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My name is Kevin O'Malley, I am the Vice Chairman of the Club's Business and Leadership Forum and I am your Chair for today. It's my pleasure to extend a special welcome to any new club members who are here. We know you will enjoy your membership and look forward you seeing you often. You can also if you would like to register for any other up coming programs online, you can do so at WWW.CommonwealthClub.Org, or by calling the Club's 24 hour reservations line. So we are recording today's program for possible broadcast on NPR. We also are recording for FORA TV which you will see in the back there. It's F-O-R-A.T-V and this program will be up in about a week on FORA TV, so look for it there, that's F-O-R-A.TV. We are also selling China's books in front, Stacey's Books are here selling China's new book Love Cemetery and selling the 25th anniversary issue of Longing for Darkness, which is a beautiful book. And some people probably know that in the audience here already. We are recording today's program. So please make sure now that all cell phones and pagers are turned off, I think that my cell phone is still on so I am I going to take it back and get that off. And I will pause now for one moment before I begin again for recording purposes. Hello and welcome to today's meeting of the Common wealth Club of California. I am Kevin O'Malley; I am the Vice Chairman of the Club's Business and Leadership Forum and your Chair for today. We invite our audience to visit us on the internet at WWW.CommonwealthClub.org, and view the online encounter of upcoming club events. And for our radio audience at home we are recording this in San Francisco and you could find that on the radio. And it's now my pleasure to introduce our speaker for today. China Galland was born and raised in Texas and is the award winning author of Longing for Darkness and The Bond Between Women. She received a Hedgebrook Writers Invitational Residency and has won awards for her writing from the California Arts Council. China Galland is a professor in residence at the Center for the Arts, Religion, and Education at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, where she directs the Keepers of Love Project. She lectures, teaches, and leads retreats nationally and internationally on religion, race, and reconciliation. Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees has said about China's new book, Love Cemetery is a moving work of immense social consciousness and spiritual power written by a very gifted writer. And Bill Moyers has said of China's new book, "This is a riveting story of a remarkable effort to resurrect and it couldn't have come at a more crucial time. Read on, I guarantee that once you start you will not stop. And when you are done you will have discovered the human power of Love Cemetery". I have read Love Cemetery and I enjoyed it very much. I was privileged to read it in manuscript form before it went to the final publishing thing. And I am very happy to introduce my friend China Galland tonight, thank you. What an honor and privilege to be here tonight with you. Thank you very much Kevin for setting up this opportunity to speak to the Commonwealth Club, the oldest and the largest public forum in the United States. I have just come back from three weeks of traveling with this book. This part was this leg of the book tour was to New York and Boston. And before that I have been to Dallas, Texas, Marshall, Texas where the book is set, Charleston, South Carolina where some parts of the book takes place and Atlanta, Georgia. It has been so warming and exciting to see how open people are to this material and how in many cases the audience have been very mixed, between African Americans, White people, Latino community, a variety of people have come to the readings and that's been very exciting to me. So it's with great pleasure that I am going to try to encapsulate and tell a little bit about the book. Not try to tell you every story in the book, which is what I could possibly do. I love them all. And I am going to orient you first a little bit of what this book is about and a little bit of how it is that I came to tell this story. And why I believe passionately that this story is so significant for us today. First of all this is a story Love Cemetery is an actual Cemetery in East Texas, may be five or six months from the Louisiana border in Harrison County. It's an historic black Cemetery, its 1.6 acres and though the story is about this little tiny cemetery, love is really a book about America today. And the cemetery, I discovered the more I found out about it the more I researched it, the more I got involved with the community whose ancestors lie buried there. The more I realized that this this cemetery gives us a way to look at so many of the issues that we face today, whether it's our global dilemma in the environment, racism and the divisions between people that are splintering all over the country, the economic divides many of our issues, I thought I was just helping my an elder friend, but I discovered this much larger story that I tumbled into. Well, how did I get to East Texas? You know I live in