Ngala-Najla

I Celebrate Myself…


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Reflections on 12 Years A Slave

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(photo via www.dailymail.co.uk)

The things that I know about slavery…that I had to educate myself about slavery were displayed superbly in 12 Years A Slave.  The film was intense, it was raw but more importantly it was REAL… and I feel that with this movie a lot of healing will occur. For me I was thankful for the intensity of the movie. It held nothing back, as a movie about slavery should. That is the only way true respect and honor can occur for those who came before us. No other movie about slavery, in my opinion, has been this real and I guess that’s why the repercussions of slavery on the descendants of those who were enslaved have often been simplified…but I digress. I will only talk about the movie.

After seeing 12 Years A Slave I found myself silently seeking forgiveness to my fore parents who were enslaved.  There is a level of shame that “society” has placed on people of African descent in the Americas about slavery (which has led some to even deny the African blood that flows through their veins).  I myself have fallen victim to that shame and the need to prove that I am one of the “good ones” that I am worthy of trust and/or respect. What that really was was a sense of unworthiness (the house slave vs. field slave dynamic occurring in my mind).  After seeing this movie I realized that I am worthy because I am here…in this time and space.  I am worthy because regardless of the rapes (within me lies Irish and Scottish blood as well. I have no knowledge if my foremothers were raped at the whim of the overseer or the master or not), the bone breaking pain of hours of work, etc and still be able to live, love, persist… and with all the begets, I am here.

I left the movie feeling cleansed in someway, grateful in another and overall a stronger sense of worth and pride in those who endured to the best of their ability.

The realities of slavery cannot  and should not be explained in a one dimensional way. The institution was based on fear and greed, which led a lot of people to lose a lot of their humanity, everyone involved.  The reality is, one cannot strip the humanity from another with stripping the humanity from oneself.  This is true now and it was then. The more we try to strip a person to less than human in order to validate our treatment of them, we are no better than the slave owners who whipped and raped. We are no better than the other perpetuators of mass injustices that happened in this world, from Slavery to the Holocaust to the Parsley Massacre and to things happening today (and it doesn’t have to be massacres either, just look at this whole food stamp program funding cuts debacle).

The reality is that at times it just seems too much to handle — all these injustices and so for me, I will work to overcome hatred by concentrating on love. The hope is that in some way love will balance actions based on fear.  It may sound like a cliché but for me that is the greatest way I can personally honor those who endured, the one’s who quietly whisper (the slave and the master, the African, Irish, Scottish and unknown), “get it right for us – forgive and love freely.”

(c) Copyright RNLH 2013