How our enslaved Ancestors used radical acts of resistance in attempts to take their destiny into their own hands & how spirituality played its part

Welcome back for installment 2 of our BLACK PEOPLE EXIST IN THE FUTURE SERIES.

As we are moving chronologically through the past, naturally we will be discussing the transatlantic slave trade & colonization which changed the course of life for black people worldwide. Between 10-20 million African people were stolen and transported across the Atlantic Ocean to The Americas between the 16th-19th centuries. We are all familiar with the atrocities of that time period. What we’ll be  touching on with this portion of the series, is the ways in which our ancestors demanded their autonomy through radical acts of rebellion and death by suicide.

One of the tenets of afrofuturism is self liberation & transcending circumstances. Being captured and forced into slavery were meant to be impossible circumstances yet our ancestors found ways to rebel against it every step of the way. Drastic times, drastic measures. This is why our history is pertinent to the concept of afrofuturism. In the midst of horror, our ancestors were still able to imagine a different life and were willing to fight for it. Those who were too weary to fight and chose to meet their own end did so as one final act of autonomy.

In order to separate themselves from the horrific acts they were committing, European society decided that black people were “less human” and thus “stronger” and able to take more physical pain. This idea is still perpetuated today in various ways. The idea that black minds & bodies can withstand more violence has always been propaganda. Our ancestors knew gentleness. Our ancestors knew peace. Pre-colonial Africa was by no means a utopia but in the motherland, our ancestors had and were proud of their sovereignty. 

Black people are soft. Black people get weary. Black people get tired. Black people hurt. Black people grieve. Black people cannot withstand unlimited quantities of violence and pain. Which is why rebellion or the peace of d*ath were preferable options to living life as an enslaved person for many of our ancestors.

Connection with spirit and African Traditional Religion (ATRs) & spiritual practices were integral in our ancestors making these decisions. 

There were thousands of rebellions of various sizes, across the diaspora during the course of slavery. Many of the stories of rebellions across the diaspora mention spirituality & magic as huge factors. One of the main instruments used to defeat the British by the Maroons of Jamaica (sound di big ting dem🔊🔊🇯🇲) was the abeng (Twi for horn). The Maroons used coded sound to communicate with each other using the abeng. The intricacies of their coded language have yet to be fully decoded. The abeng is said to have raised the spirits of the ancestors for assistance. 

Belief in reincarnation & that the soul never dies in many ATRs had to have been a factor in some ancestors choosing to end their lives. They chose to return home to the welcoming arms of their ancestors & to come back in another timeline. 

“The water spirit brought us, the water spirit will take us home” 

The mass s*icide of Igbo Landing, St. Simons Island, Georgia in May 1803, was one such event. It is said that 75 captured Igbo people took control of the Wanderer slave ship and drowned their captors. There are various accounts of the timing and sequence of events. However, after seeing what was in store for them the 75 captured Igbo chose to walk into the water and “return home”. Only 13 bodies were recovered.

Doing this research & with the current online conversation around the stigma attached to s*icide amongst black people. It led me to wonder if much like many other stigmas, s*icide is stigmatized due to roots in slavery. We know that a twisted version of Christianity was used as a means of control over enslaved peoples. Although the bible does not explicitly condemn s*icide, is it possible that the idea of s*icide being “the last sin” could have been pushed as a means to maintain the control of slave owners? An enslaved African choosing to end their life would have been a loss of property & income. They would have to be replaced. Seems to me that the idea of a slave choosing to end their own life being frowned upon would have served the interests of slave owners. I make no claims of this being fact, however it is something to think about. 

Since the transatlantic slave trade, black people have endured & transcended. Threats against our lives are still very much a daily occurrence. Stepping into our divine rage and choosing to fight against the system or leaning into our weariness and choosing to end our pain are both honourable choices. Both choices stem out of intense desire for a different quality of life. 

Still we rise.

- eleven 

Back to blog