Forgive the Past;
Create the Future. Here.
by Constance C. Harold
When I first arrived in Annapolis 10 years ago, I gravitated to the City Dock to bask in the bright rose-colored autumn light. I tried to imagine how this deep-water port must have looked 200 or 300 years ago when tall ships crowded the harbor and George Washington regularly rode the ferry from Baltimore to Annapolis.
I tried to visualize what it must have been like to find myself in the hold of one of those infamous ships, an African captive or indentured English servant, docking at the portal of a brutal, uncertain future.
For there before me, embedded in the cobbled ground, was a tarnished slab of bronze that announced that here, in 1767, the slaving ship Lord Ligonier had deposited Kunta Kinte, the African whose story was told by his descendent Alex Haley in the blockbuster book and television miniseries, Roots. A rectangle of greening metal, unnoticed and ignored by visitors and residents alike, was all that commemorated this African who had a vision and told his story to his children and they to theirs until it became our story of an American family and the American dream.
And I tried to see what he saw, this almost mythical man, Kunta Kinte, when the sunlight pierced his sight after all those months in darkness. In his mind's eye, could he see what would happen 230 years after his arrival when his descendent and the descendent of the man who auctioned him off would stand together in commemoration of his arrival and shake hands, to forgive the past and create hope for a common future?
And for a moment, I could see all those yet to be born who will one day stand upon that very spot and judge us if we hesitate or turn away or step forward toward the challenge that calls to us now. For surely it is possible for the festering wounds of centuries to finally receive the balm of our understanding, and the sty that has perpetually blinded us to our common humanity can at last be removed from our sight.
Stand in this place. Look upon the Bay. This mother of waters nourishes us with her bounty even as we slowly poison her. Who are we to judge?
President Bill Clinton has called on the nation to begin a dialogue on race. Let us begin here. Let us recognize in our immigrant past the seeds of both our current racial dilemma and the opportunity to reconcile our actions with our ideals as embodied in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For whether our ancestors arrived in the cabin or the cargo, we can emerge from this long dark night of divisiveness into the light of reconciliation, together.
Have we the vision, the courage to cross the threshold?
For it is vision that we now need as the door to this century closes and the portal to a new century beckons. Who has the vision to create the forgiveness, the healing, the joining of all of the people so that the dream of our ancestors can finally be brought to fruition?
Who can stand at City Dock and look out at the serene waters of Chesapeake Bay and see what is possible, a place where humans and land and beast and waters will exist in harmony and our children will cross the racial divide, creating a new Annapolis for a new millennium, one handshake at a time.
Constance Harold - playwright, graphic designer and illustrator - works to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities. A member of the Maryland Writers Association, she has lived in Annapolis for 10 years.
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Volume VI Number 6
February 12-18, 1998
New Bay Times
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