Just as memories, both cultural and personal, can serve as factors that further distance characters both from the social franchise and personal happiness, they can also serve as a healing agent. As the Black body is often written about and disenfranchised within the American discourse, memory is vital to preserving the truth and making sure that the story is told correctly. In many cases, cultural and personal memory is the way to tell the truth that falls outside of the official context; it is the only way to ensure that the Black voice is provided for.
[By Crystal Boson]
After exploring the heavier side ofmemory, it is equally as important to look at its decolonizing aspects. It is evident that in a large body of Black Writing, memory serves as a tie that strengthens both individuals and communities. This memory can serve as an embodied family lineage, as is evident in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, or as a larger cultural narrative, as represented in Octavia Butler’s Fledgling, and Alex Haley’s Roots.
One work dealing directly with the importance of memory is Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. The main character has no memory of her past, her family, her true name, or her culture. Because of this, she is constantly trying to remember and reassemble the truth about herself and family. There are several different forces trying to provide her with their own particular narrative of the truth, her family, and her role in society, and without her memory, she is unsure as to which one of these voices is the true one. Without her memory, she feels lost within several different cultural contexts, and must war to find truth and have her story told.
Adding to the importance of personal memory, Alex Haley includes a large deal of cultural memory as well. The questing for belonging, history, and naming establishes the black body as an actor, with agency, within the American discourse. Haley’s work traces both his family and the story of blackness, and functions as the narrative that many have longed to speak on their own. This work serves both as an individual accomplishment of Haley’s and as a trumpet call of Black identification within the discourse.
Other texts that deal directly with differing physical, cultural, and personal embodiments of memory include:
-Oscar Micheaux’s Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer
-Toni Morrison’s Beloved