Pilgrimage, Day 0

Well, friends, Erika and I going on a pilgrimage of remembrance, essentially, to places around Charleston, SC. I’ll be posting what we’re up to on a 24(+)-hour delay, but today was Day 0: meet the other 200 folks going on this pilgrimage. Most of the folks are Black (various shades — how is it that we still use the one-drop rule when assigning adjectives?1), but there’s a handful of white folks, too.

Tonight, we had our first meal together, met our pilgrimage leaders, and received a cowrie shell. The symbolism of the cowrie shell is that it is something valuable that we must dig deep for.2 We each pulled our cowrie shell out of a tank of water (the deity had “buried” the cowrie shells deep in the ocean), and will keep it for the duration of the pilgrimage (if not longer, really). It was a little bit like a baptism.

After the meal, we had the great good fortune to be waylaid by a woman who thought we might be interested to learn a new card game, because she thought we might have children who might be interested in it. She was right about the first part: we were interested to learn it. It’s a simple multi-player solitaire-type game that up to seven players can play, called Kings in the Corner. Τhe only difference between the Wikipedia rules and the rules she taught us is that you always start your turn by drawing, no matter what. We had a great time playing a few hands, and I’m truly grateful she sought us out to play, in a room full of 200 people. (We also played with a couple of other willing strangers, so it wasn’t just the three of us.) I’m looking forward to playing a few more times during this pilgrimage.

1Speaking of automatically assigning people things, I have already made my first mistake: I met a Black woman who told me she went to school in Durham, and I automatically guessed NCCU. Nope. Duke. In spite of my intentions, my habits/reflexes betrayed me, and I’m ashamed.

2Cowrie shells were once widely used as money in Africa, but legend has it that the people were too free with spending them and an African deity decided to remind the people of the value of the cowrie shells (and their natural resources) by burying them deep in the ocean. So, now, one must dig deeply for what is valuable.

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