An African song inspires ‘Black Pearl Sings!’

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The box held a VHS recording. Higgins’ eyes were drawn to its evocative title, The Language You Cry In. The film tells of the real-life meeting between a Mende woman in Sierra Leone and a woman from coastal Georgia. They share the same African funeral dirge, which some historians consider to be the longest text in an African language discovered in the United States.

The film cemented a theory: If the West African coiled basket tradition, which led to Lowcountry sweetgrass baskets, can travel to America during trans-Atlantic slavery, then the same must also apply to songs.

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