“About the latter end of August, a Dutch man of Warr of the burden of a 160 tunes arrived at Point-Comfort, the Comandors name Capt Jope, his Pilott for the West Indies one Mr Marmaduke an Englishman. … He brought not any thing but 20 and odd Negroes, w[hich] the Governo[r] and Cape Merchant bought for victuall[s].”
| John Rolfe
Four hundred years ago this month, the first Africans were brought to what is now America’s shores and we are still feeling the ripple affects of their bodies stolen, bodies chained, bodies renamed. So, we can’t say their names.
“20 and odd Negroes.”
I write to count them among us. 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8…9…10…11…12…13…14…15…16… 17…18…19…20. These bodies count. Add them to the body count. America likes to pile on and today, persons continue the debate about stock piling weapons as a right. Mass murderers, Americans are the king of the hill.
I write to acknowledge their presence because we are them. We are what we have done to them. In the same boat, we sink or swim, float or fall to the bottom, never to rise to the full expression of our human being. If we cannot see them and frankly every human being as our sister and brother, then we are the real other.
Because they are what is foundational to America– bodies capitalized on, cultures undone, histories shunned, lands seized upon in the name of religion and then race. But, it was and is always about power. The others are just nicknames. The Africans enslaved and those indigenous to what is now the United States of America know the country’s real name. They know who America really is, which is why their voices were discounted and drowned out right from the start.
Their mouths were covered and their continued silence is evidence of the worst coverup. Yes, they shout but have these persons really spoken up? Because we don’t really want to know the cost of this so- called American identity. We don’t want to know what it truly means to be an American. How many names have been changed, cultures sacrificed, languages lost, allegiances sworn to America, forsaking all others.
Assimilation in America is assassination. Who we were, could be, would be and should have the right to be falls to the bottom if we are to rise to the top. Citizenship in America is the death of self. No matter how many of your family members came together, whatever your number, we are no more and no less than those “20 and odd Negroes.” No country of origin, only a color and human beings don’t find that odd.
What year is it?