About a year ago, while I was taking a literature class I researched Venture Smith, a freed slave, in the United States. I was intrigued by him because he owned land and was able to create productive businesses in spite of his traumatic experience of being kidnapped from Central Africa as a young boy. During this research, I came upon an article about him written by Russell Shorto entitled, On Slavery’s Doorstep, published in the New York Times in 2015. Shorto traveled to Ghana with Venture Smith’s descendants to experience what Venture Smith and other slaves experienced when exiting the Slave Castles in Ghana. Shorto details how Smith’s descendants stood uncomfortably in complete darkness when the doors of the dungeon were closed. When the doors opened they walked down the hall into the Doors of No Return like Venture Smith and more than 13 million Africans like him into the middle passage. Those Africans that were left behind did not know where their relatives went. Some thought they may have been eaten, but they knew for sure that they would not return.
This is where my story enters; a descendant of those Africans who did not return. At the onset of writing my memoir my intent was to write a memoir about a girl trying to overcome her circumstances. I knew from my African-American roots that my people were able to transcend their trauma through music, dance, games, food and other various traditions that we now associate with the African-American and Pan-African cultures. I knew that I wanted my memoir to do the same. What I had not considered is that my memoir could bear witness to a very specific time in United States history. That time being the Regan Era, which was a time when White middle class Americans were flourishing. My family was not and I was smack dab in the midst of this, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was a young girl.
My goal through this work, like any other creative endeavor I embark on, is to journey through the grit to hope. What is unique about my story isn’t the trauma, but that I got to experience a growth by bearing witness to the Lower East Side community where I grew up, Botswana the African country where I lived for a short time and the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Sioux Lakota people where I visited. If I were to compare my work to anything I’d say it’s Wonder Bread with holes in it.
The rest you’ll have to read for yourself.