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Published: September 28th 2009
I just got back from a weekend trip my program CIEE took us on. We left early on Saturday morning heading to Cape Coast. Since I had been there the weekend before, we had a little better idea of how to pack and what to expect. But unlike our solo trip, we got to stay in a high-class hotel. Once we arranged our roommates and dropped off our stuff at the hotel, we got back on the bus and headed either to the Cape Coast Castle or the Elmina Castle. I chose to go to the Elmina Castle because it is older and is in a different part of the city than I had been.
Here is a little history background…
The Portuguese originally built Elmina Castle as a trading post in 1482 as St. George of the Mine. It was the first trading post on the Gulf of Guinea. The Portuguese were the first to start the Atlantic Slave Trade, making Elmina one of the most central stops. Slaves were held and bartered from local African Chiefs and kings. The slaves came from interior African tribes and were caught by the slave-catchers of coastal tribes. They were sold to Portuguese traders in exchange for things such as textiles and horses. Under Portuguese rule, the slaves were transported and resold in Brazil and other Portuguese colonies. In 1637, the fort was seized by the Dutch and eventually the entire Portuguese Gold Coast was taken over by 1642. The Dutch continued the Atlantic Slave Trade until 1814, when the slave trade was abolished due to the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. The British then overtook the Dutch Terrtory in 1871 and the Gold Coast was finally granted its independence in 1957.
Our tour guide took us into different holding cells at the castle and explained the horrible conditions of which slaves were treated and kept at the castle, as well as the transportation across the Atlantic. Only ½ of the slaves captured made it on to the ships and only ½ of those on the ships survived the journey and made it to their destination across the Atlantic and to Europe. Our guide explained to us that history says that Africans sold their own brothers and sisters to the white men, but that this is a devastating misconception. Today, all Africans consider themselves to be brothers and sisters, no matter what country or region they live in. When the Europeans came and started the Slave Trade, Africa was made up of thousands of different tribes. At that point, different tribes thought of each other as enemies because they were defending their own land and property. Once the Europeans came, coastal tribes caught interior tribes men to sell into the trade because they didn’t see this as giving up their own men. The slave trade was not just a result of one small handful of people but of many different groups of people who shared one common characteristic: greed.
Greed is one of mankind’s worst traits and is responsible for causing every single genocide and tragic event in human history. After visiting the Slave Trade Castle I have had some time to fully take in as much as I could in order to reflect on it. On Saturday night after we got back from our day trip, our CIEE trip had a group meeting and talked over our experiences of the day and to share our personal reflections with the group. Our director, Mr. Gyasi, posed a really interesting question that brought up many different answers from our group but one solid response that I found very inspiring. He asked us if we thought, after what we had seen that day and had learned about previously in history lessons, that the world still had hope for a better future. One girl said that she didn’t think so. She thought that after all she had learned about our past and what she still sees going on around the world today, there really is no hope in a better world with less violence and hate. After all I have already seen in my life, I almost felt like agreeing with her, but as I thought about that again, I realized that I was never one to give up just like that. Her view was admitting defeat to herself, but I can’t live my life like that.
That night, I came to a conclusion about greed and hope in our world. One day I hope to be a teacher in a high school. If I did not have hope in my abilities at changing the world, or even in just changing or helping one single person or student in my class, why would I teach? I realized that although there is still violence, greed and hate in the world, I HAVE to have hope that it will change. There will always be power-hungry men in the world, but that doesn’t mean that we all shouldn’t try and overcome the hate with love and acceptance. Perhaps I cannot save the world by myself, and perhaps during my lifetime there will be more genocides and horrible acts against humankind, but if I don’t have hope and I don’t try to make a difference, nothing will ever get better in this world. I have hope in myself and in all of you. We are the people that can make a difference today so that our children and future generations to come will have a better world to live in and continue to have hope in themselves.
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