When I talk about slavery by Stewart Kunaka


When I talk about slavery I prefer to use the past present tense
The past tense on its own insults my intelligence for lack of common sense on my part
As if it’s something alien, mocking me for lack of reason on my part
Like there is no disparity
Unfair trade breaking Africa apart piece by piece
The Samurai in her heart is the exchange rate, she is bleeding
Needless wars for scraps, induced apathy, we will send in the Red Cross
Show how much we care
In broad daylight super powers moving the goal post
Then the poverty and the streaming cues at their borders
Children of time searching for jobs in foreign lands, laboured by their fore fathers before them
Today they take their turn on the tombs
The first world nourishing its pallet once again with Africa’s tears

Naturally I’m infuriated; my turmoil is beleaguered as history
The obvious truth hidden in the past tense
‘Abolition of slavery’ camouflage of the empire’s interest
In the present context economic slaves continue to man the post
Which is not to say that I deny my history?
By all means let’s acknowledge the past
Show me the pictures of those merchant ships with their catch
Tell me the stories of the gang raps, vigorous abductions, the plantations, and the lynchings, don’t shot change my past tell it all
But in the same breath don’t paint over my reality
Transpose that gory past onto today, the present continuous
And see what they have done to my family

He is African Caribbean, she African American, he is African other
Happy to have met at last, but needing a thousand years to heal
Streamed from distant lands, sapped of all his juice
Constantly disregarded
The red tape so long and thin hard to say with pride ‘I am African’
Streamed from distant lands, sapped of her sense of self
Hard to open her mouth and speak of love to the other
On her memory the vigorous abductions, naturally she asks the question
‘Where was I when they took her away?’
In my heart I feel the same pain plus the present continuous
Love growing old back home where I can’t be, just the economic sense making sense
In my soul all hope in Africa the empire is condescending
Talking about slave trade in the past tense in the present tense I can’t even look my brother in the eye.

Stewart Kunaka 2007