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THREE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY SEVEN

From Andrea Hairston’s review of Kiini Ibura Salaam’s When the World Wounds.

Standing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and facing the selective neglect of black and poor communities, Bone Man tells the young cynic: “Make believe is the only reason I’m here right now.”

After the levies break, Bone Man hangs at the edge of life and death, confused, uncertain, despairing. Yet in his imagination he lives beyond devastation. To heal the children and decolonize the future, Bone Man calls up the spirits of the living and of the ancestors for carnival, for Mardi Gras. Bone Man doesn’t have any answers, and he can’t figure a cure for despair, but he believes in the power of people coming together to make sense out of catastrophe. Bone Man feels that performance is a chance for the devastated to recover and rediscover themselves. Mardi Gras is an embodied understanding of life as a grand cosmic improvisation. Look at all life does with dirt, water, and sunlight. We are bacteria. Making it up as we go along, wounding and healing ourselves, falling over cliffs and reaching out for the stars, life invents passions and possibilities that devastate and surprise. Bone Man knows natural disasters and socially engineered neglect do not define us. He believes in his bones and ghostly spirit that carnival is a communal performance of who we mean to be. Mardi Gras celebrates the potential of the universe to harbor life.