In September past I travelled to Zanzibar with a long time friend from Singapore. I intentionally planned to visit the places where other Africans, like my ancestors, were bought, sold, and held in waiting like fish in the fish market. The slave trade in east Africa is linked to this historical island, which was like a Fed Ex hub: a central location to facilitate the transfer of slaves—stolen, captured in war, kidnapped, or bought elsewhere to be traded, from there to parts of Persia and Arabia.
I explained to my friend, EVERY African-American identifies intimately with slavery. We talk as if it were only yesterday. We say “we,” as though speaking of relatives in another city or town. We also say “they” about slave masters and traders, about the over seers who beat us, the men who raped our foremothers and sold off their children, the few who taught us to read in secret, or turned a blind eye at our efforts to escape. Yet, I know of NO WHITE person who identifies with their history as slave masters.
My intention was to perform some simple ritual interface at the markets and holding cells. I had not planned any details, I had only reflected on the value of sacred expiation and the reality of living blood still flowing because my ancestors gave their blood, sweat, and tears. Perhaps my blood would mingle with the spirit of the blood of my ancestors. At least I hoped I could, through some selected prayers or liturgy, release anger, pain, and humiliation in exchange for a life of freedom. I owe my life to them and I wanted to consciously renew the bond and then, like Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom, to LET it go. To honor my ancestors I must live fully and in freedom. Continue reading “Freedom and Faith by amina wadud”