Stored under the deck of the ship like cargo, shackled to one another, bound by the weight of ponderous leg irons, and packed in so tightly one could hardly breathe, my ancestors would await hundreds of years of slavery, abuse, and oppression in the new world — my America.
The Middle Passage — the grueling journey from Africa to America, where millions of African enslaved men, women, and children were unknowingly brought to the Americas. The Middle Passage took the enslaved Africans away from their homeland, as they were sold by other Africans to Europeans during the slave trade.
The enslaved were from different countries and different ethnic (or cultural) groups in Africa. They spoke different languages. Many of these slaves had never seen the sea before, let alone been on a ship. As they embarked on this eight-week journey across the water, these men and women had no knowledge of where they were going, or the dark future (if they survived), that awaited them on the other side of the ocean.
"Women were raped, men were beaten, and death was literally the only way out."
The conditions on slave ships were so inhumane and insufferable, slaves often died from diseases, suicide, and even murder at the hands of the captain and his crew. Slaves chained to those who had died on the ship often remained chained to the deceased for weeks on end, or until a member of the crew decided to throw the lifeless bodies of the enslaved overboard. Women were raped, men were beaten, and death was literally the only way out.
I am attempting to paint a picture of the sheer horror that took place on these slave ships -- the inconceivable nature in which my ancestors were treated on their voyage to the unknown. Can you hear the cries of the suffering? Can you hear the moaning of the dying? Can you hear my ancestors?
Millions of enslaved Africans were sold, shipped, and sprinkled like sand around the world. The history of slavery is not unique to the Middle Passage. But the journey of my ancestors was to America — my history lives right here.
"When my ancestors boarded that slave ship, a lifetime of suffering, and a long road to freedom was only beginning."
The history of my African ancestors is why I sent my children in Dashikis to school today. We "wear" AFRICA, not as an appropriation of the present culture, but to honor our original African lineage. Before our ancestors created a rich, black history in America; before America consisted of black soldiers, activists, abolitionists, poets, authors, artists, doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, and more, they were stripped of everything they had know — in their homeland, AFRICA. When my ancestors boarded that slave ship, a lifetime of suffering, and a long road to freedom was only beginning.
Today, on this eighth day of Black History Month, I honor my ancestors, OUR ancestors. For those who survived the unimaginable, and for those who never made it to the new world, we remember you. Happy Black History Month.