The Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission’s (CCPRC) McLeod Plantation Historic Site on James Island introduces a new five-part poetry, lecture and dialogue series on March 7. Called Ukweli: Searching for Healing Truth, the events feature poet and writer Horace Mungin and are held select Saturdays this spring.
Ukweli is Swahili for “truth.” Mungin will read his poetry at McLeod Plantation Historic Site, a setting where many enslaved African Americans lived and worked. The poetry readings will be followed by discussions with guest black scholars and authors who will contextualize the poems. Radio host Osei Chandler will moderate the discussions.
The first event, “A Dark Darkness,” will be held Saturday, March 7. Each event is held from 1- 2:30 p.m. and focuses on a different selection of poems. The events are free to the first 50 participants, and thereafter free with park admission ($15 per person). No pre-registration is required. Ukweli: Searching for Healing Truth is made possible by CCPRC’s non-profit partner, the Charleston County Parks Foundation, and the generous support of The Joanna Foundation.
The event series and its themes are as follows:
March 7: A Dark Darkness
The poems “Khadija” and “The Lashing of Patsey of Bayou Boeuf Plantation” recall the Atlantic Slave Trade and the brutal treatment allotted to Africans after arrival. In this exploration, led by author Herb Frazier, it is revealed how slave labor built the American economy that privileged so many generations of white Americans.
March 28: Black Women in History
The poem “Ain’t I a Woman” borrows its title from Sojourner Truth’s famous 1855 speech. Black women are often portrayed as assisting black men in directing the struggle for emancipation and equality; however, history reveals black women as leaders in the black liberation struggle. Dr. Karen Meadows shows how women did not need to be convinced to aid men in the struggle; rather, they initiated resistance on their own.
April 11: The Dehumanization of Africans in America and Jim Crow
The poem “America” addresses the long history of race in America and “Jim Crow” discusses how government institutionalized inequality. Historian Damon Fordham will explore how many white people reconciled the conflict slavery and Jim Crow presented to a democracy where all are purported to be equal, and how many whites convinced themselves African people were sub-human to justify enslavement and later subjection to second-class citizenship.
April 25: The Bible and the Rope
In 1919, America was in the grips of deadly violence. Mostly initiated by whites, it erupted in cities across the country, including here in Charleston. Mungin’s “Red Summer of 1919” and Imam Hakim Abdul Ali explore how mobs, terrorists, civic organizations, law enforcement, and the justice system have used tools like the Bible and rope to oppress, intimidate and harm black people.
May 16: Establishing the Literary Link
The poem “God’s Pen in Their Hands” presents black women who applied the power of the pen to resist and oppose the oppression and unequal treatment of black people. Yvette Murray will illustrate how black women were often the leading literary voices during many of the crucial periods of racial conflict and turmoil such as the lynching and civil rights eras.
CCPRC opened McLeod Plantation as a public county park and historic site in 2015. Located on James Island, McLeod Plantation Historic Site is a former sea island cotton plantation and an important 37-acre Gullah-Geechee heritage site carefully preserved in recognition of its cultural and historical significance. After years of careful research and restoration, the historic site today is a living tribute to the men and women who persevered in their efforts to achieve freedom, equality and justice. Visitors embark upon an in-depth exploration of the lives of those people whose stories are essential to understanding Charleston’s complex past and helped shape who we, as a nation, are today.
For more information on McLeod Plantation Historic Site, visit CharlestonCountyParks.com/McLeod or call 843-795-4386.