At the end of a busy conference day, Beth decided to take a stroll through the historic neighborhoods of the city. That’s when a thought started to haunt her “How much of current economic inequality might be contributing to all these hatred and extremism worldwide?” Unbeknownst to her, soon she arrived at a section where past slave-trading used to take place. A museum had been erected on the very spot where the actual auction used to take place. Beth sat on a bench, directly opposite to the building and noticed a sculpture representing a family of several African-Americans, the plaque beneath read “Emancipation Monument”. But, what surprised her most was that everyone in the sculpture was merrily well-dressed in western-style, while a length of a chain lying near their feet. She knew that before the country’s civil war to abolish slavery, this town’s own economy depended heavily on slave labor. She did a quick search on her smart phone to find an official narrative “…..the monument depicts a family, members embracing after emancipation while the chain representing slavery lies at their feet.”
And that’s when she noticed Ms. Tanisha Abrams, a middle-aged African-American woman. Ms. Abrams was sitting on the other end of the bench and was totally lost in her thought looking at the same sculpture. They exchanged pleasantries. Beth learned that Ms. Abrams had studied southern history of the country in college. Nowadays she led historic-themed tours for the visitors in the city. Beth inquired about the sculpture.
Ms. Abrams, a direct descendant of first-generation West African slaves shook her head, while her eyes moistened. The sculpture was supposed to be a testament to the depiction of arriving slaves chained around their bodies, with shackled feet and wrists. After all, it was supposed to be a memorial for the evilness of slavery. But the political bigotry of the city officials ran deep. They did not want visitors to look into the dark past of the city. Finally, a compromise was made with the current design by a professor of the local arts school that would fit the official narratives.
Ms. Abrams then asked Beth whether she’d ever read a poem by poet Maya Angelou that included the line: “We were stolen, sold and bought together from the African continent.”