PROJECT GENEALOGY  (7:14)          

 Click here  for  Project Genealogy for iPod/iPhone


Project Genealogy is a spring 2005 video poam (product of an act of making) that address some of why Thylias Moss wrote Slave Moth, a novel in verse that explores formation of configurations of identity

and responsibilities of identity within an exploration of a configuration of the unacceptability of slavery even under the best possible circumstances within that system that allows possibilities, but these are bounded possibilities within that frame that possibilities push to a configuration of its limits. Systems of personal identity are complex, and being in positions that offer both possibilities of power and possibilities of subjugation often do not succeed in allowing those who occupy either of those positions to occupy a position exclusively.  

Slave Moth explores how a literate adolescent slave girl configures identity within a framework of enslavement. Her literacy interacts with her emerging system of personal identity and the particular variables that configure her enslavement, especially a southern household in the late 1850's in which the male landholder is interested in (attracted to and repulsed by) curiosities, freaks, mutations with questions about origins in the face of emergence of ideas about evolution that could effectively challenge many configurations of creation. He has acquired Varl as part of his collection of rarities, a collection that includes albino and dwarf slaves as well as a non-literate wife who is heiress to a fortune in apples and whiskey.  

The novel in verse unfolds as Varl's stitched poetry (on cloth, initially on a secret garment hidden under her dress, that cannot be concealed by her dress as the secret cocoon of poetry grows and becomes bigger than the dress [bursting out of that dress like a burst cotton boll]) reveals her configurations of interactions in the household in which Master Perry becomes more attracted to the literate Varl than to his young illiterate wife Ralls Janet.  

The book began as a response to an incident in a school where a genealogy assignment was going to be banned because of the shame and embarrassment a ninth grade boy felt, one of the few black ninth grade boys in the school, for being able having to trace his ancestry only to slaves.

In a meeting, parents expressed their concerns about the few black children in the grade 6-12 private school having to acknowledge an ancestry of enslavement in an environment dominated by affluent and socially prominent Caucasian and Asian families.  While it was not assumed that all Black students in the school were scholarship recipients, it was assumed that most scholarship recipients were black.  Necessarily hurtful assumptions?  Perhaps a prevailing configuration of status, but not the only possible or plausible configuration of which there are many possible variations.  How inconvenient to be framed as needy, to have to put that on and wrap up in it as if to reconfigure neediness as defense.


All of my name Varl fits into larva, into what undergoes complete metamorphosis.  Lots of small things enlarge in opportunity to... I want to blossom to prove the wide world inside. (from the text on the dress from the book) 



 Dress hand-sewn by Slave Moth author to fit an 18-inch American Girl doll, in order to better understand what it could be like to sew ideas, the embroidery much more tactile, like small word caterpillars, each capable of metamorphosis.

The mirrors in place, to extend what may be easily configured as dependence on seeing a configuration of enslavement that resists reconfiguration, reflect more than a less-dimensioned, generalized configuration of African-Americans; these mirrors also reflect a less-dimensioned, generalized configuration of White Americans, and those presumed to be  white, those presumed to be black, those whose configurations of identity slip through back and white tines altogether.  The complexity forms a more kaleidoscopic ever-shifting, ever forming and reforming map that moves in every possible direction.   

To view an ancestry that includes slavery as an ultimate or Uber-boundary is to collaborate with the boundary in a manner that, whatever else the collaboration accomplishes, also boosts the boundary's power, to varying degrees, depending on configuration of the collaboration or interaction.  Feedback from viewing slavery as an Uber-boundary helps it to function as an Uber-boundary.  Such viewing of feedback helps Black pride wobble, and at times, in some configurations, Black Pride overcompensates as a response-interaction to correct the wobble, resulting in a reconfiguration of history more favorable to pride  systems although no configuration of history is complete or infallible given what slips through the tines without any way of our knowing how much has slipped through the tines; we cannot measure well, if at all, how much we don't know or mis-know.  

Each configuration of information establishes a configuration of reality in which the configured information system makes sense, or holds, on some scale in some location for some duration of time.  One tine of reconfiguration involves a recent Black History Bowl; Ann Arbor, Michigan's first Black History Bowl in which Black students experience successes  greater than what as a group is achieved by the Black students in non-black history academic endeavors, that is: the bowl helps to close the achievement gap better than other strategies.  A completely closed gap, however, might seal (on some scale in some location for some duration of time) those closing the gap in that filled space.  Bowl questions, according to the article published in the Ann Arbor News (a paper configured primarily in a print form for the last time in summer 2009), were about the achievements of African Americans, significant achievements that render discussions of an achievement gap (not a GPA gap) moot.

