Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Cape Coast Castle



While in Ghana, our group had the opportunity to visit the Cape Coast Castle, a slave fort in Ghana.  Before arriving, I didn't know much about it other than it was used for slaves.  Going in, I figured I would learn so much, but I didn't realize just how impacting it would be.


As we waited for our guide, we wandered through the little museum and read a bit about the transatlantic slave trade.  We also took some photos out on the deck of the castle.  But the first moment of shock came when we were told that the castle had been built by slaves...  human beings were forced into building their own prison that they did not deserve to be in.




Our tour began outside of the male slave dungeon.  After entering the dungeon I realized that it was going to be a very emotional experience.  We were standing in an extremely stuffy room with only three windows.  Small channels lined the floor, which we later learned were to attempt at draining any vomit, urine, and feces from the prisoners.  Hundreds of men would be chained in there at one time, and were rarely given food and water.

We also stood in the female slave dungeon, which was similar to the male slave dungeon.  The female slaves were raped.  If they refused, they would be locked up and deprived of food and water before being forced to have sex.  If they became pregnant, they often died during child birth and their children had to go to school in the church (which was above the male slave dungeon) and learn about what their futures as slaves.





It was difficult to not cry while learning about what other human beings had to experience, and standing right where they would have stood.  I found it particularly difficult to hold back tears as we were told about the door of no return.  60 MILLION PEOPLE were taken from their homes in West Africa.  After walking through the door of no return, these people were taken away on ships given hopeful names, but were brought to countries that had purchased them and lived very short and painful lives.

I found it equally as difficult to stand in the condemned cell.  This cell was for any of the prisoners that might cause problems or that have made failed attempts to escape.  It's no bigger than a walk in closet, with a low ceiling, and has multiple doors.  Many people would be packed in there at once and be deprived of food, water, oxygen, and sunlight until they died.

At the end of our tour, the guide read us the following sign.  We were all quite upset about what we had just learned about and shocked by everything that we heard.  Our guide reminded us that no one should be discriminated against because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, etc.  Nobody deserves to be treated so horribly.  He told us to ensure that we never let anything like this happen ever again



Afterwards, we thought about the fact that at one point in time, people thought that these actions were okay.  We now know that clearly they are not and try to make sure it doesn't happen again.  But what else is going on around us that shows people are not being treated equally?  Is the way that we're treating others really okay?  Are there things we're doing today that we will look back at in the future and wonder what we were thinking?  So much has changed since what occurred in places like the Cape Coast Castle, but change doesn't have to stop there.  We need to think about what else we should change in our lives in order to make a positive difference.




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