The Root of Our Trouble (Né à Nouveau)

A child cannot, thank Heaven, know how vast and how merciless is the nature of power, with what unbelievable cruelty people treat each other. He reacts to the fear in his parents’ voices because his parents hold up the world…

The Root of Our Trouble (Né à Nouveau)

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A child cannot, thank Heaven, know how vast and how merciless is the nature of power, with what unbelievable cruelty people treat each other. He reacts to the fear in his parents’ voices because his parents hold up the world for him and he has no protection without them.’ — James Baldwin, ‘Letter from a Region in My Mind’ (1962)   My parents were both born and raised in the south; my father enlisted in the Army enabling him to travel. I believe this contributed to his bitterness once returning to the US. European travel accompanied by the daily struggle of military service and taking care of a family because much like Rufus in Baldwins, Another Country, he pined for a career as a Jazz musician. My mother had a 4th-grade education and suffered from mental illness; she had a challenging, painful life, mostly working as a domestic or home health aide to the elderly. I know very little about my mother; I do know she was old enough to remember sharecropping on tobacco farms. My mother also suffered from the patriarchy; my father would not allow her to have her own bank account.   The world they raised me in was troubled, harsh, filled with anguish, judgment, physical and sexual abuse, along with disturbing ideas about race. Music, books, people, art and theatre, I believe with all my heart, saved me from madness and my harrowing adventures in Christianity, other religions, drugs, and alcohol, and, as Baldwin put it, “my sexual career.”Baldwin writes in THE FIRE NEXT TIME, “I did not intend to allow the white people of this country to tell me who I was and limit me that way, and polish me off that way” I did not allow my upbringing and experiences to “finish” me off that way either. I’m grateful to those before me, beside me, and in front of me for safe passage in this realm. I try with all my heart to create work that allows others the freedom to think and create for themselves. THE GOSPEL OF JAMES BALDWIN EMPLOYS GIFTED AND TALENTED HUMANS; IT ALLOWS FOR A FAIR WAGE, COMMUNION WITH OTHERS, AND THINGS UNSEEN.     Baldwin writes …”there seems to be no way whatsoever to remove this cloud that stood between them and the sun, between them and love and life and power, between them and whatever it was that they wanted. Baldwin gave me language for my brokenness, allowing healing and understanding to not only the personal but an account of how the systems at work made it hard for my parents even to begin to raise a resilient human ready to engage with life. 

– Meshell Ndegeocello

the root of our trouble (Né à Nouveau)

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.”

story Meshell Ndegeocello
additional words James Baldwin’s The Fire The Next Time
voices Meshell Ndegeocello + Paul J. Thompson
audio editor Justin Hicks
audio engineer Jack DeBoe
animation Adebukola Bodunrin
direction Charlotte Brathwaite

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