Pure VermontMar 17, 2014
Since october I have been mulling over and researching for a new documentary film project, with the working title "Pure Vermont: diversity in the 2nd whitest state". One question I have had to ask myself from the beginning is “why do I want to do this?” It has been hard to put a finger on the one "why" since there are so many “whys”. I think to top them all I want to find out who I am. How will I find out who I am by looking at diversity in Vermont? I am not originally from Vermont, although I have put down roots here my roots do not start here. I guess it all starts in childhood. I grew up in what I considered a predominantly Italian agricultural town in So. Jersey, and that is the beginning of my questioning. We identify ourselves partially by where we come from. The kids growing up could say “my Grandmother came over from Italy” “I am German on my mother’s side and half Scotish half French on my father’s side”. I was jealous. I was envious. Forchion, from my dad’s side is a slave name. Mitchell from my mom’s side is a slave name. Names given to my ancestors by their owners, former owners or chosen from the names of prominent land barrens. For most of my life my mother and so many cousins have been researching our origins on the Mitchell side only to reach a dead end where the census records only list numbers of negroes male, female, adult, child. A dead end where there is no bill of sale. As far as I know my ancestry begins when one of my ancestors miraculously had a name. That ancestor may or may not have known where they came from. I was greatly offended in the early 90’s when someone decided that I was now African - American. Up until that time I had filled in the check box Negro, Black, Afro - American.
Africa and America are two very large continents. I so wanted a village a piece of land a home a place that I could come from. I would be acceptable to narrow it down to a country Ghana, Mali, Senegal, Cameroon somewhere to root my ancestral tree. Along with this rooting I have wanted to know the myths, fables, rulers and fools of my ancestry. We were not taught about African Kings and Queens in school. Egyptian kings and Queens did not count they were always depicted as white in the text books, I could not relate. I want my kids to know that I am looking for their roots. My bi-racial children can track their maternal lineage as far as they want. I would like to give my children a sense of belonging and moreover a sense of belonging here. I don’t want my kids to simply answer Forchion is a slave name. I want them to know when that name became ours.
My documentary Pure Vermont: diversity in the 2nd whitest state is really not about diversity at all it is about inclusion. I no longer want to be excluded because I am Black, African -American, Negro, Native American, Chinese, Thai or wherever my people come from. I want stories of my ancestral Kings and Queens to become our stories. I want to know why someone hates my brown skin, my curly hair, or my brown eyes, I may not change that person but I may change how I approach that person. I want to have no need for Equal Opportunity Employment, no need for Affirmative Action, no need for coalitions for Fairness and Diversity. I want to find a new way to define “Us”, all of us, with honor and dignity.