Image | Wambui Mwangi
Image | Wambui Mwangi

Historians teach us that freedom dreams travel and infect. They spread desires and transmit energies. The history of black emancipation, the long emancipation as Rinaldo Walcott has it, is full of freedom dreams moving from one site to another, jumping from body to body, imagination to imagination, geohistory to geohistory. It is also full of oppressive power trying to halt this transmission.

We must consider why the Haitian Revolution is still not placed alongside the French Revolution and the U.S. Revolution—what must be impeded, held back, refused, made unimaginable, and why.

We learn from history that owners of the enslaved in the U.S. did not want news of the Haitian Revolution to reach the enslaved. News that would feed dreams. News that would create new energy. News that would fuel alternative ways of imagining being and being together.

Revolution Clusters: Haiti, the U.S., France.
Haiti’s absence from the history of world revolutions continues to haunt black pursuits of freedom. Transmission is impeded. Usable histories come to us belatedly, or not at all.

Here is C.L.R. James:

Such observations, written in 1938, were intended to use the San Domingo revolution as a forecast of the future of colonial Africa.

Here is Ntozake Shange:

i am on my way to see
. . .
he dont take no stuff from no white folks
& they gotta country all they own
& they aint no slaves

“Till all at once the music changed its key”
—Countee Cullen
The hashtags accumulate: from #RhodesMustFall to #RhodesHasFallen, from #OpenStellenbosch to #FeesMustFall.

And the bodies gather, students from the University of Fort Hare, the University Currently Known as Rhodes, the University of Cape Town, Stellenbosch University, the University of Witwatersrand, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the University of the Western Cape, Cape Peninsula University of Technology (and others). Bodies on the streets, in libraries, in administration buildings, in police vans, in prisons, in courts.

The hashtags spread: #blacklivesmatter, from the U.S. to Haiti, from Haiti to Palestine, from Palestine to Canada, from Canada to South Africa, from South Africa to India, from India to Kenya. Not quite like that—“from” and “to” do not capture circulation, the jumps, the breaks, the clusters—transmission on multiple pirate frequencies.

The energies transmitted by hashtags—each tweet and retweet a call and a response, and the bodies turn toward the call.

The call is that to which one turns, and in turning, finds oneself standing on the ground of the call.

A ululation, properly understood, then, creates a central point for a sonic navigation of a community of those within hearing, or those who present themselves in the present. This is the first act of the political: the action of gathering toward each other, in a gestural demarcation of a “here” able to generate its own temporality by shaping a workable past and a livable future from the resonance of its present articulation.

Here, then, we treat the propensity of women to show up for a work of community labour as the work of a spatial extension of community itself. The spatial reach of the sound is the radius of the community. The ululation does not merely travel across its own diameter: it gathers the trajectory to itself and transforms it into a mode of its extension.
—Weaving Women Collective

We turn to these pirated frequencies to find the sounds of resistance. We turn to these pirated frequencies to ask with M. Nourbese Philip,

In whose language
Am I
If not in yours

To find and create languages in which being is possible. But more. More than possible. The gathering demands more. Not what is left over after the human is done—not to be grateful for an impossible abjection. Instead, to re-invent the human. To make the human possible.

We turn to different futures.
It is the work of Man now presenting himself as the human to impede the transmission of freedom dreams. To destroy transmission, corrupt memory, fragment movements through tokenism. To steal frequencies and to profit from stolen frequencies.

In the gap, in the silence, in the scratch, in the jump, in the break, in the shout, in the whisper, in the scream, in the pause—ululation.

And in freedom-seeking spaces, we learn to say A Luta Continua and to respond to Amandla! with Awethu!

South African students: We see you. We hear you. We stand with you.