Tuesday, September 18, 2012

We Require Perspective

Guest Blogger:
Rosechell Spencer III

La Amistad, a Spanish trade-ship, set sail in 1839 from Cuba to The United States. Her cargo was slaves.On the night of a storm, Cinquẻ, a slave releases himself from his shackles and leads a murderous revolt. The slaves kill most of the ship’s crew and then ordered the remaining two crewmen to sail to the sun, to their mother-land Africa. Six weeks later, La Amistad encounters a ship bearing the American flag. The two crewmen actually lied to Cinquẻ, sailed directly to the United States, and ran into the American Navy. The slaves were recaptured, jailed, and placed on trial. They are charged of insurrection, but the court is most concerned with claims of property and property damage. Three parties fight over the ownership of the slaves: Spain, The United States, and the surviving crewmen/traders.

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.  


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At September 19, 2012 at 11:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I found it very enlighten. I have decided to take a Black History course. I took one some years back and it was very informative. You made me want to read more on this particular subject. Thanks for the insight.

At September 19, 2012 at 11:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was a joy to read! I feel informed, renewed, and motivated to continue pressing towards the mark. Thank you for thinking enough of me to share your blog. Great work scholar!!!

At September 22, 2012 at 5:32 PM , Blogger asha.tarry said...

Good work Rosechell! I think we need more young people to develop a "perspective" and share it with other individuals who are and are not like them. One of the reasons for this blog is to create a community of discussion instead of us spoonfeeding what people should think. We want folks to tell us what they think and continue the conversation. All people let's stand up!


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