We are here, because they were there

By Angela Michele Counts © 2009

Commissioned by Myrtle Street Baptist Church, in Newton Massachusetts in commemoration of their 135th anniversary and the Atlantic Slave Trade.

Performed in 5 Voices...

Part I ~ The Waves…

The waves so restless now,
Tossing us about, confused
This same ocean I knew
Since youth, and his eyes too
And now, I can’t look.
His eyes, the same as mine.
Panic, they look away. The same,
Dark, ocean we belong.
Only now, terror: the smells
That we did not know. So
Close together. The shame
I never knew; his leg
Crossed with mine, and hers too.
Somebody’s arm bloodied. She fell,
We smell, each other,
Our humanity. Who are these
Devils, the ones with greedy teeth?
What did we do, and
Now can it be undone?

Part II ~ The Ship and the Land…

The wench, that one o’er there.
Grab her, and the child.
Wild, yes they are wild
But they will work hard
If they know who is Master.
The slave and the mule can
Be beaten into submission,
And neither will work again,
Perhaps, but the others, the
Others will work harder, you
See. We have much to gain
In this new world.

There is a war for Father’s Glory.
He made them for our dominion.
I would look upon them, but
Fore the smells, the hunger, and
The greediness. I see it in their eyes.
They want so much. Perhaps, even
What we have. Can you imagine?
One in a petticoat, in a bonnet, currying
Favor with Father. Oh yes, I hear
At night, voices by candlelight,
One reading to another. They learn,
And seem to feel affection for one another.
But what did they have there? Father
Says it is a vast wilderness, beasts
Roaming wild, and they too. No
Language to be understood. No
Music, no books. What kind of people
Are these? [ People ] … No, God
Didn’t make them the same. Fore it is
In the Bible. Have Father read it to
You tonight after supper.

Part III ~ Across the Waters…

Sophia Wisdom, across the waters she traveled,
A whisper, a wind of hope on God’s wings.

She was there in the beginning, whispering
Over waters. “Goodbye Senegal.”

Sophia wisdom, she was in the blood that beat,
The blood that knew, the blood that spilled
In soil, brave black men, rough tide taken out to sea
To be greeted by Sophia. Her whisper across
Parched lips, the hope for a cease in terror,
In despair. She drove bones to stand strong,
Limbs to bend. She spoke hope through eyes
Young and old.

She was with the ancestors, shackled, broken,
Foot to mouth, entanglement in horror, confusion.
She traveled, her spirit moving across the dark sea.
She bound up the tear, the tremor, kept the psyche
Alert to the betrayal and the beat-by-beat desire to live,
Even in the midst of death. In her breath, is Wisdom.

We are here, because they were there.

Because she was there. Whispering across the dark sea.
“Goodbye Senegal.”
Give thanks to the creator. God, the Son, and Holy Spirit.
Feel the breath in your body. Give thanks and see wisdom.

She is there.

Part IV ~ From There to Here…

God bless, they came, those that didn’t perish
On the way. They came, God bless they came.

Don’t know who each and every soul was that
Came that way, whose bones returned to this
Earth, the very land upon which we stand.
Maybe someone back in the village was extraordinary,
Learned, funny, had a bad attitude, didn’t play well with others.
We don’t know, but they came. All manner of human being,
Some so angry they could spit, others so deathly scared
They could die. Some so wise they knew to watch and wait,
Preserve what of themselves and others
They could.

They came, and here we all are these many centuries later.
Can we really fathom what debt of gratitude and admiration
We owe them? Can we truly ever understand what their terrorized
Beginning in the New World has meant for our world?

What can be said of a heartbreak so complete and total
That today its effects are still being felt?

Well, much can be said.

In the beginning was the Word.

Much can be read.

Your story is still being written.

But, baby, much can be forgotten.
So you best to remember it.

And much has been broken, chile.
But baby bind it up, heal it.

No more dreams deferred.
No more lives on layaway.

Jesus walked with them.
Let him walk with you.

We gonna forever be tied to those ancestors, forever linked in history,
But not necessarily in destiny. We are here, because they were there.
Let us honor them in our living, not in our despair but in our
Hope. Not in our anger, but in our righteous love. Not in
Our regret, in our shame, but in our commitment to justice for all
God’s chil’ren.

Some say God bless the child that’s got his own, and baby that means you.

We are here, because they were there.

God bless you and thank you.