During our travels, MPCPMP board members frequently have conversations with people of African descent who express deep regret that because of the human trade we do not know who our ancestors were. They make comparisons between those of us in the Diaspora, and European and Asian people who can state their specific heritage. It is a great disservice to our progenitors if we feel that because they are unknown and unnamed we are not rooted.
It is important to know one’s heritage; there is no argument on that front, but instinctively we should also realize that everyone came from somewhere and someone. We all do have navels! If our people, our ancestors in the Western Hemisphere, were not survivors and resisters, we would not exist. They were made captives, removed from homes, friends, and families, and endured weeks and months in ships’ holds under the most horrific conditions ever imagined, finally landing in a place where no alternative existed to oppression and enslavement. Yet they nurtured each other and their children whenever possible, with two objectives in mind: survival and freedom. The methods used to reach those two goals were employed for generations – submission, resistance, rebellion, deception. Our ancestors were enslaved but not slaves. Whenever an opportunity arrived, choices were made: Who would go? Who would stay? What would be the possible outcome or repercussion?
There should be no shame because a straight line of descendants cannot be drawn from one generation or place to the next. If the truth be known, most people cannot, especially in this country. It would be good to know the who and where of our biological backgrounds, and with DNA results that is now possible, although still too expensive for most. What is more important, however, is to realize the spiritual, psychological, and cultural traits that have sustained us in this Diasporan history.
Is it not enough to proudly boast that we are Pan African, Pan European, Pan American, and Pan Asian – the best of the entire world’s people? In this day, with the new technology, hybrids are in fashion. There is no such thing as “pure” ethnicity, and we should view ourselves as the best America has produced. The problem is that we do not believe it.
As MPCPMP goes from one middle passage port to another in this country, the contributions of ancestors in each locale are astounding. Their spirit, their will to survive, and their creations are everywhere. Yet what is disturbing is that, for the most part, the story is unknown and unappreciated, especially by our young people. As part of our fund-raising this year, Sonja Evans, an artist in Pensacola, has been asked to create a print series, Doors of the Diaspora, that reflects the three major, commonly shared points of our history: The Door of No Return, The Door of Arrival, and The Door of Freedom. Our families have walked through each one and survived. We are the living proof – that should be enough for the descendant community to know who our ancestors were and who we are.