Dear Grandpa, I write to tell you about a world you never lived to see.  It is one o’clock in the morning on the island of Cuba. An island built on a dismaying past.

For the past 10 days I have been on a journey of thoughts along the west coast of the Atlantic and I wish to share them with you. Your life consisted of not the thoughts of this island’s history but the harsh realities. It was with my head full of slavery’s facts and tragedies that I arrived on these Caribbean beaches, and my heart filled with deepest dread. I feel as though I’m in a different universe while lying on this cruise ship, one that you never lived to build. A universe where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Though, in reality, I only feel thankful that I’m not lying on a slave ship, captured in a doomsday or caged in a sugar plantation, suffering from the pain of a white hot iron brand engraved into my skin, while the smell lingers thick in the air.

 The air that once held the sweet scent of freedom. I can only feel thankful that my body is not being sold for money, just to be used as a slave master’s puppet. I will never know the agony of being forced to leave my own family. Being a woman, I cannot express the gratitude I feel. Right here where I lie, our own people tortured African enslaved woman for the simple reason of their gender.

I thank God my children will not be the product of abuse, and that they will pursue a fulfilled life without having to witness their mother trying to escape her soul. I find myself longing for someone to apologise that these wrong doings have made their way into African culture. The sound of my own young crying for their right to existence will never enter my ears. I mourn for these intelligent and courageous females taken for something way less than human. Something words cannot express and my mind cannot fathom.  My heart breaks.  I see your star in the heavens painted black.

  The heavens that, while in the jaws of slavery, thousands saw as the only key to their freedom. This beautiful paradise is no longer a place of joy to me, but a place of sheer horror and feelings of the deepest rage at European brutality. Where on this hell of an earth was God? Undoubtedly, slavery has left a hole in not only the hearts of African Americans, but the African societies left behind. Does this past haunt Africa today? For even while guilt itself is not heritable, could it be that the consequences of that guilt somehow remain? How can a society make amends for such dreadful sins?  The sea of more than two thousand signatures marking their support for the eradication of the trade appears to me now, profoundly moving. Those people blessed the world with their strong hearts.

After my journey, I almost want to collect all of the spirits of the individuals who signed the petition and reveal to them how much their ‘small act’ impacted.  But I think that somehow, wherever they are, they already realise that. I want you to know that the descendants of these ill-fated beings live now in a world where they can walk down the streets with their heads held high, feeling proud of their African roots.

We live in society filled with equality and every individual one of us can freely express our views, tell our stories and stand up for what we believe in- devastatingly however only to a certain extent.  Nonetheless, slavery may have ended in this instance but child labour, sex slavery and labour slavery have become a feature of the modern world and I can only be ashamed. Our black friends are slaughtering each other. It appears the ruthlessness of slavery, and how hard people had battled for their life to be better, has been ignored. People are bleaching their skin only to dodge being the victim of racism. Their minds have been poisoned by the slave masters.

White supremacy lives on in the new world.  Racism is still a system built on political and social superiority.  The privilege of one group is the oppression of the others.

Although we live in the 21st century, people are still denied jobs due to the colour of their skin. How can we have come so far, achieved so much, yet still have so far to go? Although you are no longer with me, I still feel you near. I realise now, that in those damning years, everyone had to be connected to the trade in order to survive. Your hard work of building ships, yes, may have contributed to the deaths of human beings, but I can only feel thankful that those days are gone. Life goes on, and I hope one day we can live in a peaceful world where slavery and racism no longer exists. I will strive to pursue a life of fairness and perspective in memory of you.

  

x

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