California, all right I am from Texas as Kevin mentioned, and I many years ago discovered the wisdom in going home and watering my roots and acknowledging where I was from and making peace with being from Texas which was some thing I wrestled with for many years. And a thought I didn't want to ever admit that again, however I am now proud to say I am from Texas. I have made peace with being a Texan and then there are some Texans here in this room, I am happy to see tonight couple of very close friends. So I was going back and visiting and keeping up my relationships not only with my mother and brothers and family in Dallas Texas, where I spent the first 19 years of my life, but also going back as I used to do in my childhood, to East Texas, to visit my country cousins who still live in my great grandmother's house, out in the rural countryside, a few miles east of Marshall, Texas. Bill Moyers is also from Marshall, Texas, so I know you have heard about Marshall, Texas, the thriving metropolis, its 25,000 people and with a beautiful wooded country side. So in going back and visiting and just innocently I thought, trying to learn something about my own family's history like how did we end up there from Chicago? My great grandparents moved in 1900 to raise peaches from Chicago. And I thought, oh they didn't own slaves, they weren't part of the plantation economy, my hands are clean, naively I thought. So I began to get to know some of the elderly historians in Harrison County. There were couple of older women, one in the African American community, one in the white community. Now Mrs. Blossom, I believe she is called in the book, I have changed a few names and places to protect the living and the dead. And I had made a deal she was a customer one of my cousins who was in the nursery business. And she had in exchange for telling me her knowledge of Harrison County I would take her driving, because she could no longer drive. So when I come back I would always save a day to go driving around with Mrs. Blossom. And one day just to keep it short, she began to show me she showed me an unmarked burial ground of slaves that were on her family's former plantation. I found that information very distressing. I felt very uncomfortable and I immediately started talking to her about marking this unmarked burial ground. Nothing happened. And every time I would go back to visit I would continue to call on her family but basically that burial ground today remains unmarked. However the voices of the people buried there came to me. I went off and finished The Bond Between Women. I was in Latin America and Nepal, India, France many different places around the world. But when I came home and that last book was published in 1998, what did I hear? I heard the voices of this little bitty, tiny unmarked piece of ground in East Texas, just kind of tapping me on the shoulder, saying, you know we were here and we know that you know. And I became more and more uncomfortable with my own knowledge. And the privilege, I realized, that I had and the and finally realized the white family secret that I too was keeping by not talking about or trying to mark in a public way - that burial ground. So I went to the lay leaders and the ministers in the community and black and white, and asked them to form to sit down with me at the table, which they did. This was May of 2002. And I laid my problem at their feet. I said I don't live here any more. I don't live in this community, you do, I have got a lot of my family lives here. I have felt uncomfortable on this, so may be I shouldn't keep coming back to this story of the unmarked cemetery. But I feel compelled to put this at your feet and ask you for your guidance and whether or not you think it's important to mark this ground. And they said well of course we do. You know if we were not in the business of reconciliation and honoring, what we are doing in the ministry. So with their support and blessing we - our committee convened unsuccessfully to try to get the unmarked burial marked. However great things began to happen. That first night in May as we went around the table, most people knew one another, but there was one woman there I didn't know, an African American elder. And as we went around introducing ourselves she was sitting right across the table from me, she was in her late 70s and she had a brown straw hat on and she gave me a big smile and she said, "My name is Nuthel Britton, and I am the keeper of Love." And I was a little taken aback and charmed. And then we went on to the next person. And she later explained that Love was this known mart deeded cemetery that the descended community had been locked out of for 40 years. And she was wondering if if when we got through marking this unmarked burial ground, if we could help with Love. And by the time the next meeting came around Mrs. Britton arrived with the original deed from 1904 for Love. She was not going to let go of Love. She was not going to let me forget it. And in some the narrative in the story and our activity and our focus quickly turned to this living community of descendants who needed help, when Mrs. Britton finally asked me to help her find out who the owners