When watching Traces of the Trade I was really interested in the part in Ghana because as I mentioned in class, I went to Ghana a few years ago. I was interested to see where they would go and how different their experience would be. I went with my choir and we were the only group at both the Cape Coast and Elmina slave fort. A few things really struck me about their scenes in the slave forts. Firstly, I noticed they were filming in the back of one of the slave dungeons where an altar for returning descendants and visitors could leave their prayers and offerings for all who had suffered in Cape Coast. During our tour, my group was explicitly told not to film the altar or the priest that attends to the altar and its visitors by giving prayer when asked. I noticed both of these were filmed and there were people in the background at the altar. I found this very disrespectful and insensitive that they would film at such a sacred private place in the slave fort.
I also didn’t like how they made the slave fort seem like a monument to solely show whites their faults. Many parts of the tour I had, we were shown how descendants have taken back the slave forts to be a monument of hope and a reminder of theirs and their ancestor’s soul value and how it can never be taken away. The documentary briefly mentioned the “Door of No Return” where slaves were transported through to the slave ships on the beach below. What they didn’t mention was that if you re-enter the fort through that door, the opposite side has been made “The Door of Return”. This part of the tour was very powerful for everyone, but especially my friends that were of African descent, because it represented that they had beaten the odds and made it back to their motherland. The documentary also didn’t mention the actual function of the altar that they filmed next to, which is to serve as a space of communication with the past through the offering of goods and flowers which line the adjacent wall to the altar.
Overall I felt the participants ultimately meant no harm, but should have researched more about the places they were visiting along with the research of their families past.
Throughout these first few weeks of class, we explored the nature of relationships between slaves and their masters. In particular, we talked about how masters would often rape their female slaves as a way to produce more slaves, especially after the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was outlawed in the early 1800s. Because slaves were considered to be property and were treated as if they were animals, there was no such thing as consent for a slave. If the master said to sleep with him, there was no choice in the matter. As a result, a lot of slaves were born mixed: their father, a white slave master, their mother, a black slave. It also illustrates the type of captivity that slavery was.
Because it is currently Black History Month, copious amounts of people post Black American facts on the internet to bring awareness to the public, and one of the posts I saw mentioned Eartha Kitt, a black singer, dancer, actress, and all around performer. The post mentioned her history, so I looked further into it. Eartha Mae Keith was her birth name, and she was born on the cotton plantation where her mother worked in 1927. Her mother, Anne Mae Keith, was raped by the white son of the plantation owner, and Eartha was conceived. Kitt was even outcast by her mother’s husband because of her lighter skin. She eventually went on to become fluent in four languages and learned to sing in seven, even acted in more than thirty films. She was actually the voice actress for my favorite Disney villain, Yzma. Kitt was also an activist who spoke out against the Vietnam War and was blacklisted for it. Kitt wasn’t even allowed to know the truth about her father until 1998 after going to court over it. To me, Eartha Kitt is a reminder that even after slavery was over, black women were still being used as simply a means of reproduction. But even through her circumstances, Kitt rose up to show the world her worth.
When I was junior in high school, I was a participant in a national speech competition known as the “Drum Major for Justice Advocacy Competition.” The competition mainly focused on Dr. Martin Luther King jr’s legacy and pushed the participants to research Dr. King’s past in hopes of crafting a speech that was largely centered around how he would tackle current societal issues. It was through this competition that I first heard of the “school-to-prison-pipeline.” This pipeline is a systematic form of oppression that has involved pushing the country’s most at risk adolescents, in particular those of color, out of the classroom and into a life of crime. The pipeline has reached this effect through the implementation of various, strict policies known as “zero tolerance policies.” These policies focused less on teaching students and more on punishing students that could possibly create a disruption within the classroom. An example of such a policy was the The Gun-Free Schools Act which was passed in 1994. The act, according to the U.S. department of education, mandated a yearlong out-of-school suspension for any student caught bringing a weapon to school.
As states began adopting these zero-tolerance policies, the number of suspensions and expulsions increased. Through adopting unforgiving policies such as these, several states saw dramatic increases in school suspensions, must notably however was that according to editor Libby Nelson,”[the rate] has increased even more for black and hispanic students.” While this has been the known history behind the growing disparities caused by the preschool to prison pipeline, a new article in 2017 that was written by Mackenzie Chakara, has started to address a new side to the pipeline: its effect on young black women.
One of the biggest issues created by the preschool to prison pipeline is its unequal treatment towards young children of color. However according to Mackenzie, these problems are much worst for black women for “efforts to correct this problem often fail to include black girls, who are six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than their white counterparts.” This side of the debate is one that is often times overlooked, in most case studies researchers tend to group black people or hispanics into separate large categories. While this can often times be useful to draw important distinctions, it can also cause for women to be overlooked, which Mackenzie argues is an even greater injustice. In fact Mackenzie takes her argument even further and states that “these disciplinary practices damage social-emotional and behavioral development; strip away important educational experiences; interfere with the process of identifying and addressing underlying issues; and contribute to increased family stress and burden.”
While there does not seem to be a clear cut solution to this underlying issue, it is important that the disparities caused by the preschool to prison pipeline are raised and effective change be demanded. While disciplinary actions are important to have in schools, they should not hinder the development of the youth. Through analyzing Mackenzie’s new information regarding the pipeline’s effect on young black women, it becomes even clearer that a change must be attained.
Sources: (Mackenzie’s article) and
When I watched Traces of the Trade, it really intrigued me. The documentary introduced us to a narrative of a white family (the DeWolfes) wanting to acknowledge and learn of their legacy throughout the slave trade. It was interesting to see people who wanted to know about slavery and where their name came from, but who also shied away from difficult conversations and settings at times. Another part that really stood out to me was when they were discussing the role of higher education in their lives. Most of them went to Ivy League Colleges mainly as a result of their family ties. The beginning of the conversation gave off a vibe of entitlement however I agree with the family member who brought up the idea that they were handed the opportunities based on privilege. I think that overall, this documentary showed the importance of whites owning their role in American history and also owning their privilege in present contexts.
Recently, Imo Nse Imeh an art professor at Westfield State University, created an art event, with a six foot tall painting of Trayvon Martin as the focal point. Other pictures encompassed in the event included Tamar Rice, Jordan Davis, and Emmet Till; to name a few. A unique purpose of this event was to sculpt Trayvon Martin into a boy, and a human being rather than a concept of police brutality, or racism. Through Imeh’s painting he portrays Trayvon as he was in youth and the disgusting portrayal of him in death. Imeh’s art event relates to The Whitney Plantation because through art both have found a way to showcase the lives of Blacks in America. The Whitney Plantation documents life as a slave and what happened when slaves were freed, while Imeh depicts Trayvon Martin’s life and what happened when he died. Trayvon Martin was in no way a slave as defined in the nineteenth century, but even today Black men in a sense are slaves to society. They are more likely to be sent to jail and receive longer sentences than their male counterparts. While, in jail they work for little to no pay, sometimes for companies that will not hire them when they get out. Trayvon Martin had all the constitutional rights so he had freedom, similar to a freed slave. Both, however, were perceived similarly by White Americans, and killed because of their skin color. Therefore, I think that the Trayvon Martin paintings and The Whitney Plantation display the same things. They are showing people and telling their story rather than the concept surrounding them, and I think the stories being told are the same: what it means to be Black in America, and truly free.
Kaufman, Jill. “Public Painting Of Trayvon Martin Sparks Conversations About Racism OnCampus.” Vermont Public Radio, digital.vpr.net/post/public-painting-trayvon-martin-sparks-conversations-about-racism-campus#stream/0.