Black People : SLAVE DUNGEONS / PLACES OF MEMORY

Destee

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SLAVE DUNGEONS / PLACES OF MEMORY
Runoko Rashidi



9 August 2006


Greetings Family,

How are you today? Well, after a two day absence I am back in Accra. Accra is the capital of Ghana and has a population of about four million people.

I like Ghana. It is my third time here and I can see myself returning on a regular basis. The people seem gentle and kind and possessed of a quiet dignity. The country has a strong Pan-African spirit and the legacy of Kwame Nkrumah is still vibrant.

I am with eighty sisters and brothers from the United States. And it is the most difficult, self-absorbed, individualistic, and obstinate group of people that I have ever traveled with! Many of these folks are in Africa for the first time and yet act as though they don't want to take directions from anyone. They generally don't pay a great deal of attention and are frequently a real pain. Many of them seem obsessed with shopping and seem to do everything very slowly. They are a very diverse group and apparently came to Africa with different agendas. But anyway, I am in Ghana!

Ghana makes ten countries in Africa that I have visited so far this Summer. Of those ten, in addition to Ghana, I enjoyed Lesotho and Uganda the most. I liked the physical beauty of Lesotho and the friendly and yet aggressive personality of the people. I liked everything about Uganda! It is probably more accurate to say that I just loved Uganda, and could easily find myself spending a great deal of time there.

So here I am in Accra. I spent Monday evening in Kumasi--the heart of the Asante region. We went to a palace/museum and stayed in an African owned hotel. It took a full day, though, from Accra to get there. We stopped in Bonwire--a kente cloth village (where I bought a couple of really nice shirts), and had an excellent African lunch.

The next morning we departed to Elmina/Cape Coast. It is a beautiful area and right on the ocean. We went to visit the dungeons. These are horrible places, full of memory. Anyone who has ever been to one never forgets the experience. I have been to three of them, the Elmina and Cape Coast dungeons in Ghana and Ouidah in Benin. Actually, Quidah was more fortress than dungeon but served the same function.

When you walk into the Elmina dungeon the first thing that you notice is a large old white church right in the center of the edifice. What a contradiction!

During our visit we went first to the women's dungeon. As I understood it, up to four hundred African women would typically be held there at a time. We saw the canon balls that those who refused to be raped were chained to until they submitted. It is difficult to find words for the depravity and humiliation that our Ancestors were subjected to.

I left the tour at that point and walked outside the dungeon to wait for the others. While waiting, a young white woman accompanied by an Asian man walked up to me and smiled and asked if I would take a picture of them in front of the castle. For a moment I just looked at her. And then I cursed her in some detail. I tried hard to be as rude and nasty to her as possible. She looked at me in shocked disbelief and then I cursed her again. Her boyfriend escorted her away. I thought that venting like that on a white person would make me feel better but it didn't.

From Elmina dungeon we went to the Cape Coast dungeon, a place to me even more miserable than Elmina. The tour group walked about, and passed through the door of no return (where our Ancestors were taken through before they were put on the floating coffins that we call slave ships), and then walked back through the door of return.

Then we went into one of the female dungeons and had a libation ceremony during which we pledged to be more tolerant of each other and more understanding of each other and more loving of each other and make our Ancestors proud of us. It was quite a ordeal. And then we sang a song together and some of us cried.

I was told that the remains of fifty-seven slave dungeons dot the coasts of Ghana and I would imagine that millions of Africans passed through them. Perhaps your own Ancestors did, maybe mine too.

They are horrible places, places of memory, sisters and brothers.

Never forget, African people. Always remember.

In love of Africa,

Runoko Rashidi

:heart:

Destee

ps ... Brother Runoko shared the above on an email discussion list, ChatAfrik@yahoogroups.com, so i don't think he'll mind me sharing it here. I am writing to him, just to be sure.


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