In the 1400s, Europeans first arrived to my Mother Africa’s house. My Mother Africa’s house was, and still is, rich and full of treasures like gold, diamonds, copper, aluminum, petroleum and many other resources. People who weren’t as lucky to be born to motherlands with such resources became consumed with completely conquering my Mother Africa. When Europeans saw the riches my Mother Africa had, they began a long-term rape of my mother, to exploit and steal all of her precious resources. But perhaps the most hurtful and long-lasting theft from Mother Africa was the theft of her children. You can take a child from her mother, but you cannot take her mother’s DNA from the child. Your family line is forever imprinted in your DNA. Perhaps things would have been different if the Europeans had sent all my Mother Africa’s children to the same new home. Unfortunately, like most children who have been taken from their parents, Mother Africa’s children were put on many different boats and sent to different foster-home countries.
My African Family Was Torn Apart
I imagine my Mother Africa sobbing as she watched Portuguese thieves shackle her eldest son and put him on a boat sailing to his new foster-home country in
Brazil. The pain of my Mother Africa when her middle sons were shackled on a boat owned by the Spanish, and sent to foster home countries like
Guatemala. My Mother Africa saw her daughters stolen by the French and shipped to their foster homes in the Caribbean islands, especially
Haiti. I like to believe I was one of Mother Africa’s younger children. Shortly after weaning from my Mother Africa, I, her baby girl, was stolen by the English and sent to our new foster home in
Virginia. I had no older siblings with me to help me survive by teaching me the culture of our Motherland. My family story is tragic; not only has my mother lost her children, her children lost their siblings. My Mother Africa’s children, all birthed through the same body, now only know their foster homes as their mothers. My brothers and sisters who were stolen from our mother are scattered throughout the Americas. We were forced to adapt to our new foster homes. We learned their cultures and were told to forget about our Mother Africa. My brother, stolen by the Portuguese, was told that, I, stolen by the British, am not his sister. Today, we are strangers. My brother proudly says, “I am Brazilian.” I, equally ignorant, proudly declare, “I am an American.” All of my siblings have lost their connections to our Mother Africa. Our ancestors were beaten, killed and forced to erase all memories of our homeland. After 400 years of no contact with our Mother, the Europeans succeeded. My siblings and I don’t know how to speak to our birth Mother Africa. Further, instead of outrage and a desire to vindicate the wrongs against our Mother and our family, we have developed internalized hate toward Mother Africa. We blame our Mother Africa for being weak, we laugh at our native languages and cultures and proudly identify solely as the children of lands of the people who stole us from our home. My Mother Africa weeps for the pain caused by the destruction of her children. As a mother, I know how much I love my children and I can’t imagine the heartbreak of thinking that my children’s children would not only not know me, but also despise me and think of me as uncivilized.
Though Today We Are Strangers, Our Black African DNA Remains
Although we have largely forgotten our Mother and our home, I like to believe that holy Black African DNA is in me and all of my siblings. It is there when we beat the drum. It is there when we eat foods from our homeland, like okra and sweet potatoes. Even though we have learned the languages of our foster-home countries, we speak them with an African accent. I pray that one day all my brothers and sisters throughout the Diaspora who were spread out because of the transatlantic slave trade will have a family reunion. We will know who our birth mother is and we will thank and respect her for giving us life. We will look at each other and remember we are siblings. We can’t all speak the same language, but we have the same mother. We are Black. We are family. And we most work hard to learn to love, respect and honor our mother who has been raped, stolen from and experienced more trauma than we can even begin to understand. This story has no happy ending. But our story is our story. And our happily ever after may just be remembering, loving, and honoring our Mother Africa and our siblings, wherever they call their home. My Black history story is knowing my mother, Africa, understanding what really happened to her, knowing what happened to my brothers and sisters, and figuring out a way to reunite my Black family.
Photo courtesy of author.
ShaRhonda Knott-Dawson is the mother of two free-spirited, strong-willed girls and has a husband who should be appointed a saint for co-existing in the madness that is their life. She writes on politics, education, current events and social justice. She is also a taco enthusiast, a proud member of the Bey-hive, and truly believes that she will be receiving her letter from Hogwarts any day now.