Today, my former roommate Nazim Ansari tells of his visit to Goree Island, the last place that many Africans were housed before being shipped off into slavery. Nazim’s words and pictures are moving as he walks us through the process that was used to transform humans into chattel.
BY NAZIM ANSARI
April 12 – Dakar Senegal
Today we visited Goree Island and it was the most somber and serious experience I probably will have on the trip. If you have time please Google this island to read some of the history.
It’s right off the coast of Dakar, Senegal just a 15 minute ferry ride. This was one of the main docking station’s during the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. Once slaves were captured from surrounding areas, they were sent here for up to 90 days before they were shipped out.
The original slave dungeon we walked through is over 400 year old, and is the main point to visit. When I first walked into the 2 story slave dungeon, which is built directly against the water so the ships were able to pull up to it, there were rooms to the left and right where the Black slaves were separated by age, sex, and size and assigned a number. After this process, their original names were gone forever.
The first room I saw was for men, who were packed 50 to each room. The men were naked and chained together, and the room was so small only 20 of us (mostly children) could fit in without feeling totally cramped. The male slaves were taken out only once per day to relieve themselves. Because they were standing in their own feces, nude, chained and cramped together, there was lots disease spread amongst them.
With concrete walls and floors it got very cold at night and because of the ocean breeze and very humid during the day. The next room was for the infants 12 yrs and under. They wanted more children because they were easier to “feed” and easier to train to accept slavery.
The next room I saw was for women 12 and up. The women, as young as 12, on any given night could be pulled from the cell/dungeon, hosed down naked in the middle of the compound and taken to another room to be raped by the white slave owners. The other cells/holes were for the “rebellious” slaves, those that wouldn’t accept captivity and were kept in a 3ft hole to break them.
The final point, literally, was the door, known as The Point of No Return. Once our ancestors went through this door, they were shipped off and there was no coming back. Death was the only way out. The slaves that tried to escape or who were sick, were thrown into the ocean and eaten by sharks.
It is true that sharks swarmed near the coast and changed their swim patterns because of the amount of bodies thrown into the water. The same ocean where I saw young children swimming and playing today with no sharks attacks recorded.
They made other Black Africans guard the compound to stop the other slaves from escaping…can you imagine?!?! In this dungeon, I learned and witnessed the beginnings of the worse treatment a people in the history of humanity. I’m filled with so many emotions from rage to complete disbelief.
The slave trade lasted for 300 years, yet the effects of both captive and captor are still felt today. Once again, my eyes were pointed inward on how long will I carry a mindset that is the result of slavery and more importantly, how much am I willing to sacrifice to help my brothers and sisters in America rid themselves of this mindset. I pray my words and this trip aren’t just empty and I come back with a renewed spirit to get busy in my life.
1. View from ferry of Goree.
2. Young soldiers who ride on the ferry to and from Goree Island.
3. Monument donated to represent the end of slavery.
4. Entrance into the Slave Quarters. Two stories, slaves were kept in the lower level and the overseers were upstairs where there were fireplaces in each bedroom/room, large dining area with table.
5. Inside the Slave Dungeon for men.
6. This is where the infants 12 and under were enslaved.
7. Inside the hole where “rebellious” slaves were kept.
8. View of hallway to Point of No Return.
9. Standing in the door of the Point of No Return.