where I was thrilled that she finally asked and wanted help and very quickly we were able to find out the who the current owners where. Love Cemetery today is this tiny 1.6 acres that is locked inside a ten foot height fence, exotic animal fence, because it's within a private hunting reserve, one of these places where if you pay $12,000 you can kill an elk or some thing. And then in turn this may be 1200 1500 acres of the reserve are surrounded by another may be 22,500 acres of timber which is owned being owned by various corporations. John Hancock insurance in Boston did own it. It was sold to a local corporation that now owns it. A local corporation from Marshall, this also in the timber business. So in fact when I called tracked down the owner of the interior gate, because at first the outer gate to the cemetery, to the mile long logging road you have to go down to get to the cemetery, that the fence was down. There was a locked gate. We drove around it. It looked like everybody had for years, there are deep ruts there. So it was really this interior gate this 10 foot high fence that we I didn't know how we were going to get in. So finding the owner turned out to be a great surprise. He turned out to be the most cooperative and helpful of any body we worked with. And he acknowledged that that cemetery was an important place and he honored the dead, he respected it. So he was happy to let us in and eventually just said, look why don't you cut my chain on the gate and just put your own lock on it, which was what we did. So that's how we were able to get in to Love. Well, who got into love? Well in the mean time back in Marshall, in town, we have this little committee that's kept meeting of ministers and volunteers in the community. And as I looked around the room I realized having been out to see the cemetery with Mrs. Britton and Mrs. Doris Vittatoe, those are the two sort of central movers and shakers in this book. And my son Ben that we are going to have to have some help to clean up the cemetery, 40 years of overgrowth of ironwood, wisteria, wild grape vine, had taken over the cemetery. It was a complete jungle and a lot of the growth was ten feet high in many places you know, it latched on to trees and continue growing up. So I remember that one of my cousins who I didn't know really know that well, but he was a leader of a boys scout troop, and I thought if we ever need the scouts so I asked if he would see if the scouts would help and he said well, I will ask. They want to do this and so several of the boys scouts troop 2 10 in Marshall volunteered they don't get a merit badge and the whole troop wasn't interested but a few diehards were. And so for the next four years we went up to Love Cemetery three some times four times a year and began to cut away this wild overgrowth and to cut this vegetation down to the ground. And as we did we found more and more burial sites. We reassembled this headstone my photo this on the cover of the book, that's a reassembled grave marker. When we first went in there, the plinth, the top triangular piece and the two columns had been knocked to the ground. That stone belongs to Ohio Taylor who was my friend Doris Vittatoe, who is in the book. It was her great grandfather Ohio Taylor, who had been born in slavery, and then after emancipation had been able to buy land and become a prosperous black farmer. In fact Love apparently is the vestige of what was the black prosperous black farming community. So this little known history began to reveal itself. And as I began to try to find out well how did Love get to be called love? Della Love, who was a women of color in 1904, who obviously owned land and she gave the Love the land to the Love colored burial association. When the chief archeologist for the state of Texas came after we gotten all the vegetation down, to help to see through a machine that the state uses magnetometer if there were more graves because some of the markers had disappeared and the elders kept saying there are lot of graves out here than what you can see now. We found 37 remnants of some kind of marking of burial. Some are in regular head stones, some are not. I want to read little piece of our going out there for our first clean up which took place formal clean up in 2003, because what I also discovered as I went out into this cemetery with Mrs. Britton right from the first day we were there was I began to realize I was stepping into another world. Because I had traveled around the world and been to so many other places, suddenly I realize that I needed to approach the cemetery like I would a Hindu temple in India or a Catholic Shrine in Europe, with respect and with some attempt to understand and follow the lead of the people to whom this cemetery belonged. When we first went out there, the first day to just see the cemetery, before we began to clean an enormous tree on this cloudless day, no wind, just as were leaving the cemetery Doris and I and Mrs. Britton, this enormous tree crashed to the ground. And I was startled and I jumped. But Mrs. Britton simply smiled and she said, you know this is the ancestors letting us know that they are glad we are here and they know it. And