The emotional intensity of Cape Coast Castle is nearly impossible to encapsulate with words. I could tell you that standing on layers of hardened human waste in a dark dungeon feels so much worse than the stone gutters running alongside, though hundreds of years of decay have caused the two to resemble each other in appearance and consistency. I could tell you that, walking into one particular cell, a chilly current ran through the souls of twenty tourists and I mouthed the words, “this is a bad place” before the tour guide even joined us, locking the door and telling us that this is where unruly males were isolated and starved to death. I could tell you about the emotional effort it took to break through the spiritual barrier stretched across the “Door of No Return,” which is exactly what it sounds like. I could tell you all of these things and still only scratch the surface of the sensations one gets while touring the castle at Cape Coast.
However, there is one thought that sprung up in my mind as I was leaving the castle that I feel compelled to take a stab at conveying. That is because, strangely, it was a thought of positivity.
We had finished our tour. Swarming tourist scammers began to shake off the heavy burdens of harsh disillusionment. I turned to take one last look at the towering white walls. My eyes fixed upon a spot behind a row of rusting cannons, where Jared had said, “think about our friends back home. Their great great great grandparents could have stood right here… This could have happened to them.” And I did think about friends and family back home. I thought about the suffering of their ancestors. I thought about the passive position my ancestors probably held.
But then I thought about something else. I thought about my friends and family themselves. I thought about going home to their welcoming faces and warm embraces. I thought about all of my black brothers and sisters back in the U.S. and the amazing cultural impact they have on my country, OUR country. African American culture, despite years of suffering and oppression, has always contributed to the positivity and diversity that makes the United States such a great place.
The sad and solemn emotions brought up by Cape Coast Castle had, by no means, left my body. The way African suffering lept out of the history books and into my hands that day will be with me until I die. Still, I am glad that I found some positivity to dwell on, even if only for a moment. I am glad I had the opportunity to realize how special it is that today my African American family members are just as “American” as my Scottish American ones.
Returning to our Anamoba Beach huts that night, I immediately reached for my journal and scribbled down a line:
“It is incredible that through the worst atrocities of mankind, the human spirit manages to prevail, survive, even thrive, to the point where we smile and breathe as one.”