And thanks to Burkina Faso there are, as Linda Harris puts it,
"fertility dances--and no doubt about it, either: those
movements--on Decatur square!" Maybe that wouldn't seem
remarkable on your town's square. But if you'd grown up in
Decatur! (Leave It to Beaver, remember, with ghettos.) All kinds
of people enjoying an internationally known African dance troupe
together for free in the middle of Decatur!
The biggest blowout is yet to come. August 3 will be Burkina
Faso Night, and you can bet Linda and I will be there. My sister
is coming in from Houston.
The official language of Burkina Faso is French. (Decatur has a
cop now who speaks French. The other day he was interpreting
back and forth between his fellow officers and Ouoba, the triple
jumper. When I was growing up in Decatur, I'm not sure we had
cops who spoke English.) Emily Hanna-Vergara, a historian of
African art and the president of Decatur's sister-city
committee, translated as I spoke with the dance troupe's
director, Jean Ouedraogo, and with Lambert Ouedraogo (no
relation), vice president of Bousse's sister-city program. Jean
was wearing a shirt hung with horsehair tufts and goat-horn
danglers. "A shirt worn by priests," he explained through Emily.
"Priests that outsiders typically call sorcerers. The priest
acts as a liaison between the world of the living and the
invisible world of ancestors and spirits."
It occurred to me to suggest that we step over to the ROY A.
BLOUNT PLAZA PLAQUE.
Emily translated the inscription for the Burkinabe. "My father
would be honored," I said, "that you are here." In fact, if you
had told me before this week that there would be an African
seduction dance on my father's plaza, I might have said he would
be turning over in his grave. But he was a genial man, even I
know that. And maybe people in the grave like to turn over.
The two Burkinabe gave me looks that communicated very well.
"They are very touched," Emily said. "They say that for them,
your dad has not gone, he is here with us speaking your name to
them. When they dance again, the first dance will be in honor of
It would be appropriate in this situation, Jean said, for me to
make an offering to my father of a chicken or some beer.
"Unless he's changed his habits in the other world," I told John
Randall later, "I think he'd appreciate the chicken more."
"Should it be a live chicken?" Randall asked. That opened up all
sorts of theological and practical questions that hadn't
occurred to me when the Burkinabe were telling me my father was
there, with us, speaking my name, at his plaque. Because I was
I love you, man.