Sunday 25 March 2007 marks the 200th anniversary of Britain's abolition of the slave trade.
Many slaves were bought to work on sugar plantations
Millions of Africans were forcibly transported overseas over a period of about 450 years from the middle of the 15th century.
The trans-Atlantic trade led to the greatest forced migration of a human population in history.
Nigerian poet Tolu Ogunlesi has written a poem for the BBC's Weekend Network Africa programme to commemorate the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.
Lorenzo and Maria
Love, Lagos and Havana were the three ends
Of the rope that bound Lorenzo and Maria.
They weren't always Lorenzo and Maria.
Once upon a time they must have been
Lamidi and Mojisola,
Growing somewhere in Isale Eko,
Thinking of who to fall in love with
And when, and how many seed to spawn.
Then War rose,
Waves of war, stout as Wailing walls,
Sweeping the conquered across the Great Sea
That entombed tall tales of adventurous pilgrims.
So they went, as we go.
But mercy shined and loosed their bonds.
Instead of an eternal flaming iron brand
Or a second-skin slithering steel necklace
They got a milder label: Emancipado.
So the story goes. But Chains still had their part
In the Plot. Cupid comes-a-calling, hawking
Nooses - the kind a Texas cowboy will love.
They haggle and fall for the deal.
Then the denouement. Home calls, first
In tiny whispers, then in that din so peculiar
To Lagos. Bags and Memories are packed
Names too, and Offspring, for they were
Not ashamed to count themselves Strangers
In the land, seeking a True Homeland.
A selection of them will be posted below and broadcast on BBC Network Africa.
Memories of slavery
Bound with heavy iron chains trembling
We dragged our bare feet in agony
Pack'd like sardines
In merchant ships
Working, sweating and burning in the plantation
Our padlock'd mouths wept bitterly
Fragrant memories of our dear motherland
Flash'd across our minds eyes
Backs danced to the not so melodious
Tunes from our masters' whips
In strange manners
The more pungent thoughts
The more cold shivers creep down my spine
Like waves in a bar beach
Omoefe Onoriobe, Houston, USA
They came like thieves uninvited and took our able-bodied brothers and sisters away,
This act distorted our match to progress and development,
Although abolished over 200 years ago,
the irony today however,
is that we are inundated with leaders who are in every way acting like modern-day slave drivers.
Ashipa James Olashupo, Abuja, Nigeria
Defeated in a tribal war
Enslaved, waiting his turn
To be sold to the white man
Never to return
He thought of those he left behind
Enslaved as much as he
Yet seperation made things worse
He would never be free.
We should all remember him
With a tear in our eye
Taken from the world he knew
To work, if not, to die.
Yet in this world, even today
The practice lingers on
We must fight this trade until
All slavery is gone.
For now than ever, we in chain
So our squalid marvel
Slavery is not past a claim
Tomorrow Africa be ready to shovel!
Leonard Mukuhi, Kiambu
Success by any means
Past, present, future endanger
Lives for attained nightmarish dreams
God created all equal
Let that ring its sequel
Spencer Heston, Valdez, Alaska
Unto Waters we scattered,
transplanted like seedlings,
to a strange land,
we lived to transport,and became "transe ported".
For courage was a wish that we hoped to find after stepping through so many doors.
No longer estranged we transpire,
for the new land has only to hear our song, our song, of lands forlorn, our song in a multitude of tongues.
With cotton balls still stuck to our shrouded heads, We shall cry in jubilation to our mistress the Sun, for she alone did bear witness to our desperation.
For she alone can weigh the heart of justice.
Semira Tesfai Ghermai, Paris, France
I remember the stories from my grandma,
How she would sit and tell me of her grandma¿s stories, And she would begin, Way before colonization, Before time, Chiefs and kings existed princes and queens, Then the Whiteman came on ships forgotten, These ghostly man were like ancestors reincarnated, Light skin and bluish eyes, So we listened to their stories, Of their Bible, Of their Jesus, Of their prayers, All the while they plotted to displace us, Put us in shackles of pain, To find ourselves in Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Britain, France, United States and many others that now live richly, From our sweat and tears, The story continued, To colonization to puppeteered leaders, I would sit and gasp for air wondering, Whether the story would ever end, With an ending that is in all stories, And they lived happily ever after.
Christopher Kyalo, Odenton Maryland
HE NEVER RETURNED
Victor Osa-Asemota, Madrid, Spain
Dirt on my Face
You said my face is a black canopy,
Soiled with darkness like a thief,
Eyes blank like pinholes punched through An empty canvas.
My voice, a clouded din of incomprehension Amidst the melody of civilized verse.
My mind twisted and contorted as a weed
Attempting to be a rose, but always failing to bloom.
My heart must be hollow if I sing my prayers to Mother Earth rather than to Heaven.
And even though the world now looks down on your perception, On your misconception, your confusion, Your Fear, Have you washed the dirt from my face?
Daphne , Seattle, Washington USA
We changed places, we changed seasons
We, cut off from the rhythm of our lives, danced to starnge drumbeats
They, drenched in the conquest of their expedition, drank to the dregs
Alas The rains came again The sun rose And We onward bound are Returning...
to Papa's Land The Land of our Birth
Okereafor Stanley Chukwuemeka, Abuja, Nigeria
No boundry, no land
same faith on our pulpitation
with the murmuring sound.
White blood, Red blood
Green leaf, Red heart
no matter same feeling
when the pain occurs at Human kin.
Red Rose, Blue Diamond
Arts of Love
Flow of Minds', fingers of Bloggers'
awaits to sleep, River
into the lap of Ocean.
Fingers on top of the Head
beneath the chest
Blogger places the Head
into the lap of the legs.