I thought about that and you know as I began to spend more time with Mrs. Britton, she began to talk about those ancestors more and more often. And as though they were sitting in the room with us. And so I am going to read just a small part here. This book has many levels; historical, geological, mythical, personal. So I am going to give you a piece of our first clean up of Love Cemetery. So we were out in the cemetery, it was August because Mrs. Nuthel insisted that the family reunions were always held in August. The men would come in the morning; they will be cleaning the graves. The women would cook all morning and then they would bring the food in at noon. And this was what she wanted to see again before she died, she told me. Before she died she had to see Love come back. So we had gotten in and I began to tell Mrs. Britton because she was tired and sitting under a shade tree, it was a 103 degrees out on the burial ground, with the scouts and but it was great to get out there and pull up that wisteria. I began to tell them about the research I have been able to do about the cemetery and Della Love, who apparently deeded this land to the Cemetery Association, married and moved to an Indian reservation in Oklahoma and died according to their family history by poison in 1920. Nuthel had thought it was a white woman that had given the cemetery to the Burial Association. But in fact it was another African-American woman. And what I discovered about this wisteria was and she also revealed is that many of the people that were buried in Love were at least several had used to work for my family's nursery business. And they imported wisteria and so many of the people there had made cuttings from my family's wisteria and brought it to decorate the graves. So I was tangled up in the story in ways that I never even imagined. So we were sitting around in the shade with the elders I was talking, there had hardly been any air movement. But suddenly a breeze whished through the trees making me think of that tree that had crashed months earlier when Doris was with us. RD was explaining to us RD is Doris Vittatoe's brother, this is his great grandfather too who is on the cover who is Ohio Taylor. And he explained to everybody who was working on the clean up that they needed to be aware that grave is might not be marked in ways that they would recognize. A lot of folks out there, he said, they didn't have money for a headstone. As he and Nuthel and others leaned in, they were all farmers here, they used whatever they had. It might be plates or plough points or churns, just put something on the graves, so they know who is buried there. Old lamps, Mrs. Britton added; that's right, plenty of kerosene lamps. I later learned it was an African tradition to out a lamp on a grave to guide the soul home and to light there way. Nuthel said, ah even a leg from a sewing machine, which sure enough we found, apparently was the grave of a seamstress. So as RD goes on and begins to tell us about his beliefs about the ancestors, he said, oh I believe they come back in a sense because if you will notice, when you come to a place like this and if it gets late in the evening you will hear noise, he said authoritatively elongating his words, pausing, pacing himself, as if he were telling us the story around a fire. Sometimes you will here a fox howl or a tree top fall. That's the noise the ancestors are making to let you know that they know you are here. That's really true. They know we are working out here today and they are proud of us cleaning up this cemetery. They are smiling on us right now. Nuthel added, and they know why we are here. So at the end of our clean ups we would gather around, I asked RD if he would lead this in the little singing and praying before we left. Oh I will do anything for the up building of god's kingdom, he said. So we circled up around RD to have him lead us in a song. The scouts gathered respectfully, taking their hats off, standing in a rough circle with the rest of us. RD still sitting on the stone started singing "Guide me over great Jehovah, pilgrim through this barren land, I am weak but thou mighty. Hold me with your power hand, bread of heaven feed me still until I want no more". Then he stood up and really made Joyce and Nuthel, the other descendants, joined him. And it was clear that they have been singing like this all their lives. RD's deep gravelly voice kept the pulse of the song while the long extended "hmmm" came through Joyce, Willie May, Nuthel and Doris. They were like mounts that sent shivers through my spine. I listened, all the white folk listened. But none of us could follow to a country where the singers lived in this moment, a far country filled with the spirit. That's where that song was coming from, "under the water", an African phrase and the pain of being dragged in chains to this country. It was humbling just to hear it. Sung out here in the woods on the burial ground, the scouts bowed their heads and held their hats in front of them. RD began to pray rhythmically, erasing any line between speech and song, our father in heaven, well Willie May, Joyce and Nuthel kept singing the melody as he prayed right over