11. Slavery: The Prequel – Cape Coast Dungeon
On the ride from Assin Manso to Cape Coast, the realization that I was retracing the steps of history that led to my existence as a person and everything I know and thought I knew, hit me and became real to me. Not only that, but I was getting the real story of what happened from the people who were there and know what really happened. It was their family members that were kidnapped (Black people throughout the Americas) at the end of the day. When we reached Cape Coast, I immediately thought to myself “This is a long walk to take barefoot in chains” because when I stepped out of the van my feet were still feeling the effects of walking barefoot for the little while that I did.
The tour of the castle started off with us being Welcomed back home and more examples on how African Americans are Afrian descendants of the strongest people the world has ever seen. They really drove that message home; I never got tired of hearing it. It felt something like a pep talk. As we walked through the castle, we are taken from dungeon to dungeon, while the tour guide explained to us how slavery started and how europeans were allowed on African soil in the first place, then all the crimes against humanity that they were responsible from the time they got there until the slave trade ended. The dungeons have a smell that will never leave me. It smells like blood and old sweat. It kind of stinks but at the same time it’s not over the top repulsive. It smells like nothing but bad things happen in there. I made sure to take it all in. I touched all of the walls I could. I made sure to remember the smell and the way it felt in there. It was hot and stuffy without the room being full.
A close friend described the experience as “Inhaling the blood of our ancestors.” That’s exactly what it felt like. I felt my perspective change in those dungeons. I went from knowing what happened to feeling it. It didn’t feel like pain, it felt like strength, determination and pride. It was slowly becoming more and more insane that I could have had a family member pass through here under the worst circumstances hundreds of years ago. Not only me, I thought about all of my family, my friends, their families, all of the Black people I know. We all could have had a family member pass through here and they endured all of this. Not only that, but this wasn’t the worst part and they had no idea. The tour guide made sure to stress the point that it only got harder for their family members after they left the dungeons.
Next was Elmina Dungeon, except it was dark. The intensity of this whole situation picked up a lot once the sun went down. After a few minutes inside the castle, I heard Sandra say “Elmina hit different in the dark!” A very potent fact.
By the time the tour was done, I felt like my Grandmother told me the story of how her Grandmother was kidnapped and taken from her home somewhere in West Africa. The story hit a lot closer to home after “inhaling the blood of my ancestors”. When I walked out of Cape Coast Dungeon I felt stronger than I did when I walked in. I felt like I was more than a Black man, I felt like I was officially African. A West African. I felt baptized.