Remembering the history of a people, or a nation makes an enormous contribution to all of us. It is an opportunity to listen and to learn what our ancestors experienced no matter what culture you are from really and even more so for your own culture.
“If the Atlantic were to dry up, it would reveal a
scattered pathway of human bones,
African bones marking various routes of the
John Henrik Clarke
On August 23rd. just last week I was invited to join the Native American community in the beautiful sacred ceremony of burning sage and offering tobacco to the Four Directions to the Mother Earth and the Divine represented by the sky at the opening and at the end of the Middle Passage Ceremony at the Broadway Pier in Fells Point in Baltimore,MD. The Middle Passage Ceremony commemorates the 2 to 6 million Africans who perished in the Middle Passage of the transatlantic human trade. The group is researching and sponsoring ceremonies at more than 175 middle passage ports in North America, the Caribbean, Africa, Central and South America. They are working towards planning the final ceremonies in Africa on the east and west coasts, in 2020.
They are working to educate people as to the contributions to community made by Africans both to the development of the young nations and locally. They are also working in the arena of education through churches, cultural groups and community groups to promote the history of the African diaspora.
Visit them at http://middlepassageproject.org
African Slavery occurred c.1600-c.1800. Ships from Europe and later the Americas ploughed the waves to Africa often trading cloth, iron, brandy, firearms and gunpowder. Slaves captured in their villages were brought to the African Coast where they were kept in Dungeons to be traded. Many did not survive. This site http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p277.html relates that of 20 million slaves captured less than half made it to the coast.
The captured African had no idea of what lay ahead of him. Many thought the Europeans were cannibals as no slave returned to tell the tale. The captured child Olaudah Equiano,later wrote in his autobiography:
“when I looked round the ship too and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and a mulititude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate and quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. . . . I asked if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces and long hair?”
The slaves were packed in a small area with little headroom after being branded with hot irons and shackled. There was no room to stand up and no place to deal with bodily wastes. Disease became rampant and many died in their shackles and were thrown overboard. Some were thrown overboard alive.
According to Equiano, “The closeness of the place, and the heat of the climate, added to the number in the ship, which was so crowded that each had scarcely room to turn himself, almost suffocated us. This produced copious perspirations, so that the air soon became unfit for respiration, from a variety of loathsome smells, and brought on a sickness among the slaves, of which many died.”
When the water ran out on a voyage to Jamaica in 1781 the captain chained slaves together and threw them overboard figuring many were sick and the insurance companies would pay for drowned slaves but not sick slaves who died. In all 132 slaves were murdered. The case went to trial when Olaudah Equiano then living in England alerted an abolitionist friend of his. At first the jury ruled in favor of the insurance company paying up as sick animals could be thrown overboard for the good of the ship and were covered by insurance. The insurance company appealed, the case was retried and this time the Landmark decision was that the Africans were considered people. Unfortunately this murdering of slaves was not a practice limited to this one occurrence and would continue to happen.
Slave trading flourished in England in Liverpool during the 1700-1800. The practice with 15 ships in the early 1700 was at 134 ships by the time slavery was abolished in England in 1807. It was also abolished in the US that same year, led by the slavery abolitionists Thomas Clarkson, John Newton, former slave ship surgeon Alexander Falconbridge, and ex-slave Olaudah Equiano. They, along with countless others, began to sway the opinion of the public. In the US” in 1643, the New England Confederation assisted runaway servants, including slaves. In 1652, Rhode Island declared that a slave must be freed after ten years of service. In 1676, slavery was prohibited in West New Jersey. The Quakers were another outspoken group against slavery. Their writings had great impact on the opinions of both Americans and Europeans. ”
Quoted from the PBS site Resources. Efforts to end The Slave Trade http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part1/1p278.html
Photos by Sue Silver and property of Sue Silver
SLAVERY STILL EXISTS TODAY
Over the weekend I was at a writers workshop presented by Grace Cavalieri. Saturday I had lunch with two of the women in the workshop. I was telling them about my day at the the Middle Passage Ceremony. They were excited to hear about it. I continued relaying an interview on my favorite radio show NPR. A policewoman was speaking of the problem of young women in the Prostitution Trade in the LA area. These young women and many of the older women are in fact slaves to the Pimp. They are threatened with bodily violence and death if they try to get away. In other countries it’s worse as the slave owners threaten bodily harm to other family members. The enslaved are caught mentally and physically.
So slavery has not left us. If you check wikipedia it tells us there are 12 million to 27 million slaves today, the “highest number in human history” Most are debt slaves in South Asia which can go on for generations.There is a huge problem with human trafficking into the sex industries, mainly women and girls.
Social and Structural causes of slavery include: Poverty,Globalization,Prostitution and Government Corruption.
Here is a quote from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_trafficking_in_the_United_States#Structural_factors_of_human_trafficking
According to a 2007 Washington Post expose entitled “Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence”, human trafficking into the United States is essentially nonexistent. In response to this article, Donna M. Hughes of the National Review countered the claims questioning the seriousness of human trafficking in the U.S. She notes: “The Washington Post article says that only 1,362 foreign victims of human trafficking have been identified since 2000. The Post reporter slants the article to imply that relatively few victims have been found because few victims exist. This number represents the number of foreigners confirmed as victims of trafficking. There are many more known victims than those who have applied for and been granted certification. First of all, certification requires that the victim be willing to cooperate with a police investigation. Following a police raid, some victims just want to go home, some victims don’t want to cooperate with police and are deported, and some victims are afraid to testify against vicious traffickers. The application for certification requires support from law enforcement. If the victim is not seen as useful for a case, or if the police don’t want to pursue a case, they have no support to stay in the U.S. and will not be counted as victims of trafficking. One cannot discount the fear that victims live under. They usually have been physically and sexually assaulted, and the emotion-battering involved in psychological control is constant. A frequent and effective hold that traffickers have over victims is to threaten to harm family members, sometimes even the children of the victims. Even after a woman or girl is safe herself, her family is still at risk. That prevents many victims from admitting that they are victims and cooperating with police.
I close this article with a comment about slavery. Think you are not in any way supporting slavery..no way Hosay. Well think again .. go to http://slaveryfootprint.org and you may be amazed. More reasons to support our local farmers and give up shopping at those big box stores.Really?!!! That hurts doesn’t it. In our quest to have goods cheaper and cheaper the slave trade persists.
Anyway check out your footprint.