Cotton Boll Collective grew out of an intergenerational desire to commemorate the heritage, culture, rituals, traditions, and contributions of African descent communities with deep roots in the American South.
Our diaspora is wide. Our daughters and sons have traveled the world, yet they have looked homeward to these ancestral spaces as their wellspring of inspiration and strength. Whether you are in Cairo, Egypt, or Cairo, Georgia, our aim is to honor the culture and gifts of communities inspired by those Africans who were brought to the American South (and North) via the Middle Passage, as well as their descendants.
Our Rootedness line is a meditation on our African-American legacy as we look toward the future, honoring a proud people. It is our belief that everyone on the planet is the product of an amazing community. Here, at Cotton Boll Collective, we celebrate ours.
Mr. Hunter Hill, Jr., is Cotton Boll Collective's 2021 Spirit of Rootedness Culture Bearer honoree. Listen to Mr. Hill, a revered elder and member of an esteemed line of drummers whose traditional drumming has been featured at Emancipation Day (May 20, 1865) in Leon County since 1867, as he discusses the significance of May 20th, Emancipation Day in Florida, in addition to the traditions related to this special day.
The background of the Rootedness flag features the colors black, blue, and green. Black represents our connection to the African continent as well as the fertile soil of the Black Belt in the American South; blue symbolizes the Atlantic Ocean and the brutal transatlantic crossing of our forebears. Green signifies our ancestors' contributions to this nation’s wealth: working the land and building a country.
Land is closely tied to our identity as Southerners and people of African descent, and that is further exhibited in the crest. The crest’s foreground displays crops associated with the plantation system of the American South: cotton, tobacco, sugar cane, rice, and indigo. They rest behind a stylized rendering of a slave ship, a shield in the center of the crest. In that sense, this symbol—representing every man, woman, and child who were captives—is not a source of our shame; it is a source of our strength.
The artist’s stylized presentation uses rustic imagery because it represents what our ancestors built with their own hands. Her rendering explains, not only the Afro-Southern experience in the United States, but the black experience in the Western Hemisphere. It is, truly, an American experience.
This flag is our affirmation. With it, we honor our ancestors’ sacrifices, beauty, humanity, dignity, talents, and gifts—“without fear or shame.”
Rootedness is Toni Morrison (1931-2019), prophet and culture bearer. This week, we recognize the anniversary of her passing. Her transformative literary vision is even more significant to us today as we continue to mine her narrative touchstones for meaning and direction, seeking her “benevolent, instructive, and protective“ ancestral voice. The daughter of parents from Georgia and Alabama, Toni Morrison enlivened her art with the spirit of the Afro-South, its rituals, and its traditions. We reflect on her “certain kind of wisdom” as we examine our American experience within the possibilities and frailties of this American experiment.
Rootedness: With Dignity, without Shame
Rootedness in Barcelona, Spain.
Rootedness on the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy.
Rootedness at the Mary Ellen Pleasant Memorial in San Francisco, CA.
Rootedness at the birthplace of Jackie Robinson in Cairo, GA.
Rootedness at the monument commemorating Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City at San Jose State University in San Jose, CA.