Moravian First Year Seminars in NYC
Sunday, September 25, 2011
Maafa: An Intense History Lesson
Our journey began, thankfully, at around 3pm which was a nice change from the usual 6am wake-up call. We spent the nearly three hour bus ride into Brooklyn chatting and eating. One of the leaders on the trip brought along tons of sub sandwiches, pasta and potato salad, cookies, drinks, etc. It was amazing. By the time we finally arrived at our destination, we were completely stuffed.
The performance began the second we walked in the door. We walked through a winding labyrinth of people and hallways among pictures and displays of the slave ships which crossed the Atlantic and the horrid conditions that were a fact of life for thousands of people. As we continued on our path, the nightmarish screams of children began to fill the air. At first I thought that there was a CD playing over an intercom. It wasn't until we turned the final corner that I discovered that the source was of the screaming was not an intercom but rather real children. A group of children, mostly under the age of ten, were huddled together. Some stood, while others were lying on the ground. As we continued into the sanctuary of the church, the screams and cries grew louder and louder. A second group of slightly older children were up on a platform, reaching their hands between the bars of the banister and calling out for help. On the ground beside them were two teenage boys, chained to the banister and reaching out for help. Amidst the confusing mess of people and corridors, it was difficult not to accidentally step on some helpless being on the floor. Finally we found our reserved seats and were able to take in the entire atmosphere. We were still plenty close enough to hear the cries of the children. I closed my eyes and was practically transported onto the slave ships. When I opened my eyes I noticed two teenage guys walking around. Like the others, these two were dressed in rags. One glared and pointed at us, his accusation clearly written in his actions. The other simply looked at us silently. His eyes were filled with sadness, hopelessness, and anger. It wasn't until later that I realized these two youths were picking us out of the crowd because we were, for the most part, the only white group in attendance. Eventually, the screams and cries died away as they began to prepare for the performance.
The performance itself was a whomping five hours long. It began with a religious celebration and communion before launching into the history of the African American people, beginning with the conflicts between African kings. The story, which begins with celebration and joyous music, continues as the people of the kingdoms are captured and sold into slavery. The story that was told was intense and brought controversial issues onto the main stage. Many of us have spent year after year reading about and discussing the horror that was slavery in America. However, there is a major difference between talking or reading about an issue and seeing it brought to life. As a history buff, I found the experience of Maafa to be quiet interesting. It truly brought history to life in an intense way and was completely worth the five hours.
Posted by Alexandria at 2:43 PM