Critical Podium Dewanand World
A Drum & A Dream The Suppression of African
Spirituality during Slavery in the US By Dorothy Randall Gray
Sacrificer Dorothy Randall Gray
Sacrifice code wfor0462
Sacrifice date 2001
A Drum & A Dream The Suppression of African Spirituality during Slavery
in the US
By Dorothy Randall Gray.
She gave this speech at World Congress for the Preservation
of Religious Diversity, Delhi, 2001
I come to you this evening as Dorothy Randall Gray, but in fact, I don't
know my real family name, the name of my lineage. That name was stolen
from me 400 years ago when my people were stolen out of Africa. They were
sold into slavery in America, "the land of the free and the home
of the brave."
My name was taken from me when my ancestors were forbidden to utter its
sound or pass it on to their children. When Christopher Columbus invaded
the shores of America in 1492, he brought with him diseases that would
kill over 70% of the Native American people within three years. Whole
tribes disappeared from the face of the earth. Columbus also brought sugar
Within a few years the monstrous demand for this crop would call for the
blood, bones and sweat of millions of slaves to keep it fed. In order
to supply cheap labor to tend these fields, slave traders came to our
African villages, stole us from our homes, put is in shackles. They threw
men, women and children into the bowels of foul smelling ships and packed
us together like the fingers of a fist. We would lay there naked in that
darkened hold for weeks at a time on the treacherous journey from Africa
to America know as the Middle Passage. Many of us perished during that
crossing. Those who died along the way were simply dumped overboard like
garbage. It is estimated that over 75 million Africans lost their lives
during the Middle Passage. We call it the Africa Holocaust.
In the name of their Christian god, the slave owners reasoned that Africans
needed to be brought to America so they could be civilized. African slaves
were considered savges in need of conversion. We were considered property,
not people, and as such we could be bought and sold as easily as you could
purchase a horse or a sow.
We were often branded like cattle and chosen for our breeding capabilities.
We were placed on auction blocks and sold to the highest bidder. Whole
families, sons and daughters were sold off to different plantations, never
to see each other again. The practice of slavery continued for 360 years
and brought over 50 million slaves to the United States. But the decimation
of our lives and families were not enough for the slave owners. They wanted
nothing less than the complete destruction of our ancestors. Thus, we
were forbidden to speak our own language.
Africans who came from the same tribes or regions were separated from
each other. They were placed among other Africans who spoke entirely different
tongues. And so, in order to communicate at all, we were forced to use
English, the language of our oppressor. Our sacred ceremonies were called
"pagan rituals" and we were forbidden to practice them. We were
not allowed to do our dances or sing the songs of out country. They took
away our music and gave us their hymns. We were forbidden to play drums
so they gave us bibles and the promise of a wonderful life in the next
world. We were forbidden to honor our families.
At any time of the day or night the slave master could come into our cabins,
take away our mothers, daughters and sisters, and repeatedly force them
into sexual acts. Men who fought to defend their families were considered
troublemakers. They were beaten, sold away from their families, then shipped
to another southern state, or to Jamaica or Barbados.
The ones who perpetrated this travesty are also the ancestors of those
Americans who self-righteously tout "family values." We were
forbidden to use our own names. Instead we had to take on the last names
of the people who owned us. I say I am a Black woman but there is no country
called Black. If I want to return to my roots, what soil do I bend down
and kiss? What customs and traditions can I pass on to my children? What
national anthem do I sing and what foods can I claim as my own? Who am
I without a flag, without a motherland or a mother tongue?
My culture, my religion, my ancestors, traditions, customs, stolen, suppressed,
violated, vilified, denied, destroyed - that is what I call terrorism.
I know that the spirit of my ancestors still whispers inside me, and I
know that they are with me. I stand here as the daughter of the strongest
of the strong, a descendent of those who survived the middle passage,
who made it through the storms of oppression and degradation, and still
managed to shine.
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