Monday, March 10, 2008

Gratitude Makes Sense Of Our Past,

brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

I watched the movie Amistad (1997) the other morning. Amistad is based on the true story of the uprising of kidnapped Africans aboard the Spanish slave ship Amistad in the early 1800's. After the men took over the ship they ordered their former captors to sail back to their home country. Instead they ended up off the coast of the United States where they were recaptured and put in prison. Spain demanded the return of the men, who they considered property, under the conditions of a commercial treaty between Spain and the United States. A series of trials based on the argument that the Africans were not property but free men ended when the US Supreme Court ruled in their favor. The men were then allowed to return to their home country in Africa.

The revolt was led by a man from Sierra Leone know as Joseph Cinque. At one point in the movie Cinque is speaking with John Quincy Adams, former U.S. president and the man who would be arguing his case to the Supreme Court, and tells him that he, Cinque, would not be going into the courtroom alone because his ancestors would be there with him. Then he continues:

"I will call into the past, far back to the beginning of time, and beg them to come and help me at the judgement. I will reach back and draw them into me. And they must come, for at this moment I am the whole reason they have existed at all."

And at that moment I realized I owed my own ancestors so much. All that they had lived through had made my life possible; every bad thing, every good thing, every wrong decision, every right decision, every moment of shame, every moment of grace, every moment of grief, and every moment of joy.

All for me.

And in return all I can do now is acknowledge this and offer a humble thank you.

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