By Nayyir Strasner

Calling our visit to Gorée island “emotional” will not fully encapsulate all of the feelings I experienced during the day.

In the morning, Malaya and I planned on using the day to it’s full potential. We woke up to the same sound we fell asleep with. Waves pounding against soft Senegalese sand in a fast and rhythmic pattern. Constantly I thought about what that sound would mean to a man, woman, or child who’d never seen water before. That water would put them thousands of miles away from the lifestyles they’d been living for hundreds of years before. I thought in depth about the story KeKouta and Keita told us about how their ancestors evaded being captured and sold into slavery. I felt a sense of pride in their ability to protect their families and preserve their culture. I got the privilege of being in the presence of literally and figuratively strong black men and women.

Those men and women will never have to guess where their true families are, what country they came from, or what language they should speak. One last crash on the waves reminded me that not everyone got the opportunity to stay and live lives unaffected by colonization and capitalism.

On the boat ride to Gorée Isalnd, our tour guide Jeree, spoke to Malaya, britney and I about how important it is for Afro-Caribbean women like ourselves to come to Senegal and see the slave castle on Gorée Island. Jeree mentioned that the majority of the African children were sent to the Caribbean and that was only the beginning of the separation for families. The three of us thought about how that directly impacted our lives since we all are of Caribbean or in my case Afro-Caribbean descent. Seeing the holding cells and weighing rooms made me wonder if I could be related to anyone who passed through there. Could I be strong enough to survive what the people on Gorée were forced to endure?

When the tour came to a close, I realized that I have so much to be proud of. Though I don’t have the privilege of knowing the names of the people I come from, I know that I share their blood and the same will to survive in circumstances where the odds are stacked against me. Visiting Gorée has fueled my desire to learn where I come from and find out where my people are and for that I am eternally grateful.

One response to “Where do I come from?”

  1. voluntarysabbatical Avatar

    Nayyir, I lived in West Africa for a few years and visited Gorée a few times. Yours is one of the most moving accounts of that experience that I have read. You have a lot to say and you are a fine writer- keep writing! Thank you for sharing your story. Mrs. Alter, ( Mr. Alter’s mom)

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