On Sunday the DIAS group (all the American and some Senegalese students) went on a tour of Gorée Island, just off the coast from Dakar. This island, pictured below, was one of the main slave trading posts in West Africa. It has seen a history of violence as European powers fought each other for control of the island, and worse, the atrocities committed during the imprisonment and trading of slaves.
The group was led on a tour throughout the island, with the main stop being the House of Slaves.
The House of Slaves gave each of us an experience they will never forget. We saw the room where humans were weighed like cattle, where they were imprisoned in small, dark cells like sardines, and the door through which there was no return. We heard detailed explanations of what would happen to any who were unhealthy or rebellious. The sick were killed, thrown into the sea for the sharks, to prevent disease from spreading. Any violent or misbehaving slaves were enclosed in a tiny cell, no room for standing or even crouching. And for repeat offenders, the windowless cell from which no one came out of alive.
We discussed what we learned and how we felt in this historical place after returning to the mainland. Senegalese, African American and white American students shared their individual take-always, prompting an open dialogue allowing a glimpse into the life of someone different, into interpretations we may never have considered. Parallels and comparisons were made to events in modern times, how the lingering effects of slavery and colonization still permeate the world. It was a powerful experience and a great opportunity to share ideas and perceptions from people of different backgrounds with experiences.