The last time Ras Imo visited Tennessee (November '94), it rained the entire week and severly limited what we were able to do together. One miserable afternoon we drove up onto a ridge which was settled long ago by black farmers. It had been almost 20 years since I had been up this way.I wanted to show Ras Imo around and get him out into some of the more offbeat communities. We stopped to talk with a fellow who'd been aware of our farming activities back in the late '70's, when a group of us sharecropped hundreds of acres of beans in the area. I was getting soaked and cold, excused myself and stepped back into the car. Ras Imo returned a few minutes later, and asked if I had understood what the man was saying. "Oh, about 60% I guess," noting that the man had a pretty thick southern accent. "And you?" I asked. "Very little..." We both laughed. "Really? I thought you both being Afrikan that you might do better than me!" "No mon..."Cross-cultural exchange and good weather were both somewhat restricted that visit.
fall we had a second chance. We were already planning a trip to the eastern
plateau in early October. Rasimo called to say he'd be stopping in after
attending a workshop at a university in Texas. Jamaica only has about 10%
of the land area as Tennessee and there is only one true hiking trail in
the whole country; a fourteen mile path leading up volcanic Blue Mountain.
The skies were clear and and the woods were calling. I wanted to expose
Ras Imo to some of the local mindscape. We'd spend a few days wandering
in one of the most primitive and isolated areas of the whole southeast.
The original plan had to be compressed into three full days, which passed
rather quickly. One afternoon, while passing through a neighborhood of
one room shacks w/ porches on a twisting road, Ras Imo was moved to comment
on a few exchanges he'd had with classmates in Texas. "When people would
ask me where I was going and I told them 'Tennessee', they'd look at me
a little strange but then never say anything else and I didn't get it.
Now that we are getting around, I can understand what they were thinking."