In addition to semester-long programs in the United States and abroad, HECUA offers a summer-term program: Race in America: Then and Now. This program is a three-week-long exploration of the Black Freedom Movement of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as current movements for racial and economic equity, based in Jackson, Mississippi. We’re delighted to tell you that HECUA’s student blogger for the 2017 Race in America term is Jeffery Fairley, a Hinds Community College student majoring in Biology (pictured above on a Race in America field visit). We’ll be sharing Jeffery’s experiences over the next few weeks. Read on for his impression of the Middle Passage field experience at the By the River Center for Humanity in Selma, Alabama.
The Middle Passage
by Jeffery D. Fairley II
In life, you tend to find yourself on a road that will lead you to become the person that you are meant to be, but what does it take to get there? I refer to this stage as The Middle Passage, due to its coarse nature, that molds you to completion. Being and feeling complete is all that we can hope for, but in order to arrive at this feeling, we must first understand the hardship that took place to gain this liberation.
In HECUA’s Race in America program, this journey was made concrete during the Middle Passage field experience at the By the River Center for Humanity in Selma, Alabama. First, you must go back to the wretched days of slavery. Thankfully, there was someone available to lead us through this traumatic experience of being a slave, Middle Passage Experience director Afriye Wekandodis.
I know you may think, why must we go back this far, wasn’t that over two centuries ago? We must go back to this time period to understand the road that we are traveling, and how we can make it to the end with valiant success. While experiencing the presentation by Afriye, we were forcefully demanded to assume the roles of slaves being taken from our homeland, to be chained together like cattle.
After this kidnapping simulation, we were forced to walk in the rain for a few blocks to see how it felt to have no control over what was happening to you. Then, Afriye inspected the lady’s hands, hips, and teeth to see how many babies they could produce within their limited lifespan. Once she was finished with the ladies, she came over to me, the only male in the group. I commanded to stand on the wall with my hands and legs spread so that she could examine my body to determine what type of work she could get out of me. Once we shifted to the inside of the ship, she separated us based on her findings so that she could best market us to the masters once we landed.
Once aboard the “ship,” Afriye suddenly switched into the role of being a slave on the ship who has been abused and assaulted. This came as a shock to me, because I expected her to continue her role as the slave curator. She continued her story from the slave point of view. While making her rounds to each individual that was a witness to the presentation, she told them what they were scared of and the potential that they would have if they were to let their fear go. When she came up to me, she paused for a moment to take a breath, then she proceeded to tell me that I was holding on to a lot of baggage, and that I would not be able to move forward in my life until I released the shackles that hinder my progress.
After experiencing this presentation, you have no choice but to change your life to become a better version of yourself. The world that we live in today constantly judges you and put you in small, empty, and meaningless categories that force you to think that you are unusual and weird. It is up to you to continue on your path, whatever it may be, so that you can experience the joy at the finish line. In order to get there, you must first experience The Middle Passage portion of your life. You will constantly continue to walk backwards, never progressing forward if you do not open your eyes up to see the world that is around you, so that you may better navigate your surroundings.
You may be like me, a person who is doing his best to keep things under control, but is shackled to the ceiling with no place to go because he did not pay attention to the world that he was living in. Everyone’s Middle Passage is different, but one thing you must remember: the slaves were broken down mentally and physically, but they never allowed their harsh circumstances to break their spirits. Your spirit is what will aid you on your journey to greatness, but only if you allow it to widen your eyes during your Middle Passage Experience.
Jeffery D. Fairley II