them. So that just gives you a little taste of what it was liked to be out on the burial ground. You can go to my website chinagalland.com and actually see a seven minute video and hear the singing, this old style black gospel, that was such so nourishing to hear. And I realized, as I continued to research Love Cemetery, Harrison County, which was the biggest slave owning county in Texas, at the eve of the Civil War 59 percent of the people were enslaved. And began to understand more and more bout this buried, hidden, secret history that this country has kept sort of between the civil war and the civil rights movement. That despite the pain of all that history there was to go with the elders into the cemetery and hear them sing was a joy and a privilege. And that's why I kept going back. And soon we discovered that Mrs. Britton's grandmother Lissy Sparks, who was buried there, was also a native American. And so the intertwining of the Native American and the African American communities began to come to light. And Richard Zubia who was a member of the Caddo Nation came down to work with us from Oklahoma and taught us about how similar some of the Native American, the Caddo tradition, they were the largest indigenous tribes in this area, preceding settlers by at least a 1000 years, a very advanced agricultural society. How similar some of the ideas about burial were between the Native Americans and the African-Americans? So more and more of our history began to come to life. I want to take a moment here and tell you that I think what began to happen really I want to tell you two other brief stories. I first started going back to visit in 1982 and I realized and started meeting black elders in their 90s who had all their faculties, who had living memories of family member who had been enslaved. And I began to start to tape them because all of a sudden the history that seems so long as ago was right next to me, it was telescoped into today. So one of the people I met were was a couple, older couple Leanne and Mabel Rivers. Leanne was a guide on nearby Caddo Lake and Mabel worked as a maid in a fishing camp nearby. And I would often visit them because Mabel would tell me stories about how Sam Atkins, Leanne's grandfather who they took care of in his old age, she would tell me stories about Sam who was sold on the auction block when he was eight years old, and who will sweep up flower to make biscuits because he couldn't get enough food as a child. She said Sam was the sweetest man she had ever known. And in his old age he would sit in the corner rocking, rocking, reading his bible. And one day Mabel came in and she said, slammed that screen door and she said, "I hate white people, they are so mean, I just hate them. I don't want anything to do with them." And she was running around the house muttering, slamming things down and Sam rose up out of his rocker, in his fragile 90 something years and brought himself to his full height. He had to hold his bible up as though it was a cup because all the pages were loose. And he was keeping the pages together and he rose up and he said, "Now Mabel you have got to choose love when there is a reason to hate, you have to choose love, hate dries you up and makes your heart bitter. Choose love Mabel, even when there is a reason to hate, choose love." Sam Atkins though I never met him is really the tutelary spirit of this book, because as you can imagine in any story, there is a conflict. And the narrative is woven around the friendship that began to grow between my contemporary Doris Vittatoe and myself, as a black African-American women and a white woman. Me thinking naively that we were really close friends and discovering that my own blindness to the racism that I had unconsciously absorbed almost torn our relationship apart. But it was Sam Atkins voice saying, when I wanted to quit and say I give up, what am I doing here, it was Sam Atkins voice that I would hear, saying you have to choose Love. And the fact that this cemetery was named Love I felt like I didn't have a way out. So I kept going and I am very glad I did. So, in answering this call to the ancestors I am shuffling through a couple of notes here because this story is so resonant and I want to be sure to help you understand and have a sense as I do of how important it is for us today. This history that I uncovered, I am going to give you one tit-bit. This was the second story I want to tell you. Because you are going to be reading and seeing a lot about Marshall, Texas and the story I am going to tell you right now, that's in my book. Its on the three it's on the great debate team of Wiley College. There is a rich black intellectual tradition in this part of the world. There is in general, but specifically you know in Marshall in 1873, the Methodist Church started Wiley College which is still in existence. The Baptist started Bishop College in 1981, that has now moved to Dallas. But out of Wiley came this remarkable group of debaters. And right now Oprah is backing, Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker is starring Forest Whitaker is from East Texas too and Denzel Washington and they have just been there filming and they were