Own Earth. A biography of the earth in black narratives

By Michael Lee Poy

Own Earth: A biography of earth in four black narratives is a conflation of two ideas, Earth and the African American community, that are an integral part of the social, political, economic, psychological and artistic landscapes and environments. This land, which was appropriated and populated by, is now home for many Blacks. But the process of making place, of making ones own place is ongoing. This thesis recognizes the problems of racial constructions and histories as well as the agency in that settling process. To own earth is to shape its history, memory, and architecture.

The African American narrative biographical process, the slave narrative, inspires this document. The genre writes the black subject into being and creates spatial ownership for the author and the community that shares his/her plight – interspatial ownership. The African that landed in the Americas initiated the production of a Black space, landscape and architecture. It is the assertion of this thesis that symbolic ownership of earth has played a paramount role in the production of that space. Earth defines much more than the ground. It has been mapped onto the Black body with dirt (dirty - soiledbodies); earth has cradled the last remains of the body (gravesite – Home); earth is a site of memory upon which an African methodoly is used to commemorate and African American hero (memorial park and traffic circle – Frederick Douglass) and it is used in an art installation to record and highlight the transition of spatial ownership (earth gesture). In this essay that reveals Black architecture, earth is the main character.