The Genesis of Independence Blues

Apr 14, 2022 by W. B. Garvey
      In my previous post Who Are We … Really? I challenged David Brooks’s thesis that America is Falling Apart at the Seams by examining how the country’s dehumanizing conception of Race fosters cultural schisms that can both distort and reconstruct black identity. My three upcoming entries will explore the conflicting aspects surrounding identity and their impact on Independence Blues.

The Genesis of Independence Blues

      It is often said, disingenuously, or perhaps even, wishfully, that a child does not distinguish humans by color; when, in fact, what he does not see in his tender years is Race. In writing Independence Blues I recalled the events that exposed me to the afflictions born of America’s foundational sin and how they dispelled the illusion of my ‘idyllic’ childhood in 1950’s Los Angeles. I showed how this country’s Race obsession had quietly deformed my parents’ marriage even as they strained to surmount it and shield me from the barbs of prejudice. Working on Independence Blues, I came to understand the personal, socio-historical and political reckonings inflaming their conflict and what ultimately compelled my father to abruptly abandon the lives we had built in California. Perhaps, most painful of all, I realized how a three-day journey from Los Angeles to Miami fractured a nine-year-old boy’s carefully nurtured sense of self.

      In the Souls of Black Folk opening chapter: Of our Spiritual Strivings, W.E.B. Dubois describes the African-American’s ontological dilemma:

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world.

    It is that dilemma, the constant struggle to be seen as human, and its diverging effect on my parents that saw my father’s fear for his son scuttle my mother’s determined pursuit of happiness in her beloved California and return us to their newly freed native Jamaica.