just in Boston filming. The story, - because in 1935 African Americans were not allowed to debate white people So there were these College Champion Debates that were going on in all the colleges around the country. But the Wiley team became so good that they started getting called into be a practice team for some of the White teams. One of those debaters was James Farmer who is from Marshall, Texas, - one of the great pillars of the Civil Rights Movement, the founder of CORE and of the Freedom Writers Movement in this country. It it, there is an illustrious black history here. And they were led by Melvin Tolson. And Melvin Tolson was this remarkable and completely idiosyncratic African-American professor, who every summer would go from Marshall, Texas to Harlem. He got his masters at Columbia; he may have been the first AfricanAmerican to do so, at least close to the first. This was in the 20's and 30's. And he would be at Columbia very summer and he would be taking part in the Harlem Renaissance. So, little old Wiley College that none of the white people were paying attention to over here. The students there were becoming educated, they knew about Duboce, they knew about I am blanking on all the names that they are flooding me in terms of all that they knew about was going on in the contemporary World. There were even black farmers there in the 1890's in this particular county who were meeting weekly to talk about immigrating back to Africa as part of the Marcus Garvey's Movement for people blacks to return to Africa. So, there is this whole sort of flowering of literacy, ownership, education and that was going on and Wiley College being part of the provision of this. So in 1935, Wiley had become so good and so famous that the University of Southern California, because they were also Methodist Church related invited the Wiley team to come to debate the they were the champions in 1935, USC. So they came to debate them and the Wiley team beat them hands down hands down, and Hamilton Boswell who was respective and long known member of this community, who just died about a month ago I am sorry to say; Dr. Hamilton Boswell. He had a Church here in the city; he was the Chaplain for the Assembly for 10 years up in Sacramento. Dr Boswell was so inspired by seeing this debate with James Farmer and Melvin Tolson and the other debaters; that he said, he left California, went back to little old prejudiced Texas to study under Melvin Tolson and to debate with James Framer. So there are interviews with Dr. Boswell in here as well about some of his recollections of the debates that took place. Well, what's important about this book anyway, so that's going to be a movie that you'll be seeing next year. And the photograph of the debaters and their 1935 Tuxedos for their debates is in the book. So to try to bring this story around to today, this is a these are the things I say in the book. I've tried in the book to stay close to the story, to Love, to the history there. But I have fought to complete this book and to bring it out because I think the truth is that unless we are able to tell the truth about this buried history that we've tried to keep hidden and repressed and unknown all these years, that we are going to continue to not only be the objects of terrorism, but we will continue to terrorize other people. Because this country has been founded and grown on a contradiction. We were all taught, what is democracy about? It's about liberty, equality and justice for all. This is the dream, not only of our founders but of Creole poets right after the emancipation, Dr. King and its still my dream today. And what I want to see there for my grandchildren. But until, like I think like addicts or alcoholics who have to break a denial in order to recover, for us as a country to recover from this amnesia that Bill Moyers was talking about, when he talked about this book. We have to claim this history. We have to acknowledge the theft of native land, the genocide, bringing people from Africa in chains, dragging them to this country. And stand in our own history, struggle with it and whatever that means for us today. And begin to understand what it means to be reconciled with one another. That's the great question. We don't know how to be reconciled within ourselves, within our community, within the entire country. And here we are standing today, telling other countries, in fractions, that they have to be reconciled with one another. So, I end this brief telling with a call for you to join me in the ongoing story of Love, because the story continues to unfold. The story of keeping our democracy alive, its labor intensive kind of demands that that it makes up on us. But also perhaps finding in your own backyard or in your own family history; a place where you can make a difference where you can make a different choice. And these headstones that we find in Love Cemetery can in fact become that builder stone that was rejected and become a corner stone of a new covenant between people here in America and around the World. So please join me keeping Love alive, know that the community today at Love Cemetery has been locked out again; and stay tuned. Thank you very much.