What has Changed?

The First Remove

 

Screams of all sorts I hear around me. My people and I continue to capture all of these people trying to enter in our land without any authorization. Who do they think they are, do they think we are weak or stupid? I hear the terrible cries from these children, trying to seek refugee in my homeland. I look at one of the captives, and they stare up at me with their tear stained cheek as if I am some “barbaric creature”. I hold weapons to show my dominance over them, and they quickly huddle in the corner continuing their loud cries. We are doing what is best for our people, our country. These people only bring problems along with them. I’m doing good.

 

Second Remove

The next day, I am sent to the southern border once again. To accomplish the same duties that is what protects my country, my main mission. From afar I see the families trying to find their way through our land. I must stop them, that is my duty. Once we detain the intruders, we immediately separate the mother from the only child that she beared with her throughout her journey. The mother fights back, but she is easily controllable, the child too. Aside from the screams and lack of fighting, we repeat the same action with other families coming in. There I take the child back to the other children who we have held captive for the greater good of our country. Their the child joins the screams of the other intruders, while I walk away and feel accomplished for the duties that I have completed.

 

Third Remove

The next morning, I walk beside the heavily wired cages, with no forms of escape. I see a few children awake. One in particular catches my attention. The young girl maybe around age 3 or 4 wearing a pink stays sniffling in the corner looking down at her wrist. I take a step closer and see that it is a golden bracelet with a cross, along with jesus attached to it. She becomes aware of my presence, and looks up to me, then back at her bracelet. This girl, I remember her from yesterday, she is the one that I seprarted from the mother. The girl looks up at me again, and I make my position clear, glaring at her showing no mercy. She is not one of us, she is different, she is not civil like my people, she is savage.

 

Fourth Remove

After going by that little girl, out of pure curiosity I decide to pay the mother a visit. After gathering information, I was able to find her whereabouts, which is by a nearby facility. Once another guard guides me to her, I noticed that she held a bible in her hand. As I stepped closer to her I heard quiet prayers from her. On her wrist was the same bracelet her daughter was wearing. Religion seems to play a vital purpose in their life. We both believe in the higher power, however we are not the same, we will never be the same. I am doing good, keeping people like her and her family from invading our country along with the bad that is brought along with them. It is my civic duty. I tuck my golden cross chain back in my uniform, and walk away.

 

Fifth Remove

After repeating my job again, I go back home to relax. I sit down on my favorite recliner, and turn on the television to keep up with the local news. When I turn on the screen there is a picture that was released by the press, that revealed the little girl that I had separated from her mother. I instantly recognized her by the clothing and the bracelet. Her picture was making headlines due to the raw emotion that she was showing, causing some of the audience to feel sympathy for her. What am I doing, am I really responsible for the terror that is showing in her eyes. I can’t feel bad though. She is not one of us, she is an illegal immigrant. Her and her people only bring crime into our homeland. She and her people are the epitome of savage.

 

Review

I decided to recreate a parody of Mary Rowlandson Narrative of the Captivity Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. I used the same format that Rowlandson used to write her experiences. What I decided to do was recreate her story with our present situation regarding the United States immigration system. What I did was give the perspective of Rowlandson to the guard that is telling their story in the version that I created. In Rowlandson Narrative she is given the weaker position since she was the one help kept captive, but in the narrative I created I reversed the roles. It is as if I gave Rowlandson the dominant role in this narrative and the Indians the weaker role, which would be the equivalence of Rowlandson’s role in her own writing. I find these two situations very similar. In Rowlandson’s narrative although, she was the one being held captive she saw the Indians as lower than her, she never viewed them as human, because they were different from her people. This is the same situation that I put the guard in my narrative. One thing that I also think played a very crucial part in Rowlandson’s narrative was religion. Religion is what I used in my narrative to sort of create a bond between the immigrant child and the guard. Although the guard notices the similarities, he still lacks the idea of treating them with respect, or as humans. Throughout Rowlandson’s narrative we constantly see her referencing god, to keep her along the journey, which is similar to what I had the immigrant mother and daughter do. No matter what happened, the guard stuck to his american ideals that what he was doing was what was best for his people and country. Both Rowlandson and the guard are justifying their own or their people’s actions, being completely oblivious to the damage they are causing other people. Although Rowlandson becomes fascinated with aspects of their lifestyle, at the end of her captivity she still sees as the “barbaric creatures” that she did in the beginning.I tried to create a parallel between the two stories. Both had gone and experienced different cultures or lifestyles. However both fail to see that these people are the same as them. They are both heavily influenced by the social construction of race. This reveals that history is continuing to repeat itself, and that racism is still very much present in our society.

