Sunday, January 12, 2014


It's funny, or indicative of a larger issue that Elmina Castle is in fact called just that, A Castle.... it is not a castle with a king and queen and golden chairs, thrones, colors, fabrics and textures. There is nothing beautiful about Elmina Castle because it is not a castle at all, it is a dungeon where African slaves were brought in after being captured by a European, other African or person they were sold to after capture. The men and women were held captive, separated from their family by gender before eventually either dying from famine, disease or abuse, or exiting to be transported and resold in newly colonized areas across the Atlantic in the seventeenth century.

I am not going to go into thorough detail about what went on in Elmina castle because I think it is an important story and historical lesson that each person should learn for themselves, but I can say that being there was inexplicably powerful and heartbreaking. I would urge every person to investigate what really went on in history-- because it became apparently clear that we are all horribly, horribly uneducated and I am not sure how that even happens. Sure we all know that slavery, civil rights, the holocaust and many, many other tragic situations happened in the history of the world...but do we actually know? It is just a story that you heard mentioned in history class that one time but cant really remember when, where or how? For me, that is what I realized--- I felt like I didn't even know what went on, as if the information I had been given was given like a movie that never really happened or happened such a long time ago that it is in the past....

It is surely not in the past because we are far from rid of the evils of people and discrimination. Hatred still exists and we see it everyday... just look at the dozens plus shootings that have occurred in the recent months. I don't want to get off on a tangent so I will say that as a Jewish person, this felt very relevant, but I don't want to make it about me or the Jews because every group of people has a story of those who persecuted them and that is why it is even more important that we are all informed. Genocide still exists and education is key.

EDUCATION, EDUCATION EDUCATION--- ITS THE THEME OF THE TRIP OVER AND OVER... AND WE HAVE IS KNOWLEDGE... and really, everyone should be required to visit these places where such despicable acts took place because only then does it become real.

The pure evil that occurred in that Castle is unimaginable, except for the fact that the stench of human suffering still permeates the dark unventilated barred caves where hundreds of women were piled in like sausages to suffer and weaken before they would be shipped off to an even worse fate. Many women died from the conditioned, but they remained chained to their fellow prisoner who was alive. The dead chained to the living laying in urine, feces, vomit and menses. Sure, there were buckets in the corner to use to go to the bathroom but getting there was quite the challenge with how weak the people were.

                  It is important not to forget a couple of other activities that went on in that Castle:

1. The Room with the Skull and Bones: If you acted out and did not fall into line you were clearly too strong to be a slave and so they locked you in this dark room with small openings for ventilation and left you there to starve to death. The living and dead shared the space but ultimately, everyone died.

2. The Well and the Balcony: Every so often (I can not remember the schedule) the women would be lined up on the balcony to be shown to the Governor who resided upstairs in the Castle in a luxurious space. The governor picked the women he would take to this quarters publically and she would be bathed in the center of the castle for everyone to see before she would be marched up the stairs where she would proceed to be raped and abused by the Governor...and whomever else guards wanted a turn.

3. The Room of No Return: It is exactly what it sounds like, it is the final stop in the castle before you walk to the boats and make the journey to slavery. The final door out of the Castle is so narrow that if you could not fit through it then you were clearly too healthy and strong. You would then need some more time to weaken up because if you are strong you cannot be controlled.

I felt pain and sadness in a way that I can't explain but a personal way. I did not understand how these things happened and also how I was so uneducated about them. It made me understand that I have a lot of work to do on my education because I dont want to be walking around not knowing such important things...and furthermore I feel a responsibility to create a dialog about such topics including slavery and genocide... but really so, so, so much more and so after this visit to Elmina that is exactly what I began to do....

... I had some interesting conversations with the locals about religion, homosexuality, women and judiasm.... NEVER AGAIN

No comments:

Post a Comment