This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Cape Coast. Before the trip as a program, we had the opportunity to have a Professor provide a lecture on the history of slavery and the process that started the oppression of Africans that continues today economically. We discussed the transatlantic slave trade and its impact on Ghana and West Africa. The start of the slave trade led to western domination, but it created division among Africans and various ethnic groups, so when colonization started they were not able to unite to challenge their oppressor.
Our first stop was the Assin Manso Slave River. This is the river where African captives were camped and made to take their last bath before being sent to the castle. Some of these slaves had to walk 300 miles before they got to the river and a larger percentage of them were murdered for attempting to escape. The slave trade encompassed present day Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Congo, Angola and other countries on the west coast. There 40 forts and castles built by Europeans to manage the trade. People were tied up around the bamboo seen in the background so they could not run away. Those that attempted to escape were killed by the masses and buried in unmarked graves that hold thousands of bodies.
Next we visited Cape Coast slave castle and Western African History Museum. Cape Coast is one the castles built along the coast of Ghana formerly Gold Coast to manage the slave trade. This was my second time at the castle having visited the site two years ago; yet the waves of emotions that overwhelmed me felt raw as the first trip. My body would physically clinch as the tour guide told the story of how Blacks were forced to live in dungeons and forced to sleep and shit/piss shackled in a hole. The castle was the last stop before slaves were put on ships to be sent to the Americas known as, “door of no return.” Today that same gate has been changed on the front to state, “Door of return” a gesture to display that we welcome our brothers and sisters (African Americans) home. On reflection of the atrocities that have taken place, I do not know how a human being can do that to another human being, unless they truly considered them to not be humans. I struggle to understand how for generations it was considered acceptable to enslave people and not long ago Blacks were still fighting for their civil rights. At times it is difficult to consider humanity collectively as decent even today people are still being forced into slavery in Libya and again the world is content to continue to ideally sit by. Yet we question how slavery, genocide of Jews and other atrocities were allowed to take place. Indirectly or directly we continue to allow people to be targeted because if we are not at the center of the attack or it is happening elsewhere in the world it is not our responsibility. I struggle to wrap my mind around this concept.
The hypocrisy in the slave trade and castle was above the dungeons that the males slaves were held in, a church was built to provide service. I struggle to comprehend how a person of God could do such a thing to people and still consider themselves good. Above those same dungeons that thousands of people were held shackled and dying, was a castle that held the governor who had access to the best view the region provided. I again struggle to understand how person of God could enjoy his life as he continued to rape and kill people. This was a difficult trip and still requires a lot of reflection to understand how cruel humans can be.