a visit by spirit
He came just before dawn
my first companion in chains
the father of four sons
exhaling his last fevered breath
onto my back
now he returns
breathing softly onto my worn flesh
he whispers in my ear
words I cannot understand
but I know it is him
telling me of the pain
the joy of leaving his body
the apprehension of giving up life.
I listen intently
to know what my life
could be on another journey
a different kind of journey.
He does not touch me
will not touch me
unless I say
by the cradle rock of the ship,
I smell him
not as when we were chained brothers
with the pungency of vomit,
bloody sweat sticking to our salt bodies,
Slight guava scent after first morning rain.
I am tempted to touch him,
let him take me
beyond where my captured body lay
but a great fear grabs me.
Squeezes my heart.
Holds my breath.
I cannot release, free myself.
And so he leaves me with my fear
and the terror of this life.
From, Journey: The Middle Passage, Psychological Perspectives, v. 59, Issue 4
A Day in August
Four hundred years ago the White Lion arrived in Hampton, Virginia,following it’s ocean voyage from Britain. This ship’s arrival and its occupants were to contribute to the creation of an American society that combined all that many of us hold dear, and paradoxically that which many of us have the strongest desire to change. Aboard the White Lion were twenty-plus enslaved Africans stolen from Angola. These men and women, were the ancestors of African Americans who were sold throughout Southern states, building an economically strong plantation system that amassed wealth for white America.
Many of us who seek change in our American social system wish to increase social justice. This type of justice points to a history of slavery and racism in the early American colonies and through four hundred years of social injustice. Injustice that included not only economic suffering, but also immense psychological and mental trauma.
It is difficult to separate Africanist suffering into strands of economic, gender, educational. These and more are so evenly braided together—from our American Constitution, to our contemporary education system. Not one place of our American society and psyche has been untouched by the arrival of the White Lion Africans who came ashore that day in August.
Engaging the psychological work of healing intergenerational trauma, recognizing cultural complexes, understanding archetypal DNA and epigenetics involved in attachment theory, related to the African Holocaust, binds us. All of us—as Americans. There is often a wish, perhaps as an aspect of a racial complex, to forget, create amnesia regarding those first African American ancestors. However, it rests with all of us who live today to remember them as creating the path for millions who followed. Their journey was one of suffering, as was that of their descendants. My writing is to remember and honor those first Angolan Africans stolen and brought to America. It is to remember them with love and compassion because their path has been our path, and we have not yet finished the journey.
Dr. Fanny Brewster is a Jungian member analyst with PAJA, Professor at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and the author of The Racial Complex: A Jungian Perspective on Culture and Race. (Routledge 2019). Dr. Brewster is available through her website, www.fannybrewster.allyou.net/