This is an old post not about Black History, specifically, but very much a part of our history:
Languages are not only made of the words that we speak, but also, and perhaps more importantly, they are made of the ways that we think, and languages also shape the ways that we think. From ways that grammar places action, object, and subject of a sentence, to ways that the articles and forms of negation which exist, or do not exist in a given language, accustom us to listening for different inflections, learning more than one family of languages teaches us that communication involves more than just words, it involves gestures. Some gestures, like tilting the head, are physical, and other gestures, like opening the hand, are both physical and spiritual. The spiritual gesture being made by one city hearkens back to the language of the Bible: Patach, tiftach… Open, you shall open (your hand)…
In the Abrahamic cultures of the western world, the entire basis of justice is contained in these reiterated verses of a book seen as foundational to many, and used as the basis of conversation between many people in the western world. These verses, the open hand always followed by the release from debt and servitude, say in the richest and plainest of language, that slaves are to be released not empty-handed, after seven years, but with sustenance. Now, one city is looking at how these values were overlooked for far longer than that. This gesture may not go far enough, but it is a very promising start, in terms of the needed assumption of responsibility for the systemic issues which continue to plague the Black community of the USA for the many years since “slavery ended” on paper, but not in fact. May this step stir other cities, states, and nations to continue this process, and move all of us toward learning the languages of Mutual Respect, Truth, and Reconciliation.
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