Etched In Blood

“Momma, I don’t want to go in there,” said Kai, refusing to go through the heavy wooden door to the ancient castle.“Baby, this is where we came from,” said momma firmly but gently. “You need to come inside so you can understand what it was like before we were stolen. It will heal your soul in places you didn’t even know were broken.” Momma Crystal tugged on Kai’s hand. “Sometimes it’s necessary to get out of your comfort zone so you can grow as a person.” Kai hesitantly approached the threshold. She trusted her momma’s wisdom, but the purpose of their visit to Ghana was still a mystery. Her mom had come alone the year before and returned home saying only that she thought it would be good for Kai to experience for herself. “It’s dark and eerie,” said Kai. “It feels like death, momma.” Her eyes opened wide with a sudden shiver. “Were there slaves here?” Crystal nodded, “Yes, baby.” She held her hand whispering, “Come on in. Connect to our bloodline. We were always supposed to be a part of this.” Kai took a deep breath and closed her eyes, “I don’t know why they call this a castle, it feels more like a dungeon.” She paused a moment, looking up at the impenetrable grey stone wall. “Did slaves die in there?” she asked, looking her momma in the eye. Crystal nodded, humming a melody Kai recognized; but she couldn’t remember where she knew it from. It was so innate, digging to the innermost core of her spirit, Kai felt a new understanding unraveling. 

Finally, they crossed the threshold and Kai couldn’t believe her eyes. Everything around her had changed. The castle was gone and sand had appeared under her feet. Life, love, and laughter were bursting in the air. Gold nuggets lay along the shore. In the distance: scattered homes, beautiful architecture, and fine gardens. A great nation flooded with happy people. “I didn’t know Africa could look like this, could feel like this!” Kai had no words for the broad smile on her face, only that it rose up from the deepest well buried in the pit of her soul. Happiness was alive springing forth all throughout her marrow. “Do you see it, baby? Before we were stolen, this was our home; Afrika.” Kai looked up and could see through the roof to the heavens. She saw in the stars, Olmecs, Afrikans, traveling to the Americas and trading with their natives. Peace, prosperity, and glory.  Crystal’s voice brought Kai back to the castle interior. Just when Kai had fallen in love with their ancestor’s glorious past, Crystal spoke of what befell them.“Our world was invaded. “Our people were abducted from all over the continent, chained with heavy metals upon their necks, and forced to walk to the coast. They heard of a castle built by the foreigners, only to be held in its dungeon. This room that we’re in right now is that dungeon, still holding the souls of our ancestors. This is where we were kept until the next ship arrived. We were packed like sardines in a can. The only water came from sweat falling from the one in front of them. The only light from that small window that promised hope, yet choked life. So many died here.” Crystal’s words were devastating.  The pain was so heavy it was palatable, enough to break Kai’s sanity. The ancestors intervened, showing her great lands. Her soul translated her vision, this was Timbuktu, where people from all over the world came to learn from its scholars, study at its colleges, and trade its rarities. A thriving nation, pivotal for mankind. Kai felt their honor and pride as if they were being braided right into her heart. She would carry this with her for the rest of her life.  She looked to the right and saw a great king. Overwhelmed with pure amazement, she moaned at the sight of his might. Breathing it in until it married her essence, they were her, and she was them.  “What do you see, baby?” asked Crystal. “The great, King Monomotopa, with an army of female warriors. They’re protecting his kingdom and riches.” Kai surprised herself. “How do I know this, Momma?” Crystal sighed joyously. “Only those of our lineage have the magic awakened when they come inside this tortured room. Your visions are visible here only, but their meaning will be part of you always.” Looking up beyond the ceiling again, the Olmecs’ brilliance blinding her, etching their fire into her DNA.  Kai opened her eyes. The floor turned into a million hands reaching for her. She jumped away from them until she realized they weren’t trying to harm her, they were reaching to lift her to new heights they would never see. Instinctively she fell to the hands, desperately grabbing to pull whoever she could save.  A body emerged, and with the ground solid again, Kai scurried to her feet. She paused, taking in the figure before her. She was tall, brown, and regal; reeking of strength and power. Kai gasped, “But your face.” She whispered, “It’s my face?” Smiling softly, the figure said, “I am you, as you are me. I am your ancestor Tawiilu.” Kai was amazed, “But your eyes are just like mine, your hands. How?” Tawiilu touched Kai’s hands, “It’s etched in your blood. You and I are from the same line, my father is your father, my mother your mother, my face-” Kai interrupted touching Tawiilu’s face, “Your face.”  

“Everything that we are exists within you.”  

Thinking about the present state of her people, Kai’s light dimmed, “All the things we were, why do we kill each other?” Her heart ached, breaking with each word. “Why do we pass down the chains as though they are crowns? There is so much we can achieve if we come together.” Tawiilu smiled brightly, illuminating the room, “Keep asking the hard questions. There is hope in your pain. You feel the way to change the world, you must follow your heart and know we will be with you guiding you all the while.” 

“But, if I go, how do I get them to understand?”

“Spread the hope and pain you feel now. If there is no pain, they won’t be pushed out of their struggle. If there is no hope, our people will continue to suffer.  Our hope was stripped from us the moment we were taken.” Tawiilu took a breath, recalling a memory, “There’s a door in the castle we call The Door Of No Return, once we crossed the threshold of that door, all hope of ever returning to Afrika evaporated. We knew we would never return home again.” Returning from her thought she looked  into Kai’s eyes, her tears heavy on the brim of her eyelids, “So you see, you have to give us hope again.” The weight of her people fell on Kai’s shoulders, “I want to, but I can’t do it alone.” Crystal answered, “You’ll never be alone!”  Tawiilu began to walk away, Kai grabbed both of her arms, “Wait! I’m not ready for you to go, there’s still so much more I need to know.” Tawiilu brought Kai’s hands to her heart, “Everything you need to know is here.” They looked at one another for moments that seemed like an eternity. Tawiilu faded but her presence remained.  Crystal waited at the door, “What will you do?” Kai crossed the threshold of Elmina’s Slave Castle, outside she saw the castle’s present form. Looking on the ancient grounds weaved with wonder and torture, “I will give us hope again.” 


“What if we all suddenly looked up

Took the chains off our brains 

Used our power to link up 

We could change the whole system 

If we stop fighting ourselves 

Use all that energy to fight the wealth

That stain that drains and clings to our spiraling downfall

That forgets all for one and one for all

The things that we could be

If we closed our eyes to see

Fighting for equality

But they don’t care about us

We were intentionally left out of the constitution

While they were fighting for their freedom

We were forced to plow their fields

While they were killing each other over taxes

We raised their kids

They sold ours

Then forced us to give their child milk from our tits

We can’t live like this


We have to remember how we were before

Let me bring the “w” before the “h”

We have to remember “WHO” we were before today

Not just the kings and the queens

But the scientist, inventors, and doctors

The helpers, educators, engineers, mother’s, father’s and friends

The community we were before they crept in

Before they got in our minds and sought to divide

Jealousy, envy, and mistrust

A seed planted so long ago

To this day

Got us



When will we break the chains

Unity is the only way we can win

We have power

But we have to tap in

We have the power

But we have to connect to it

We can do anything if we trust the “we” that is “us”

Links those chains they’re killing us with and lift each other up

I believe in us