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Middle Passage

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I had heard rumors of white men taking my people captive, but I dismissed the rumors as simply thatÐ'...rumors. Until I too became a captive.

I am the son of the great chief, Abiade, which in the white man language means "born of royal parents". My name is Nakisisa, which means "child of the shadows", and I had seen seventeen seasons. I have a younger brother by one season, Siwatu (born during a time of conflict), to whom I am very close. I also have an older sister of eighteen seasons, Mukantagara (born in a time of war), and a younger sister, Amali (hope) who has not yet seen six seasons.

If it weren't for Dhoruba (storm), my father would still be alive. If it weren't for Dhoruba, I wouldn't have been separated from my brother and family. If it weren't for Dhoruba, I wouldn't be a captive. Dhoruba was our family's servant, but he was also a traitor. During a ceremony, Dhoruba tried to get my father away and into the forest alone by saying that my father's life was threatened. Father went along, more for his people's sake than for his own. But Siwatu and I went along, being the confident young boys we were, thinking we could protect him. I noticed two men in the forest following us and told Dhoruba about them. However, Dhoruba told me that they were his friends. I heard a loud, sharp, popping sound behind me and Dhoruba told us to get down while he got down with us. Father fell to the ground beside me and I saw blood running down the side of his head. Before I could yell, a hand was clamped over my mouth. The hand was white! I started struggling, and I could hear my brother struggling also. But the owner of the hand was too strong and I gave up. I started sobbing. Over my crying I could hear two men with odd accents that I couldn't place arguing with Dhoruba over guns. Apparently, they were debating whether to kill Siwatu and I or not. They finally decided not to kill us. The men offered Dhoruba two new guns for the two of us and one for the death of father. Dhoruba was angry, but he decided to take them up on their offer.

The white men blindfolded us and led us to a camp that felt like it was three miles away. The camp was filled with many of my people, only they were shackled to each other and were guarded by both white men and black men. The black men looked different and I couldn't figure out why until I saw that they were wearing brown leggings instead of robes like normal people. We were searched by a black man, who took our amulets. We then entered a red tent, which had a large white man sitting on a rug. We were once again sold; only this white man bought us for two old rusted guns. The large man said that if we really were sons of a chieftain, we could be bringing bad luck and trouble upon him. The other men had looked angry, but they did not dare argue, so they left. It seemed that the large man was a kind of chieftain among these people and held a lot of power. We were then threatened that if we misbehaved, we would never get our amulets back. We stayed for a week or so.

Then, one day, all of the captives were called to stand. By now, every slave was chained in one long line. We were told to march. We marched for at least a day and a half. I say "at least" because after the first few hours, it was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other. When we were called to halt, every one of the captives dropped to the ground as one. It took me a few minutes to see where I was. I was in yet another camp. This one was larger than the other one. There must have been at least thirty score of my people there. Then I fell asleep.

Siwatu woke up before I did. When he woke me up, he pointed out the great ships floating on the water. Their stench preceded them. There were black men and white men calling out for us to stand up. Then a black man gave us back our amulets and unshackled Siwatu from the rest of us. When I realized that the only person that I knew among those countless scores was about to be separated from me I struggled. The black man had to knock me out cold to keep me from hurting myself.

I woke in complete and total darkness. I lay there for hours, just daydreaming about my past life as the revered son of a chieftain. Soon after that, I felt a tugging on my shackles. I followed the tugging, not knowing what else to do. I saw a large white light getting closer. Then I burst out into a fierce, joyous, bright light and had to cover my eyes. After a few minutes had passed, I slowly opened my eyes. I felt the wind on my face. That was my first time (while I was conscious) of being on the deck of the great ship. I smelled a fire, and quickly looked around for the source, for I feared



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