“I’m going to stand up, take my people with me
Together we are going to a brand new home
Far across the river
Can you hear freedom calling
Calling me to answer
Gonna keep on keepin’ on
I can feel it in my bones.”- Cynthia Erivo
The other day, I listened as my husband told the children the story of Joseph, how his brothers hated him for the favor his father showed him and how they plotted to and finally managed to throw him in a bottomless pit (we needed to define bottomless J).
Then, he got excited (like, seriously excited) as he told them how God was amazing because so many times in Scriptures the stories are so similar to events that have happened in our lifetime… yaani, its uncanny. That, just as Joseph had been sold into a life of slavery by his very own brothers, so had many Africans – by their fellow Africans. He asked one of the children if they would ever sell their siblings and they vehemently refused with a look of utter disgust at the idea! God, I pray and hope they always feel this much disgust and repugnance at the thought of injustice!
The story of slavery continued, and now having been given the context of a well-known Bible story, the kids were regaled with the more sordid details of what transpired. There were long treks for many of those who were captured, lasting days and to the point where their feet would get blisters or worse, and all this while, many were chained together and one mistake would lead to punishment or death (some dark concepts for the kids to hear, but damn, this world keeps getting darker by the day, naivety is no longer safe.)
They saw pictures of the ‘slave holding cells’ and were taught how the slave holding cells were dark dungeons from which there was no escape or return to the life you once knew. He showed them pictures of The Door of No Return and likened this to the bottomless pit Joseph was thrown in – there was only one way in and the only way out is into slavery or death. From this pit, those who survived were pulled out only to travel through the seas where many didn’t make it. Then when they got to wherever they were going, the Americas or England, they would be sold in markets, like produce.
It was so dark for me, sitting there, listening and thinking to myself that some day, long ago, someone’s child was stolen, tortured and then sold for a paltry sum to go and work the rest of their days on someone’s plantation, enriching someone else; and someone’s daughter was sold in order to breed more slaves; and someone else’s child was just disposed of because they (a human being with the misfortune of having dark skin) wasn’t strong enough to do much. They just weren’t valuable to anyone for anything.
These lessons though!
So, when you hear my daughter belting out Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldier” in the Church compound, during car-park fellowship (because this actually happened), kindly don’t come and tell me that I need to tell her to stop singing and perhaps teach her more acceptable music, just don’t. Because I will teach them a wide array of songs that speak truth; they will learn the stories and history that may not have made it into their textbooks, that tell the stories of those who have gone before them so that they make sure that “humanity never again perpetuates such injustice,’ and I will teach them to not be afraid of speaking out, of having tough conversations and of standing for something that they believe in. So help me God.