of Blackness. 

 

This special issue is a meditation on the vast uncertainties of our ocean. It seeks to trouble the status of human and open us to the vastness of our ocean. Ultimately, this issue attempts to speak to the consumption and commodification of Black life in the 21st century. The issue calls out the moves to commodify Blackness and at the same time meditate on our strategies of fugitivity, maroonage, and creating worlds that are in opposition to the current state of being. To get there, we will take a deeper dive into these areas of Black life in the Americas: our lived realities, the capital exploitation of our existence, our moves towards rebellion, and the way we consume technologies. 

 

We call for papers, poems, meditations and writings that give life to these realities:

ADRIFT: Resisting the consumption and incorporation of Black life

 

CURRENT: Diving deep into the mediums of exchange and currency that fuels and funds our revolution

 

TORRENT: What does it mean to be grounded in the digital age? 

 

UNCHARTED: On the Unknown, Unarchived and Uncaptured

 

 

Curators for this special issue include: Jari Bradley, Nina Monet Reynoso, Tonesha Russell, Deaidre White 

 

For written entries, we ask that writers submit original pieces of work up to 10,000 words in length. (we prefer original pieces, but we are open to hosting work from journals that allow for concurrent submissions)

Suggested Lifeline: Friday, January 1st, 2021  

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© 2020 Root Work Journal