-Dariana Lara

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United States: 2019

(A recreation of Percy Shelley’s “England in 1819”)

A corrupt, predatory, untrusted State

Politicians, the worst of us who walk unfazed

Through mass disapproval, tempting fate

Stormed through elections the way they were raised

A call to false patriotism, that could never wait

A hill to die on, narcissism craved

A nations motto gets left behind

Preach liberty bring destruction

As the blind lead the blind

The masses tired of dishonest seduction

Preaching the gospel and yet are misaligned

To the teachings that rebel against their unconscious mind

Yet still, a beast is rising completing its self-production

Realize now the lies or continue to live in corruption

  • Evan Klang

Death and Taxes

Dead trees on top of gravestones, with a degrading abbey parting the painting in the middle. That is; Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), The Abbey in the Oakwood, 1808-1810. Just like the little cottage girl’s dead siblings, the headstones are in front of the church;

“Seven boys and girls are we;

Two of us in the church-yard lie,

Beneath the church-yard tree.”

Friedrich’s painting showcases headstones in front of the church.

Now that’s the most obvious comparison, let’s dig deeper. The girl’s ‘rustic, woodland air’ can also be used to describe the painting. It looks like its right next to the forest, but a bomb went off. The smell of the dead trees, the wood overtakes everything. “Till God released her of her Pain”, the painting shows an abbey, where the monks and nuns live and congregate. Of course there is a graveyard, cause where do people go after they die? To heaven, with God. Of course the child negates this, and well believes that her siblings are still alive.

“———A simple Child,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death? “

I found the first stanza possibly the most hard hitting from the poem. What does a child possibly know of death, they are so small, so minuscule, so full of life, how could they know of death. The painting shows a broken down abbey, dead trees, and among them the bodies of the dead. The painting is death incarnate, with the people being processed in the middle. Are us adults any different than children? What do we know about death, anymore than a child does. An adult praying for the soul of deceased family member is no different than a child playing along the tombstones where their sibling is buried. The quote out there exists that you die twice, once when you die, and the other time when your name is last mentioned. Keeping the memories of our deceased, is keeping them alive, with us.

The painting highlights our human understanding of death, the basics, the crude rituals, and it confines it to a small space. The vast, almost limitless top half mocks the bottom half for how claustrophobic it is. Maybe it casts a dark shade over the humans, for their lack of understanding, and their ability to never truly see above the trees into the light. Nature could also be the true winner here, as the abbey (probably once very beautiful) now looks very similar to the trees. Nature laughs at us, and sees our futile attempts to outlive it with buildings and tombstones. Isn’t crazy that the painting is split in half, like how still water gives off a reflection. Do we humans need to reflect on our understanding of death? Of life? Of religion?. Is the painting reflecting the tombstones into the sky? Does heaven exist? Only two things are certain, death and taxes

 

Holy Home

In “The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano” the Bible was used frequently by Equiano and besides his religious convictions, it served a much more powerful purpose. While he was in the Ætna, Daniel Queen,

            He taught me to shave and dress hair a little, and also to read in the Bible,                    explaining  many passages to me, which I did not comprehend. I was                              wonderfully surprised to see the  laws and rules of my country written                         almost exactly here; a circumstance which I believe tended to impress our                    manners and customs more deeply on my memory. (Chap. IV)

While I know this is not a direct reference to content within the Bible, the two different times of his life, he bonds through the Bible. This is a huge step within his narrative, and he does so various times, Equiano wanted to depict his life before slavery in terms that everyone would understand. Merely mentioning his past, could have led to misconceptions about how his life in slavery was better off. By recalling his country through the laws and rules of the Bible he is clearly stating that neither his people or him lived without purpose. They (his people) much like slaveholders followed similar life ideals just in different ways.

