Wednesday 6th March 2013
I went to bed last night exhausted from my day’s research into the transatlantic slave trade. On Monday night I had dinner with two friends and told them of my thinking; that if we are all linked then I need to speak to my white as well as black ancestors. All of this was still swilling around in my head as I drifted off to sleep.
At some point in the night I was woken with the name ‘Tom Seligman.’ I heard it very clearly spoken. I thought it an odd name and made a mental note to remember it in the morning. As I drifted off to sleep again, by now thinking maybe I’d dreamt it, I heard the name again, ‘Tom Seligman. Get up and write it down. You’ll forget in the morning.’ I got up, scribbled the name on a piece of paper and went back to sleep.
In the cold light of day I began to doubt what had happened in the night, and wondered if this might have something to do with a Jewish connection as my mother’s maiden name is Benjamin.
Hours later I sat down to research the name. Two people with that name came up on Google’s first page. One was a young British conductor and the other, Thomas K Seligman was the ex director of the Cantor Centre for Visual Arts at StanfordUniversity in the United States. It was only when I got the part of his biography that said, He subsequently specialized in the arts and culture of the Tuareg people of the central Sahara, and has organized a major exhibition and catalogue entitled Art of Being Tuareg:Sahara Nomads in a Modern World (2005-2008) that I sat up and took notice.
I began to research the Tuareg people which eventually lead me to uncover the extent of the Arab world in the transatlantic slave trade as well as the Jewish interest. Also the way Christianity, Islam and Judeism have justify the transatlantic slave trade. It gave me an understanding of the background to the current conflict in Mali.
I obvioulsy have to do my own personal journey on this one, because for the first time I comprehended the full extent of black Aricans in the slave trade. Although many have pointed out that no-one on the African continient understood the full extent of the burtality that would be meted out to the slaves once they were taken on board the ships, all this now rests withing the collective world psyche. This is not just a European/American/African issue. It is a world issue, and if we acknowledge that we are universally linked then the world will not be free till slaves are truly free.
I began to understand why I’ve been finding it so difficult to write the story of black Caribbean parents. It cannot be divorced from the experience of slavery, because so much of what happened then still exists today.
I think my ancestors – all of them – want the stories told, but I was ill equipted to tell them. My experience of being raised by Caribbean parents is only part of the requirements.
There may be some of you going, ‘Oh not that old chesnut again. When are they going to stop blaming slavery?’ And in truth I was one of them, but that was from a point of ignorance. The fact that our Caribbean parents have no firm ancestral anchors is a massive handicap.
One of the outcome of this for me is that I’ve decided to take one of the DNA test that will tell me where in Africa my people hail from. It’s obviously important, otherwise why would spirit go through such lengths to make sure I found this information.
Here’s a question. Has spirit ever spoken to you, and if so what did they say? What actions did you take and what was the outcome?
This is truly a fascinating journey.