What is not clear from the article is whether or not the Black History Bowl was configured by the school board or by a community group or a parent-teacher-family organization, or a national organization,

so, within an unclear configuration system, it is also unclear what the source of certain configurations of black achievement facts is/was, Henry Sampson as inventor of the cell phone, for instance. Likewise, it is difficult to pinpoint the source of the same information that is configured into Henry Sampson's wikipedia entry (until someone amends it).  

The wikipedia entry includes a link to Sampson's IEEE  (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) listing 

which states: "On 6 July 1971, Dr. Sampson invented the "gamma-electric cell," which pertains to Nuclear Reactor use.  This invention produces stable high-voltage output and current to detect radiation in the ground.  The gamma-electric cell made it possible to send and receive audio signals via radio waves without wires; therefore, Henry Sampson has also been credited as the inventor of a cell phone, which became available in 1983."

Though the IEEE listing links Sampson to the cell phone (configurations of cell are root tine systems and bifurcations of subsequent configurations), Sampson's listing at the Physicists of the African Diaspora site explains the gamma electric cell differently and includes a link to the patent and related abstract.  As stated in the Physicists of the African Diaspora entry: "Dr. Sampson co-invented the Gamma-Electric cell which received the patent # 3,591,860 (abstract) on july 6, 1971. According to the book "Black futurists in the information age"(1997) PP.90-91, KMT Publications (submitted to copyright), "His Gamma-Electric cell device converts nuclear radiation from reactors or isotopes, directly into electricity without going through a heat cycle. In the nuclear fusion process, which involves the splitting of atoms, radioactive materials emit ionizing radiation that can cause serious damage to living tissues. Constructive methods to convert these powerfull radiating energies into practical and safe energy sources, is the fundamental philosophy behind the developpment of Sampson's Gamma-Electric Cell."

Above: Sampson patent  #3,591,860

Below: patent abstract

The Physicists of the African Diaspora entry on Sampson concludes with this emboldened statement:

"Note that Henry T. Sampson is mistakenly considered the inventor of the cellular phone."


 Quote from the Ann Arbor News article Ann Arbor Schools holds first Black History Bowl

by Special Writer Grace Aduroja on 30 March 2009: 


 Where in Africa was the world's first known university established? Answer: Timbuktu. Where was the art of writing invented? Answer: Egypt. Who invented the cell phone? Answer: Henry Sampson.

"It makes me feel that black people are successful and that they invented a lot of things that people don't give them credit for," said Curry, who along with his two teammates won the competition. "It makes me feel like I can be successful like them and be somebody."

During the competition, the students' excitement about their newfound knowledge was evident in their animated responses to the questions. The nattily dressed contestants sat on the edge of their seats, twitched their feet and tapped their fingers on their tables.

Correct answers brought applause from the dozens of audience members in attendance at Scarlett Middle School. Incorrect answers drew looks of surprise and air punches from the contestants, who were divided into two teams of three.

Eager to share their new knowledge, the students often hit the buzzer with an answer before the moderator had time to present the multiple-choice options.

"Now I know part of my history and where my culture came from," said Cane Tinkham, a Scarlett seventh-grader. Tinkham said that he was surprised to learn that African-American inventors were responsible for creating elevators and fire extinguishers.



Online responses to the article of course appear in a range of configurations (as do responses to Sampson as cell phone inventor in other online locations), some questioning the significance of the racial tine (or tines) in a complex identity of the inventor of anything; does/should the race of an inventor frame/configure/endow anyone/everyone connected to (on some scale, in some location for some duration of time) that race with a configuration of credit for the invention?  



 At the Black Invention Myths site, which attempts to reconfigure Black History reconfigurations, there are links to locations configuring Martin Cooper as the inventor of the cell phone, including this link to a picture of Cooper with his phone.



You can conduct your own search right here (and can make/configure/invent something on the left —just by moving the cursor —something is there [to assist in the configuration of what you make using a cursor tine] something is everywhere connecting everything, at the moment the idea itself does some limited holding.)