How Cuban Villagers Learned They Descended From Sierra Leone Slaves
Even the Afro-Cubans who kept alive the songs and dances of this specific chiefdom had lost all knowledge of where they originated. Only by a long and arduous search, and with a great amount of luck, did my thousands of informants lead me here, where on my first visit the people looked at my screen in utter astonishment, said “they are we,” and then joined in with the songs.
Read more. [Image: They Are We]
“There is a pervasive idea that Africans are generally unmoved by the fate of the descendants of slaves throughout the Americas. That belief is born largely of the tragedy that the vast majority of Africa’s diaspora have little left of the specific languages, cultures, or beliefs that would tie them to a particular place of origin. The utter callousness of slavery, the endless destruction of families, and the sheer weight of the decades since have all attenuated much that originally crossed the ocean with their forebears. In the absence of those ties, some African-Americans have gone to central sites of commemoration, such as Gorée Island or Cape Coast Castle, looking for all that has been lost. Those who hoped for an individual connection to the motherland have sometimes reported these places rather disappointing. They are tourist sites, after all. What’s more, dark skin is here the norm, so it does little by itself to symbolize kinship or affinity if not bolstered by shared language, culture or experience.
Pokawa and his people have, by contrast, found some of their lost kin in the Americas. This tiny group of people in Cuba — a country they had scarcely heard of—singing and dancing their songs, was a gift from God.”