Slavery’s Fierce Undertow

Africa, America, and Slavery’s Fierce Undertow (Jacqueline Woodson)

Almost two weeks into my time in Ghana, my heart remains in my throat. There is nowhere in this country where the eye can land and the body not feel, at once, both a deep pain and an immense joy.

I think about what I’ve asked myself since landing on African soil. Can I belong here? Has this country truly called me home?

As true as an undertow, I feel the water pulling me back across it, taking me to where it took my ancestors centuries ago. To a land as foreign to them as the African chiefs who offered brown bodies over for weapons, brass and cotton. As foreign as the white captors who raped, brutalized and enslaved those same bodies. I feel the pull of the history that brought me here. And the history that took me away. A feeling as old as my body itself overcomes me — that I have never felt whole in one place. In Africa, like America, I am only halfway home. My body belonging to both and neither place.

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