Sunday 23rd July 2017,

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Americo-Liberians’ identity crisis caused by slavery

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By James Kokulo Fasuekoi, Eden Prairie, Minn. – The identity crisis with the descendants of former freed Black Slaves, whose parents later found a settlement in the Republic of Liberia, deserves empathy. Based on accounts of a couple of investigations, it has been established that Mr. Carter’s forebears lost at least everything from human dignity, to their language and culture, while in slavery in the U.S. Deep South during the period of the Atlantic Slave trade. Their stories are quite moving in many ways with South Carolina and the state of Georgia as the main setting.

Junior Cooper of Liberia Cry for Peace

Junior Cooper of Liberia Cry for Peace: Photo by James Kokulo Fasuekoi

Their marks strongly exist today in and around one of Georgia’s coastal cities called Savannah which served as “conveying point and holding station” then. Savannah’s River Street, beautifully made of marbled stones by slaves has now become a major tourist attraction center. Along the same street are close to a dozen manmade caves where slave masters are said to have kept kidnapped-shackled Africans as they awaited buyers. There are also other slave relics in the city and as far to the Georgia-Florida border where the historic Sapelo Island, which served as home to many slaves, is located.

Scores of historic monuments in honor of those who suffered slavery have sprung up over the years in and around the city of Savannah and Sapelo Island itself has been bought by some Black Americans and transformed into a museum and each year in September, a cultural fair takes place there and people from all racial groups in Georgia, Florida, South and North Carolinas converge on Sapelo to commemorate the spirits and willpower of those Blacks who had to endure slavery.

Highlights of the event are focused on the lifestyle of former slaves in terms of their dances, songs, dresses, and foods. Storytelling is also highly featured during the occasion; it’s the time descendants of former Black Slaves will come up on stage to tell the audience what exactly slavery was like based on testimonies provided by their grandparents. It can be a tearful moment and photographers and video-cameramen are placed under straight order not to take picture of this particular section.     

Despite the far-reaching negative effects of the slavery on kidnapped Africans, what visitors walk away with from the Sapelo Island festival is that appreciation of human endurance against the odds. Though there may be nothing pleasant about slavery itself, but there were also happy times in the lives of slaves depending on the groups and individuals location on the various plantations.

As told by sons and daughters of former slaves, the slaves would usually come together to rehearse songs, dances, music and arts tied to the continent of their origin whenever they were given some level of latitude at the end of the day work. In spite of the trauma this negative experience may have caused freed American Black Slaves who may have refused to head to Africa during the repatriation of the settlers, still Black American descendants, unlike Carter’s forebears, refused to trash their culture and today there are telling and writing their own stories across America for every human has to have some form of beginning and past. 

For descendants of former Black Slaves who live in the Deep South, they have organized and declared themselves as the “Gullah/Geechee People” of Georgia and the Carolinas have the United States Government now recognizes them as such. Most of the Gullah/Geechee People” consists of professors, teachers, medical doctors and artistic directors who are so fascinated about West African countries like Ghana and Sierra Leone where they believed they hold ancestral roots.

Indeed, their culture, now known in the South as the “Gullah/Geechee culture” has been traced by researchers to have links to West African ethnic groups like the “Gola, Kissi, Mende, Temne, Twi, and Vai mostly found in Sierra Leone and Ghana. Link  

So one can see how a group of people with good vision turned a bad situation into a good one. Hence, it is baffling that Mr. Carter’s forefathers on the other hand chose to take “alien culture” over theirs as they migrated to Liberia in the 1800s. They obviously had the choice to carve something from the relics of slavery they could relate to just as their Black American cousins did. If they still can’t, Mr. Carter should rest with his identity crisis and leave Native cultures alone. 

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