It was early this morning that I lay in bed reading the memoir of Solomon Northup, who was born and raised a free man, then was illegally captured and held as a slave for 12 years in the deep south. The reality of slavery is one that none of us should ever forget, as the impacts of what happened during the years of slavery continues to perpetuate inequity and oppression to this day.
It just so happened my two boys Maddox and Asher ended up sleeping in my bed the night before and were cuddled up on one side of the bed. I am comfortably lying on the other side reading and got to the part where they are selling a group of captured slaves, in particular, a mother is being sold alongside her two kids. A son of 10 years old, and her daughter who is only eight years old. The mother is begging anyone and everyone to be sold with her children. She is screaming to everyone that she would do whatever it took just to be with her two children. She wanted to be there to protect them and love them. My heart started to weep as I knew I could never fathom the depth of pain that she must have felt. I began to cry as I could feel every breath and scream that she let out as she saw her kids separated and taken away from her. I could never know and experience it completely, but I felt it in my heart.. Maddox my 8-year-old woke up abruptly after hearing me cry and immediately asks me if I am okay. All I can do is look at him, realizing that this mother in the book had her child taken away at eight years old. This notion unnerved me to my core.I responded quickly and told him that all was good, that I had been reading a book about slavery and briefly explained to him that an 8 year old girl was just separated from their mother and sold into slavery along with her 10 year old brother. He came over and gave me a tight hug, and told me that it was going to be okay. Laying close to me under the warm covers, he quickly went back to sleep..
I could not go back to sleep after this. I thought about all the lives that continue to be destroyed to this day as a result of the slave trade. Inequities and oppression continue to be passed down since the first slaves arrived in America in 1619. The injury that was created during this time continues to be felt from generation to generation. My mind also wandered to the lives that are affected by the prison industrial system, the current modern day slave trade, immigration laws that separate families, poverty and homelessness, ongoing wars that kill and injure families, and so many more current social justice issues that tear away at important family bonds and communities. This ongoing societal destruction creates wounds so deep, and humanity as a whole suffers from those wounds. As I set my gaze on my children I realize how fortunate I have them here with me. I also can understand the privilege I have to ‘feel safe’ within our society and to have my family unaffected by most systematic oppression. Our stories are all happening at the same time all around us both good and bad. We need to stop to step outside of our own story in order to see the common thread that ties us all. Once we are able to talk about and see the truths, as painful as they are, we then be able to affect change in society.