Several years ago while sitting an idea dropped in. It was a
really big idea. It was such a big idea that it qualified as a vision; a vision
that appeared instantaneously and so full-blown that I could elucidate an
astonishing number of details on the spot. It was quite stunning—and fun.
The picture returned with some regularity over the next
several days, and I enjoyed the details that were added with each appearance. But
then, like a dream that slowly becomes a nightmare, with insistent repetition
it began to dominate the space in the mind that had previously been occupied by
This process was not unfamiliar. Over the years, when an
inspiration for a project or a book dropped in, there would be a fairly
consistent “revelation” of material and process until clarity was achieved, and
I could implement whatever was being called forth. There have been times when
these “creative impulses” have been so insistent that I’ve needed to
metaphorically stack them up, requiring each project to wait its turn to come
to the fore. If a project fell out of the queue before there was time to
execute it, there was usually a sigh of relief. Plenty more where that came
from, it would seem.
But when I tried the “get in line” approach with this vision,
the images simply became more insistent. By this time the whole thing was
completely ridiculous, and in a classic appeal to the powers that be I begged
for mercy. “I don’t know what wires have been crossed in the Universal
Communication System, but this vision is
not for me. I can’t do this. You have the wrong human. I don’t even know
anybody who could do this. I don’t know anybody who knows anybody who could do
this. Please check the records and see if the right person can be tapped.”
All became quiet and that seemed to be the end of it.
And then I was at a conference in Dallas and it all came
rushing back in.
Walking through a predominantly African American
neighborhood, aware of bright colors, the music, the sounds of laughter…. Here
it is again. A theme park. Africa Around the World.
What’s your pleasure? Would you like to see Josephine Baker
performing in 1920s Paris? Maybe you’d like to start in Harlem for the Harlem
Renaissance, or perhaps the New Orleans of the 1940s for some blues and jazz,
or head down to Mississippi for some time in Robert Johnson’s world. How about Trinidad and Tobago for some early
calypso? Jamaica for reggae?
Possibly, after all the music and dancing, you’d like a more
serious look at Africa’s contributions to our modern world: coffee, mathematics,
and modern art? Ubuntu? You would certainly want a tour of the history of
Egypt, a chance to visit the varied cultures of African countries, the fight to
end apartheid; and here at home the history of slavery, the Civil War, the
underground railroad, the Civil Rights Movement, and so very much more.
But I don’t think this vision arrived just because it would
be a gloriously exciting theme park. It would provide much needed employment
for countless talented, ambitious individuals. It would be an opportunity for
people who would never have a chance to meet and appreciate one another in
other circumstances to do so. It would
showcase talent, inspire young people, foster respect between the races….
I would devote myself to this vision in a second if there
were any possibility at all that I could advance it. I know I cannot. But
here’s what I realized I could do: Write this up and send it out into the
world. Maybe you, reading this, are the person the vision was meant for. Maybe
you know someone who knows someone for whom this vision might be destined.
In my heart of hearts I think the vision is trying to find
Oprah Winfrey, for whom it would be a grand legacy, don’t you think? But who
can say? Certainly not I. I just hope this beautiful vision finds its home, and
the world can benefit from all the beauty, imagination, creativity,
inspiration, and joy that is Africa Around the World.