We are the survivors of wars, hunting parties, the middle passage, and over two hundred years of slavery. The United States of America was dedicated to God on April 30, 1789, while engaged in the stealing and selling of African people. After George Washington’s inauguration at Federal Hall in New York, he and newly elected government officials walked to St. Paul’s Chapel, where Washington dedicated America to God. The country entered a covenant that would bless and protect it if its people kept God’s statutes and commandments. Abraham Lincoln thought the bloodshed of the country’s own people in the Civil War, not slavery, broke that covenant. It is from that perspective that we were taught history in school.
We, the children of slaves, have lost our languages and true identities. Even as we have become a new people, Africans by blood and Americans by culture and the location of our birth, we are counted as the lost. The reexamination of America’s history has taught me to view it through a personal lens, not from someone else's point of view. I now understand why I feel like an interloper in a country my people helped build and whose roots can be traced to the 1700s.
The red clay soil and the Red River Parish of Louisiana, where my people were enslaved, conjure images of cotton fields and wooden houses with porch swings and screen doors that squeak when opened and bang when shut. Louisiana, even with its history of inhumane cruelty, speaks to my soul. Perhaps I’m drawn to it because my ancestors sleeps there, many in unmarked graves. Most of their stories may never be told, but we, the lost tribes of Africa, have a collective history. Reading slave narratives, books about slavery, or African Civilization allowed me to imagine what my ancestors went through during slavery and who they were before. I see myself in the accounts of their lives and understand some of the psychological issues we face today because of the lies we were told about ourselves, and the trauma inflicted during slavery and after. Our history has to be specifically sought after and curated to undo the damage caused by the racially biased education we received as children. We have to look deeper than the water-downed versions told in schools.
We may be counted as The Lost, but we don’t have to remain there. Genealogy research and DNA testing allow us to find out what countries our ancestors came from. History books written by African and African-American scholars tell us who we were. We have to become proactive in teaching our children about our history. My adult son and I often suggest books for each other to read, and we engage in lengthy discussions regarding everything from religion to cultural appropriation.
I’m convinced that by learning the truth, we will find our way home, whether it is in the United States, the Caribbean, or Africa.