No Boundry, no land
No matters same feeling
when the pain occurs at Human kin.
A Grand Salute to Red Blood, White Blood who made it occurs the End of Slavery.
Achyut Adhikary, Somerville, USA
The white man came to Africa,
never before had we seen such.
Our ancestor lands taken, and our people displaced, never had we seen such.
Todd Kidd, United States
Concern is hidden in the hate,
necessity is hidden in concern,
opportunist's miss the point of love,
don't miss the chance, never be late,
hate and love are natural in life,
though this is late and shameful,
acceptance of apology is the best choice, regret and guilt is sensitive to me myself,
love, like, hit confused my sense of humanity.
No doubt humanity is my identification.
Syed Hasan Turab, Milwaukee Wi USA
There is a silence so utterly complete,
That will fill your ears with a calling,
The sound of a million marching feet,
It is the sound of a world in mourning.
We wanted cheap sugar:
It cost lots of lives.
We want cheap trainers
So slavery survives.
It's easy to say "sorry"
And dismiss from your mind
That modern day slavery
Is the worst of its kind.
Bill, Taunton UK
Wake Up! Wake Up! Oh Mother Africa
Tell the inhabitants of your coasts
Cry to the Children of your bosom
Even to the children of your children's children Cry! Cry to them all Yeah! Your children born in pain and agony They that were born out of serious labour Awake them in their minds and spirits Make it known to them... That their salvation lies in their own hands For I see within your boundaries Oh Mother Africa Even within the courts of your tents Lo! The inside of the walls that surround your lands Suffering War and Turmoil Brothers killing one another Kindred turning their back at each other All in the name of power, money and fame How long... who can tell how long this will last for..?
Cry! Cry! Oh Mother Africa
I mean Cry Again and Again
Cry to the Sons of your sons and the Daughters of your daughters Let your voice reach the ends of your coast Yes! Your coast that reaches the ends of many lands Even all over the surface of the earth For the hearts of your descendants are the extents of your coast Again I say... Shout Oh Mother Africa Shout with a voice - even a loud voice Loud enough to shatter every barrier of stonework in your children's hearts And at the shattering of such barriers Then speak with yet another voice - even a soft and tender voice Soft enough to trickle down the bottom of their hearts That they may put their hearts to wisdom And rebuild the ruins within your lands
Yes! The ruins!
The ruins that you never dreamt would be found in your lands The ruins inflicted in you by outsiders The ruins initiated in you when the uninvited guests came Some through the door and others through the windows Some through the pathways and others through the bush Coming in first as a friend and later turning into thieves And from ordinary thieves into armed robbers Robbing you of not only your wealth and riches But also your children and seeds of your labour Of your beautiful, ebony, and perfectly designed daughters And your strong, agile, and perfectly built sons That was when your land started becoming desolate Desolate of those who would nurture you, as you grow older But how successful would this robbery have been..?
If not for the input of some of your own sons Yeah! Those who you named and trained but renamed and retrained themselves Acceding to the petty deceits of the unruly guests Their appellation I was to put at 'b.st..d', but Mama said 'knave' is just OK 'That was the past!' Some, of whom I am a chief, may say But what has Mama got to say about the past So tell us Mama Africa, why are we gathered at your feet... Listening to the tales of your misery and your children's torture We learn from the past to lead a better present so we can land in the best future, Mama said But tell me Oh! Mother Africa How largely few the numbers are, of those that care at all about your past And of these few, many stop at leaning on instead of learning from the past With fewer few striving to deal with rather than dwell in the aftermath of your miseries Yeah! That is why you are gathered at my feet, Mama said
Again and again, your children shout out loud - Mama is free!
But in the quietness of my heart, I turn to Mama and ask, again and again - How free is your freedom?
How liberal is your Liberty?
I mean how secured are the boundaries of your coasts For I see yet another type of slavery within your lands It is now a slavery of not only beauty and strength, but also intellects and talents Not one 'Goree Island' somewhere at the verge of your boundary But many 'Goree Islands' in the hearts of your sons and daughters Waiting for the next available ship to take them to the tents of another woman Mama looked down and said - My freedom is real and riling at the same time Like the freedom of a woman with little robbers outside the courts of her tents But many of them within her household - breeding at an alarming rate That is my freedom today, and my liberty - that, is the state of my 'serenity'
Yeah! My serenity turned into severity
Mama continued, and said...
My sons, even the daughters of my daughters Have struggled and rattled hard to reach for my purse My purse I have always kept around my bosom And even covered up with my beautifully dyed wrapper But without any regard to the beauty of my attire or the dignity of my appearance They stripped me naked to reach for my purse And after stripping it away, they replaced neither the purse nor my wrapper Both lying on the ground of many places My purse they dip their hands in, as many as can reach for it To spend on the popular rather than the populace And on mansions rather than on the masses Leaving their siblings in poverty, barrenness, dejection, sickness and death Again Mama cried, 'that is my so-called freedom - the state of my 'ease''
Yeah! My ease turned into hiss
So I looked and saw yet in Mama's land, the knaves that were in the past After some 400 years of weeping and wailing from the agony of chains and padlocks And another elongated session of tear wiping and pain nursing Which is being prolonged by the acts of your own seeds and offspring It is high time your children, in all places - at home and abroad Be awakened by your loud cry and shout, and be 'awisdomed' by your soft whisper That "Mama Need Not Be This Sick!"
Abi Oluyomi, US/Nigeria
© Abiodun Olufemi Oluyomi. Author willingly submits poem to BBC for the 200th aniversary of Britain's abolition of slave trade, but poem may not be reproduced without author's permission or/and recognition