Choosing to see

I am in Ghana at the moment for the year of return on the Jamestown2Jamestown trip with The NAACP and the Adinkra Group along with over 250 people. It is 400 years since the first documented enslaved people from Africa arrived and were sold in Jamestown, VA and Ghana is celebrating the Year of the Return. It is so important to honour, bear witness and remember. The act of seeing the trauma, of bearing witness to it, begins to disentangle the entangled inherited memories. It begins the process of giving place to the displaced within both the collective and the individual. Each and every soul belongs and has a place—a free place. Honouring the ancestors and truly seeing and bearing witness to the trauma perpetrated can break the patterns unconsciously carried within our blood. 

As part of the trip we travelled to the Cape Coast Dungeons in Elmina. 70 people within the group had taken ancestry DNA tests through African Ancestry and there was an ancestry reveal ceremony on the land above the dungeons. The significance for those individuals in terms of their identity, which was stolen from them and their ancestors, and their belonging as they discovered where in Africa they came from was incredibly powerful. Standing within the walls of the dungeons and hearing the waves crash upon the walls in the present whilst witnessing the past and the ancestors was deeply moving.

We also travelled to the Assin Manso slave river, ‘the last bath’, where those people who had been enslaved, after walking hundreds of miles in shackles, were brought to the river to be washed before being inspected and then sold onto ships and sent to America and the Caribbean. 

Walking barefoot in the footsteps of those souls and honouring them, witnessing them and remembering them was a movement of the soul. It is sacred land. It is important to witness and remember. When the trauma isn’t seen it doesn’t just go away. The wound deepens, festers and the burden becomes heavier as it moves through the generations.

There is great power in collective remembrance and acknowledgment. Your ancestors, and those whose lives they influenced, reside within your soul and within your blood. Think about the power of all the things that we celebrate within our families, communities and cultures. Think about the power of remembering and honouring what was and what has been. Everything from celebrating a wedding anniversary to honouring years served in the military, to remembering a loved one after they have passed. Think too about the cultural and collective remembrance and celebrations. Perhaps Independence day on the 4th of July, or Remembrance Sunday within Europe on the 11th of November to commemorate the end of the 1st World War, or Martin Luther King day on the 3rd of January, or Holocaust memorial day on the 27th of January. 

All of these memories and moments are significant on an individual and collective basis; they have an emotional charge and help knowingly or unknowingly to define the structure of who we are. As we connect with those memories, both individually and collectively, we are in effect animating their field of influence upon and within us. Our sense of belonging can be enhanced by the individual and collective honouring and remembrance. Think now of the weight of the absences of those things that are not remembered both individually and collectively? The trauma that has not been witnessed. Where history has perhaps been rewritten or ignored. The emotional trauma of an individual who is excluded and displaced connects through to the weight of the collective unacknowledged trauma. This unacknowledged and invisible trauma also forms the structure of who we are and how we live, in destructive ways. The belonging of individuals and large groups is negatively impacted by the invisibility of unacknowledged trauma. I am deeply grateful to have been able to be here in Ghana and to stand with healing as I witnessed those ancestors who were enslaved as well as the connection within Scotland, my land of origin, to those who chose to enslave others. 

Something being hard, painful or uncomfortable to look at is no excuse for not looking and bearing witness. Bearing witness is where the potential for healing and transformation resides. Constellation is a tool for shifting the structure and system of belonging to give place to the missing and absent memories and trauma. The potential for transformation and change from the individual through to the collective is massive. That is where I choose to stand, where do you choose to stand?

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