We Require Perspective
|Guest Blogger: |
Rosechell Spencer III
Lawyers, John Quincy Adams and Roger Sherman Baldwin, and abolitionist, Theodore Joadson, all fight for the Africans’ freedom. The lawyers and abolitionists have no way to communicate with the Africans in their native tongue (Mende), and so they enlist the help of Naval Officer, James Covey as an interpreter. On the first day of trial, Cinquẻ tells the court about his journey through the Middle Passage and then aboard La Amistad. Cinquẻ‘s horrific story, to-be-revisited, is simply dismissed as fiction. To prove Cinquẻ’s story, La Amistad is searched. R.S. Baldwin comes across a record book which records of illegal slave-trafficking. He brings the book back to court and begins cross-referencing and interrogating various officials. At the climax of the interrogation, Cinquẻ whispers, “Give us, us free” and eventually stands and yells it. Needless to say, the court room is dumb-founded. To be continued…
If you are not familiar with this story and lesson in history, go to YouTube (free), renting, or buying the DVD, “The Amistad.” And if you are familiar with this motion picture, you should have been amazed and proud when Cinquẻ (“Djimon”) stood up and yelled “Give us, us free.” How many people do you know who will stand up in court and yell “Give us, us free,” repeatedly? Where they do that at…Connecticut (where the trial took place, bad joke)…But in all seriousness, this is where you must develop perspective and be analytical. Just go step-by-step about what has been presented so far.
There are Africans, enslaved and captured by Spanish traders (they speak Spanish), who have no clue where they are, who are then recaptured by Americans (they speak English), and put on trial. Their attorneys cannot (repeat that word) cannot speak to them, and so they have to go out and find a random naval officer who just happens to know Mende, a tonal African language. James Covey has to translate Cinquẻ’s story to the court. Essentially, the Africans are kidnapped, sailed across the ocean, placed in life-threatening conditions, even killed and raped, placed on trial in a foreign land, in a foreign system, and with best-fit representation (not necessarily equal-representation). How much purpose, persistence, and passion did Cinquẻ really have in order to put together such a coherent sentence of that magnitude with all odds against him? How intelligent was Cinquẻ to learn a foreign language that has never been directly communicated to him, which was never attempted to be taught to him, and that he was thought to be incapable of speaking?
What I hope to communicate to minorities, specifically blacks, is that we have a history of triumphant moments. Our history reflects more capability than inability. Learning small segments of our history, believing that our history is one of handicaps, and thinking that we cannot achieve is ignorant. I encourage all minorities to go back through moments in their culture’s history, and relearn it with perspective and with analytical acuity. Look at what is revealed about our ancestors and find what is revealed about you.