Many questions are asked of us as a community, but the answers which are so complex that we should be commended for even attempting to answer, are heard- if they are not interrupted- but rarely understood. As a Black mother and wife, I have accepted the fact that no one will understand my struggle outside of other Black mothers and wives. After being asked questions about how my community relates to slavery, I am convinced that no one outside of my Black American community will ever understand how slavery has impacted our lives, identities, family structures, trauma, and deaths. Furthermore, it has yet to be understood how the past of slavery continues to impact these areas as a people.
Firstly, although slavery has left an immense imprint on our racial memory, the Black community is not stuck in slavery simply because we bring it up. It is brought up because it is a part of our story and we should not be made to feel ashamed of it. Just because you are tired of hearing about it or uncomfortable does not mean that Black Americans should be made to feel as though should avoid speaking of our history. Some many pro-Black groups and movements emphasize and celebrate the achievements of Black Americans before, during, after, and despite slavery. However, these movements threaten the dominant culture, and much of their achievements are ignored or perceived as threats and terrorism. It is hard to educate ourselves and our children about our ancestor pre-enslavement because our legacy, history, sacred knowledge, and culture were destroyed and our memories were erased and replaced with the bible and colonialist interpretations of scripture. Many of these scriptures are interpreted to justify slavery and are still used to justify police brutality, mass incarceration, and psychological warfare on Black Americans. Nevertheless, we do what we can to celebrate ourselves and our heritage. In doing so, we cannot ever forget slavery.
According to Cedric C. Johnson, “The term Maafa (pronounced Mah-ah’-fa) is Ki-Swahili. It means the ‘great disaster, calamity or catastrophe.’ Increasingly, it is the preferred term used to reference the enslavement, sustained dehumanization, and disenfranchisement of Africans in America. The motto for the Maafa Commemoration is “The Way Out is Back Through.” The victims of any kind of trauma cannot heal, Rev. Youngblood asserts, until they fully acknowledge what they’ve been through, every traumatized community needs vehicles that facilitate “organized grief work.” In our country, there has never been a formal acknowledgment, apology, or reparations for the atrocities witnessed, experienced, and passed on through intergenerational trauma. Thus, Black Americans have not had the opportunity to confront their pain and heal.
Johnson clarifies intergenerational trauma, “Several documented cases verify that collective traumas linked to particularly inhumane atrocities return to “haunt” the group’s descendants.2Studies have also shown that if trauma has not been sufficiently spoken of and acknowledged at the time of its occurrence, traces of it can remain and surface in the family 50 or 100 years later. Remembering the trauma story includes a systematic review of the meaning of the event. “
It is brought up that enslaved Africans were not the only ones enslaved, which is a tool of dismissal. We are constantly told that we are somehow oppressing ourselves by remembering our previous subhuman condition. Black Americans have never once said our ancestors were the only ones who have experienced enslavement. Slavery is in the Bible. The Israelites are liberated from slavery in Egypt and they are instructed by God to never forget that part of their story. It emphasized over and over again to remember NEVER FORGET their time in Egypt as well as how the Lord delivered you, and to be sure to teach your children. “Always remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God redeemed you from your slavery. That is why I have given you this command.” (Deuteronomy 24:18). When you are around Black Americans and they bring this up, consider it an honor that you get to witness the holy act of remembering and grieving.
We are told that we shouldn’t be angry with the white slave masters but the African chiefs and kings who sold our ancestors into slavery in the first place. Firstly, not all that were enslaved were given by African chiefs, some were snatched, stolen, ripped from their homelands. Secondly, the attempt to overlook this fact is perhaps Black Americans extending Africans grace as we see them as our family, regardless. But perhaps this is a foundation of the turbulent relationship between Black Americans and Africans, each group believing that they are hated by the other. I cannot speak for Africans, but perhaps the animosity from the Black American community comes from African people coming to this country and adopting the same language, concepts, judgments, and conclusions about Black Americans that are consistent with a dominant culture influenced by white supremacy and colonization. In many cases in my experience, their conclusions, judgments, language, and concepts are a result of misinformation, ignorance of the context, experience, and history.
To clarify, Black Americans do not use slavery as an excuse to see ourselves as inferior or hinder progress as a community. We see our bondage as an example of how far our people have come and how far we have yet to go. We are not in the streets protesting because we are angry, but because we see ourselves as equal and demand accountability. It is shameful that the truth of a collective is diminished by how it is expressed and delegitimized because our cries for justice are interpreted as whining. Amazingly, we are told to forget the Great Catastrophe because it was so long ago when the effects of slavery slap us in the face every day whether you believe it or not. We are not oppressed simply because we remember.
 Cedric C. Johnson, Race, Religion, and Resilience in the Neoliberal Age (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 101.
Chasity is a Louisiana native and from a conservative, Evangelical background until moving to Seattle, WA to be a community organizer (young adult missionary). It was here she began to challenge traditional mission work in the context of colonialism and began her own process of liberation (decolonization). For the last two years, as a Master of Divinity student at Boston University School of Theology, she has focused her degree on exploring various Liberation Theologies including Black Liberation, Womanist, and Decolonization Theologies.
She has recently launched Fourth Wave Revolution in an attempt to educate as well as decolonize! For the last five years, she has done this through various ways: sermons, adult Sunday schools, workshops, individual and collective consulting, yoga and mindfulness, support groups, and more! It was her hope to one day give birth to a movement that would transform the way we engage in anti-oppression and anti-racism work while maintaining and in some cases recovering ourselves. According to Decolonial theorist Albert Memmi, racism is a symptom of colonialism (The Colonizer and the Colonized, 69-70). Therefore, we must reach deeper and address as close to the root as possible to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Fourth Wave Revolution is committed to digging deeper.
As a new mother, Chasity is also thinking into conscious parting as well as how to transmit the core of feminist, womanist, and liberation theologies to children. To stay updated on upcoming events, follow our Facebook page by clicking here!