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While searching the Internet for images of Africans photographed in the late 1800s to 1930s, I recalled visiting the Getty’s photo exhibition of African-American slaves, and the strange incident that occurred.
The ocean glittered like bath crystals along the Pacific Coast Highway, and the sun was sticking out its chest that afternoon. Although it was bustling inside the exhibition room, I could scrutinize all the photographs without an irritant pressuring me to move along.
I observed that despite my ancestors' enslavement, raggedy clothing, heavy workloads, and disgraceful treatment, a deep self-esteem and magnificent dignity oozed from them as well as a blazing determination within their dark brown orbs from another world.
Although an enslaved man, woman, or child couldn't express outrage toward their owner, however, their black and gray wooly hair whether tucked beneath headcloths or hats, knotted into small clusters of balls as if yarn, braided, or running amok like the leaves on green onions certainly did.
While viewing a photo of a pre-teen black girl standing beside a little blond girl, I suddenly felt myself floating through the glass frame. After that, I was standing near the girls. The sun was burning my skin and the dark green grass glowed like a dark green emerald. I stared at the children and they peered back at me. A moment later, I was back at the Getty's exhibition room, and the coolness of the air-conditioned room soothed me.
Did I imagine myself on the plantation? Or was I transported there? I don't know. It’s quite unsettling how the mind stores traumatic or unusual events for years. And the incident bubbles up, or becomes uprooted by the senses, or by someone’s comments, or a routine activity.
If or when an ancestor from the other side of a picture frame or computer screen asks me, "How does it feel to be free?" I will say, "There’s a constant gnawing the rug will be yanked from beneath your feet."
I left the Getty Museum in Malibu teary-eyed.
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I'm I. Cowthern -- I enjoy watching old black and white movies and listening to jazz, pop, rock, R&B, and classical music.