A TREK TO THE LAST STEPS OF OUR ANCESTORS
Diamond Hawkins, Community Healing Network’s Outreach Coordinator, is currently traveling in Ghana. We asked her to share some of her experiences with us on this Let’s Talk Tuesday.
If you take a look at the coast of Ghana on a Google map, you will notice the beautiful waters that rush against the sands of the country. A series of forts and castles dot the coast.
Those forts and castles were the sites of crimes against humanity.
These castles mark the beginning of the perilous journey of Africans during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. These castles were the last memories our ancestors had of their beautiful homeland, before being taken across the Atlantic Ocean to be sold as human property.
I was given the opportunity to trek back to the homeland of my ancestors to learn how they got to the land where I now reside, The United States of America.
I chose to begin my search in Ghana (formerly known as the Gold Coast) because the nation houses one of the most infamous of these castles, the Cape Coast Castle.
I will take you through my experience of what it was like to walk on the grounds of the place where many of our ancestors were tortured, before coming to my current home in the Americas.
These are the feelings that overwhelmed me as I entered the dungeons of the Cape Coast Castle.
It was dark, damp and filled with a thick stench. A stench that represented 400 years of human abuse and captivity.
This is the place where our ancestors were treated like no creature on earth should be treated. They were whipped, starved and raped here. White marks on the dungeon walls represent the levels of the floor prior to the recent excavation.
The ground that you see in the photo above shows the floor many would think is made of dirt. These floors are actually covered with human excrements.
Left to survive in two feet of human feces, blood, vomit, and decaying flesh — these were the conditions our ancestors lived in while staying in the castle. They were left for up to three months. As you can imagine, many grew ill and died.
As you can see in the photo above, the dungeons had very little light. These same holes for light were used to throw down water and a little food. Many people lost their eyesight when they were brought out into the quarry before being loaded on ships to the Americas due to being forced to live in darkness.
The castle was not only used for the slave trade and captivity, but also became the office for the British Governors. Here they created rooms where the “Elite” would conduct business and worship.
In the upper chamber of the Castle were beautiful windows that showed the ocean that hugged the coast of West Africa. Through these windows, the governors were also able to see the ships of their newly shipped human cargo, make its way to the the Americas and the Caribbean.
Could you imagine waking up to this view every day? This is what our ancestors saw daily before being ripped away from their homes in captivity.
Walking around the upper chamber of the castle, I noticed a room which is which the guide referred to as the “Chapel”. This chapel was built directly over the dungeons where our ancestors lived in horrible conditions causing many of them to die.
The dungeons were built right under the churches where the British would praise, dance, and go about their normal lives, detaching from the unfathomable, disgusting, human suffering they consciously inflicted upon our ancestors. There were trap doors leading to the dungeons, where guards would stand during business and church to listen closely to the slaves to ensure there were no revolts.
As I continued to walk through the chambers of my ancestors, I felt an overwhelming sense of pain and sadness, a feeling that caused me to fall short of the rest of my tour group. I needed a moment to recuperate my emotions before viewing the final part of the castle, the “Door of no return”.
This door represents the last door our ancestors would walk through before being loaded onto ships to where they would be sold to create the new world. Walking through that door provided weak sensations throughout my body, leading to a face full of tears.
This is what I saw on the other side of the door: beautiful oceans, wildlife and fishermen. A sight my ancestors did not get to see. Unlike those beautiful men and women who were held captive and sent to the new world, I was able to walk back into the Door of Return, heading back into the lands of Ghana.
The Door is named the Door of Return, to signify the work being done to connect those apart of the African Diaspora globally. Encouraging our community to remember the history of our people, and work together to rewrite the narrative.
Taking this trip to Cape Coast Castle was an experience no one could have prepared me for. The connections I had to my ancestors will forever be remembered. I made a promise as I stood at the dock the the castle, I will continue to walk the paths of my ancestors, connect the dots of our history, and rewrite the narrative for generations to come.
I believe that all of us who are a part of the Diaspora, must make this trek to the West African Coastlines to connect with those who came before us.
What do you think? Have you been to Cape Coast? What was your experience? Will you plan a trek to Ghana?
Please share your experiences and views in the comment box below.
–Diamond Hawkins, CHN Outreach Coordinator
To follow Diamond on her further travels in Ghana, please visit www.diamondhawkins.com.