• Roy Merchant

An erudite and emotional reflection in the middle of a long journey.

Updated: May 16


On Sunday, 21st August 2016, I performed one of my poems at Trafalgar Square in London in memory of my ancestors, those who came and went, so that I could be.

They would have come and gone unheralded, like most ancestors, simply mythical beings that have been handed down through the generations until they become grainy pictures in the mind or just footprints in a sandstorm. The ancestors who lived through the slavery years however fill me with a great sadness. The sadness comes from knowing that no matter what potential they had as they travelled the 9 months from conception to the birth canal, most of them would not be realised.

In the version of slavery adopted by the Europeans, the unborn child was also the property of the owner, which could have kept slavery going forever. From all I understand about slavery, the idea that a human being still attached to the umbilical cord of its mother is a slave is one of the most unbearable things I have ever come across. Before that child is born, before it takes the first suck of its mother’s teat, even before its conception, the potential of that child is enslaved. Think about that and imagine that it was your child.

I am a descendant of slaves. I am the result of slavery. Slavery across the Atlantic was the starting point in a new and perilous journey that nature made in my name a few hundred years ago. I am in the middle of that journey and the final destination is unknown.

Whether you believe in Nature, Yahweh, the Universe or whatever you think is worth worshipping, or giving praise to you must recognise that something fundamental started in 1441, when the European slave trade in Africa started. The Portuguese captains Antão Gonçalves and Nuno Tristão capture 12 Africans in Cabo Branco (modern Mauritania) and took them to Portugal as slaves.

In 1444: The Portuguese de Freitas lands 235 kidnapped and enslaved Africans in Lagos a city in Portugal, the first large group of African slaves brought to Europe. It is now becoming big business. This is some 50 years before Columbus stumbles across the Caribbean in his search for India.

Those realities that have made me, also denied the me, I ought to have been, from ever becoming real. That me, drifted off into a parallel universe where hopefully, I grew up in the love, security and traditions of the past thousands of years in the river beds, plains and valleys of West Africa.

The new me after all this time, will look you in the eye and proudly say, I was , I am and I will become again, what I was always intended to be.

This is part of my story and I give homage to my ancestors.

This poem is copyrighted and is a section of a much longer poem which continues the journey to the present day. It will be part of a new collection of poems to be published soon.

The Black Man Song

I Want To Tell You A Story

I Promise It Won’t Take Long

It's About A Tribe That Is Filled With Glory

It's Called The Black Man's Song

We..The People Of That Blessed Land

Were Stolen In Our Innocence

Taken..By An Unmerciful Hand

And Cut Off From Our Inheritance

We Had Our Native Culture

We Had Our Native Tongue

Suddenly There Was A Vulture

Forcing Us To Sing His Song

He Took Us In His Stinking Ship

Three Hundred At A Time

Our Incentive Was His Stinging Whip

Our Food Just Gruel And Lime

For Long Long Months..Imprisoned By The Seas

In The Bottom Of His Pit

No Recreation..Just His Histories

Us Tired..Dying..In Our Own Shit

More Than Half Passed Away On Those Rides

Too Sick..Forgetting To Be Proud

Bodies Thrown To The Ever Present Tide

While The Wailing Grew So Loud

While The Wailing…Grew…So Loud

They Must Always Be Remembered

They Will Not Die In Vain

Their Bodies..Now Dismembered

Must Illuminate Our Brain

If Willie Lynch existed, he would have said

“Slavery Is A Psychological Game

Where The Master Makes The Rule

Being Afraid To Die Is Just The Same

For Wise Men Or For Fools”

For Three Centuries We Helped The Master

All His Countries Became Great

Economically..They Could Not Grow Faster

The Blacks Just Grew Inanimate

In Jamaica "Mada Nanny and Cudjoe" Fought And Won

Very Small Victories

Tacky Took Over Where They’d Begun

Trying To Brighten, Our History

Left Isolated Up In The Hills

The Rebellion Could Not..And Did Not..Spread

The Master Sat There Counting His Kills

Got Another Boat Load Of "Niggers" For More Bread

Our Women Took The Brunt

Of The Master's Attack

They Were Not Important

Even Less..Could They Fight Back

Raped..Vandalised..And Scandalised

Self Respect And Dignity Drained

Through Fear They Were Totally Hypnotised

And The Master's Will Was Maintained

Men Seeding Children For Three Hundred Years

Painfully Discharged From Responsibility

Whipped..Flogged..And Killed..The Scars They Bear

To Remind Us Of Their Sensitivity

We Say That Uncle Toms Were Nought

Paradoxically..They Saved Our Race

Outgunned..Outmanouvered..And Out Thought

They Kept Us From Our Final Resting Place

All Our Heroes Fought And Died

Too Proud To Toe The Line

Too Impatient To Wait For The Turned Tide

Survivors..? No. Heroes..Fine.

Slowly The Tide Began To Turn

Toussaint L'Overture Beat The French

Slavery Economics Was Now Being Spurned

The Europeans Couldn't Take The Stench

In 1838, We Thought We'd Come To The End Of The War

But It Was Only An Interlude

They Gave Us Our Freedom..Then Charged Us A Star

Just For Water And For Food

And Maya Angelou Cries

And Still We Rise

And My Heart, My Soul, My Spirit Replies

My Father Is The Great God Osiris

And I lived In The Delta Of The Nile

I Was Sent Here To Learn Peace And Forgiveness

And These Lessons Are Taking A While

So…We Take Our Pain And Go Forward

New Horizons Are Ahead..

They’re Not Too Far

Keep Remembering Our Past..

Remember Every Word

Let’s Never Ever Forget ..

Exactly Who We Are.

#slavery #emancipation #brutality #faith #hope #ancestors #mayaangelou #africa

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