ESSAY

Week 3

"Family Tree"

by Kat Gray-Ketlove,

It probably for me all started in West Africa.

Likely Senegal because it has the most shoreline, making easy docking for the slave traders to

load their human cargo.

Do you hear the chains clang against the holding cell?

Do you smell the sweat of fear?

Do you see the angered rough waters through the feared eyes?

Do you feel the goose-bumped dry black skin?

I hear it.

I smell it.

I see it.

I feel it.

Do you see my family tree ripped out with the African soil still clinging to the roots?

I do.

Transplanted into the soil of Hispaniola

Where everything was different.

Lost language.

Lost homeland.

Lost culture.

Lost freedom.

Toil.

Long strenuous fatiguing labor for hundreds of years on sugar plantations under owners.

Do you hear the snap of the cruel whip?

Do you feel the stinging thrashes along the backs?

Do you see the swing of the machete as it cuts down the sugar cane?

I can feel the weight of being treated less than human.

Can you put yourself there with sweat glistening on your black skin and your back aching?

I can.

And I can feel the anger that led to revolution.

So could Toussaint Louverture

Who was a slave that led an uprising.

He said “I was born a slave but nature gave me the soul of a free man.”

He inspired the people that never knew freedom to fight for it.

They risked everything because they had nothing.

They fought for freedom.

Freedom from brutality.

Freedom from being sold away from loved ones.

Freedom from subservience.

Freedom from tyranny.

Freedom to control their own destiny.

Do you see the flash of the machete now used as weapon?

Do you hear the guns?

Do you feel the rocks under the bare cold feet?

Can you feel the pent up energy transforming the slaves into warriors?

I can.

The only successful slave insurrection in history.

Victory.

Two hundred years later I am born on the land where the roots had been transplanted

Deep in the soil of Haiti.

Not a slave.

Yet not free.

Poverty is a tyrant too.

The struggle never ends.

We fight for freedom.

For Toussaint Louverture.

For self determination.

To maintain our dignity.

Because we are proud of being Haitian.

Also we celebrate

Celebrate the process of self determination.

The richness of a strong culture.

A culture that thrives despite poverty.

Filled with powerful music of African descent.

There is beauty within the community and ourselves.

All this history lives in me.

Even though I'll never know my great great, great grandmother’s name

She lives in me.

Do you feel her?

I honor her.

I honor the history of my peo