Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Trip; the Impact

Throughout the next few months I plan to post my observations, revelations, hallucinations, and every other thing that changed my personal outlook as a result of my first trip to Africa by way of Senegal. The first is posted and rightfully reflects on Goree Island, the start of our journey as a people to Africa-America.

That this trip was made on the dawning of a new era in American history, an era that will see this great, conflicted nation about to inaugurate a man of African descent as its leader, is an irony not lost on me. It is on the minds of all who accompanied me, from the youngest to the oldest. That it was made during the holiest of times in America, when the most important Judeo-Christian religious ceremonies are celebrated, also seems fitting since most assuredly we all expected to have a spiritual experience that mere words could never articulate.

So bear with me as I bare my feelings about my journey. I promise not to tell you every single detail but I want you to understand how I am processing all that I experienced and for me that will come best as writing and ultimately art. More to come...

Ile de Goree- A Painful Observation

The dirt from Goree will not leave my feet. I scrub and scrub, followed by a Wet Wipe bath and no luck...

It's as if the ancestors want to stay with me forever and make me take their spirits off that wretched island.

The walls of the slave house didn't really speak to me but the air did; the atmosphere did; the sea did.

My thoughts kept fixed on the millions dwelling beneath me as I made my way across the bay to the island aboard a modern day ferry boat, wondering how it must have felt to be on one of those precursors, those slave ships, those wooden graves, leaving my continent bound for who knows, bound...

I watch with a heaviness as the island begins to make itself seen, the prison/garrison barely visible, and I feel the weight of history beginning to pull me down, so standing is not an option.

Then as the boat begins to turn into the port I make myself stand to witness the returning to Goree that hundreds and thousands of African Americans make every year, a returning that bears witness to the horrific beginning of a new African people, the lost ones, the soulless ones, the African Americans.

I fill up; I wonder how I will see myself in the slave house.

Finally, I am in it; I am in the now sanitized torture chambers made palatable by the Senegalese government so that commerce can continue, this time trading in the history of the enslaved rather than the enslaved individuals whose blood, excrement, urine, tears, tears and more tears soaked and stained the stone/dirt floors.

"Enfants" labels a doorway.

The babies/children's room, a room that should never have meaning beyond "playroom" but that has sustained a horrible definition change in this pink prison of death and dying.

"Enfants", I weep...

"Jeune Filles", I look at that doorway and think of the three teenage girls who accompany me on my journey and realize that they and their peers would inhabit this chamber, sustaining rape and degradation daily, sometimes multiple times daily, bearing the bastard children of the enslaver and his minions.

I have no strength when I leave the hallways of that pink atrocity, making my way to the Door of No Return but I must see it, experience being framed in it the way my ancestors must have been as they were pushed out of it towards the waiting wooden death vessels.

The sea still laps at the coast line looking placid and gentle.

But I know just beneath my gaze lies the whole of my soul drowned in this beautiful body Atlantic.

The double assault of European tourists and African hustlers sickens me as I leave the pink disaster zone.

I cannot breathe; my head seems to be closing itself to reason. I weep again while comforting my crying friend who cannot, will not, forget her ancestors' pain.

Ile de Goree I have returned but I cannot sat I will again.

The soul has been filled with ancestral memory and there is no room for anything else to occupy my leaden heart.