A Note from Danielle Drake-Burnette
I was born in California and throughout my life I have been very proud of the fact that my Mother was from Texas and my Father was from Mississippi. Knowing and understanding my history is a source of self-understanding, pride, and was essential for me in developing a healthy identity. I was blessed to live over 35 years with my great-grandmother who was born in Lockhart, Texas in 1901. She was raised by her grandparents who had been enslaved. Though my family always told me that our roots were in Texas, I didn’t have many specifics. Recently, one of my Texas relatives compiled the family records and traced our history in Texas back to 1815. This is rare find only further fueled my interest. I’m part of the first generation of my family not to be born in Texas. Leaving behind my roots is impossible. Understanding the history of African Americans in the United States, not only in Texas, is key to understanding what’s happening in our society and the world today. Any assistance I can provide in helping others, especially young people, understand more of themselves, means digging into this history of African Americans in the U.S.
One of the poems I wrote and perform as a spoken word artist is called “Wake the Dead.” A line from it describes the sense of loss that many of us feel surrounds our history, a loss that many young African American people feel. We were “...born of a people whose history was stolen, surreptitiously buried by writers of history....” We don’t know who we are, we don’t know who we belong to, and we often don’t know where to begin looking.
While traveling to East Texas in March 2013 with China and the Keepers of Love, to work at Love Cemetery, I felt an incredible connection to my ancestors. I brought back stories and photos to share with my family, friends, coworkers and students – people from all races and ethnic backgrounds. They were just as excited as I was to know that there’s a cemetery people are working to save in order to preserve this little-known part of our history. As I’ve done research for my Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, it’s become clear that being able to know one’s own personal, cultural and collective history is the foundation for developing a healthy identity.
Love Cemetery holds a remarkable piece of unmarked history for us all. It provides a kind of knowledge that’s available throughout this country, in burial grounds, knowledge that can help young people know who they are, to whom they belong. It provides opportunities develop pride in their heritage and themselves. Love Cemetery doesn’t stand alone, but rather it represents a connection to a part of American history that needs to be marked, written, and placed with honor in our collective history. The film, Resurrecting Love, depicts a cross-cultural, intergenerational community project that allows everyone equal work and participation in facing one of our most difficult questions -- How do we talk about race and honor our history of slavery? Visiting Love Cemetery may be difficult due the extremely limited access provided by the surrounding landowners, but with your support, we can produce the film, Resurrecting Love, for a national if not international audience. It is vital kindling, lighting the conversations around which we can gather together and engage in healing.