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Maafa :: mass murder on an unimaginable scale

The Africans of the Slave Bark "Wildfire"

[+] Slave Ship
[+] Atlantic Slave Trade

The period has arrived when it is indispensable to provide some specific legislation for the guidance of the Executive on this subject. —Abraham Lincoln

ON the morning of the 30th of April last, the United States steamer Mohawk, Lieutenant Craven commanding, came to anchor in the harbor of this place, having in tow a bark of the burden of about three hundred and thirty tons, supposed to be the bark Wildfire, lately owned in the city of New York. The bark had on board five hundred and ten native Africans, taken on board in the River Congo, on the west side of the continent of Africa. She had been captured a few days previously by Lieutenant Craven within sight of the northern coast of Cuba, as an American vessel employed in violating our laws against the slave-trade. She had left the Congo River thirty-six days before her capture.

Soon after the bark was anchored we repaired on board, and on passing over the side saw, on the deck of the vessel, about four hundred and fifty native Africans, in a state of entire nudity, in a sitting or squatting posture, the most of them having their knees elevated so as to form a resting place for their heads and arms. They sat very close together, mostly on either side of the vessel, forward and aft, leaving a narrow open space along the line of the centre for the crew of the vessel to pass to and fro. About fifty of them were full-grown young men, and about four hundred were boys aged from ten to sixteen years. It is said by persons acquainted with the slave-trade and who saw them, that they were generally in a very good condition of health and flesh, as compared with other similar cargoes, owing to the fact that they had not been so much crowded together on board as is common in slave voyages, and had been better fed than usual. It is said that the bark is capable of carrying, and was prepared to carry, one thousand, but not being able without inconvenient delay to procure so many, she sailed with six hundred. Ninety and upward had died on the voyage. But this is considered as comparatively a small loss, showing that they had been better cared for than usual. Ten more have died since their arrival, and there are about forty more sick in the hospital. We saw on board about six or seven boys and men greatly emaciated, and diseased past recovery, and about a hundred that showed decided evidences of suffering from inanition, exhaustion, and disease. But notwithstanding their sufferings, we could not be otherwise than interested and amused at their strange looks, motions, and actions. The well ones looked happy and contented, and were ready at any moment to join in a song or a dance whenever they were directed to do so by "Jack"--a little fellow as black as ebony, about twelve years old, having a handsome and expressive face, an intelligent look, and a sparkling eye. The sailors on the voyage had dressed "Jack" in sailor costume, and had made him a great pet. When we were on board "Jack" carried about in his hand a short cord, not only as the emblem but also as the instrument of his brief delegated authority. He would make the men and boys stand up, sit down, sing, or dance just as he directed. When they sang "Jack" moved around among them as light as a cat, and beat the time by slapping his hands together, and if any refused to sing, or sang out of time, Jack's cord descended on their backs. Their singing was monotonous. The words we did not understand. We have rarely seen a more happy and merry-looking fellow than "Jack".

From the deck we descended into the cabin, where we saw sixty or seventy women and young girls, in Nature's dress, some sitting on the floor and others on the lockers, and some sick ones lying in the berths. Four or five of them were a good deal tattooed on the back and arms, and we noticed that three had an arm branded with the figure "7," which, we suppose, is the merchant's mark.

On the day of their arrival the sickest, about forty in all, were landed and carried to a building on the public grounds belonging to Fort Taylor, and Doctors Whitehurst and Shrine employed as medical attendants. We visited them in the afternoon. The United States Marshal had procured for all of them shirts, and pants for the men, and some benevolent ladies of the city had sent the girls and women gowns. Six or eight were very sick; the others did not appear to be in any immediate danger of dying. We were very much amused by a young lad about fifteen years old, not much sick, who had got on, probably for the first time in his life, a whole shirt, and who seemed to be delighted with every body and every thing he saw. He evidently thought the speech of the white man was very funny. When a few words were spoken to him he immediately repeated them with great glee. Pointing to Dr. Skrine, we said "Doctor." He said "Doctor." And then pointing to Dr. Whitehurst, we said "Doctor too." He said "Doctor too." The doctors had selected from the bark a woman about twenty-four years of age to assist the nurse in taking care of the sick. She had been dressed in a clean calico frock, and looked very respectably. About sundown they all lay down for the night upon a camp-bed, and were covered over with blankets. And now a scene took place which interested us very much, but which we did not understand and can not explain. The woman standing up slapped her hands together once or twice, and as soon as all were silent she commenced a sort of recitation, song, or prayer, in tone and manner much like a chanting of the Litany in Catholic churches, and every few moments the voices of ten or fifteen others were heard in the same tone, as if responding. This exercise continued about a minute. Now what could this be? It looked and sounded to us very much like Christians chanting together in evening prayer on retiring to rest. And yet we feel quite assured that none of these persons had ever heard of Christ, or had learned Christian practices, or possessed much, if any, knowledge of God as a Creator or Preserver of the world. We suspect that it was not understood by them as a religious exercise at all, but as something which they had been trained to go through at the barracoons in Africa or on board the ship. {more}

To Be Afrikan

[+] The Maafa
[+] Sankofa
[+] Yurugu
[+] Dr. Marimba Ani
[+] studying your navel while being raped

All people, all over the world, throughout history have shared in common the fact that they belong to a culture of origin. That is a universal reality. Another equally important universal reality is that there are many, many different cultures in the world and each of them is unique. The uniqueness of a culture is what gives specialness to its members. The members of a culture are bonded together by their shared culture, which gives them a sense of collective identity. "We are an Afrikan people," simply reveals that there are values, traditions and a heritage that we share because we have a common origin. The cultural process is naturally a ongoing, which allows people to continuously affirm their connectedness through being linked to their origins. However, the continuity of our cultural identity has been interrupted cruelly and unnaturally by the experience of slavery. We as a people are still suffering from this crime because we have not been allowed to find our way back to the sense of cultural identity and continuity which would transform us into a unified and whole people. We have not been able to function in the world with a collective consciousness that naturally imparts a strong sense of cultural roots.

The term "Maafa" (from the book, "Let The Circle Be Unbroken) is a kiswahili word for "disaster" that we are now using to reclaim our right to tell our own story. Maafa refers to the enslavement of our people and to the sustained attempt to dehumanize us. Because the Maafa has disconnected us from our cultural origins, we have remained vulnerable in a social order that does not reflect our cultural identity. {more}

Prof. Marimba Ani (Dona Richards)

Marimba Ani has developed the concepts of Maafa, Asili, Utamawazo, and Utamaroho as part of the on-going process of Afrikan-centered reconceptualization in which several Pan-Afrikan scholars are involved. She has helped to initiate an intellectual and ideological movement, the purpose of which is to construct a theoretical framework which will allow people of Afrikan descent to explain the universe as it reflects their collective interests, values and vision. Her most recent work has been the development of the Maat–Maafa–Sankofa paradigm as an analytical tool for understanding and explaining the Afrikan experience in the Diaspora and to suggest modalities for cultural reconstruction.

Tags: maafa, sankofa, slave trade
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