He also presented this idea after stating the kindness of Queen, trying to make the connection as amicable as possible. Somehow saying that a father figure of sorts, taught him the likeness between his home and the Biblical ideas. Besides that, there are many ways that one could interpret this connection, but I choose to believe that in some way Equiano alluded to his home being holy. While in one place they read holy scripture, at home they lived they practiced it within their laws and rules. Therefore, stating that since he had been ingrained with these ideals before having read them, he himself was able to live a holier life.

-Sabrina Vazquez

Freedom Through Knowledge

Through his usage of quotes from famous English authors and the Bible, Equiano is able to establish himself as a voice of authority on the subject of slavery given his own knowledge and experiences. In chapter five, uses a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, to attack the poor treatment of slaves, writing,

“—No peace is given

To us enslav’d, but custody severe;

And stripes and arbitrary punishment

Inflicted – What peace can we return?

But to our power, hostility and hate;

Untam’d reluctance, and revenge, through slow,

Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least

May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice

In doing what we most in suffering feel.”

I find that this chosen quote stands apart from many of the other quotes Equiano chose in his book, as unlike many of the other quotes that convey his personal knowledge, strength, and struggles to the reader, this one comes across more as a warning. Previously, many of his arguments have been based upon presenting slavery as immoral and not in line with prevailing enlightenment ideals, but this argument made by him using this quote presents slavery as a danger to society due to the risk of revolt and insurrection. Through his own personal experience, Equiano has shown that even a slave can become an individual that embodies the ideas of the enlightenment and this is not a result of being naturally inferior, but because what he sees as an effort being made to keep slaves ignorant. Seemingly, Equiano appears to present education as a means of ending slavery by showing that slaves are capable individuals when given opportunities from better treatment and that with better treatment, there will be no risk of a revolt or insurrection. But if the slaves are kept in ignorance and continue to be treated poorly, Equiano presents it as only a matter of time before the slaves see resistance as their only option like the fallen angels of Paradise Lost.

-Ryan Bucher

Social Justice Satan

“I went to an English battery that was but a very few yards from the walls of the citidel… and that was not without great risk, both from the English shells that burst while I was there, but likewise from those of the French… Three shots were fired at me and another boy who was along with me, one of them in particular seemed

wing’d with red lightning and impetuous rage”

Milton’s Paradise Lost is a poem of epic proportions, so much so that it is still garners the attention of scholars and intellectuals in academia. Paradise Lost is about love, loss, and the symmetry that exists in the biblical narrative- a subversive look between what is actually good and what is actually evil. In this retelling Satan had fallen from heaven by choice, because he refused to love his maker the exact same way that his celestial siblings did. Heaven, a system largely regarded as good because of its uniformity and dedication to its ambigious authority- the fabled absent father figure, G_d. The story simultaneously battles against and for fate itself, as it eventually succumbs to its rule- Satan, no matter how much he may grow to resent it, must play his role as the greater good’s greatest adversary. He must face G_d’s fury, manifested in red lightning, louder than the beating of thousands of furious wings.

This is just a long winded way of saying that to me, Heaven looks like facism.

I mean, think about it. Bound to the authority of one figure, Heaven and its commandments demands unwavering loyalty- not only as its admission fee. It is the same love, the same feelings, all subjects simultaneously supressing the “evils”, the urge to rebel and have knowledge of good and evil. The people who claim admittance to this “holy realm”, act with an air of superiority (they are G_d’s chosen people, his special race) and through their faith they have manifested their destinies. So what is heaven’s fury doing in Equiano’s slave narrative? What is Equiano doing, with his fellow slaves as they are surrounded by the vicious attacks pouring down upon them from both the French and English? Is he just proving that he knows how to read and write- that he is so literate that he has heard of Milton and just wants to put his readers at ease? Yes, I think that inches closer to the truth. But, also, no.

Or is Equiano comparing himself to the legendary social justice warrior- Satan? Publishing a narrative detailing the trials and tribulations he has supposedly gone through, critiquing the people which he loves so much and identifies with (Christians and whites), Equiano is alluding to the hellfire that awaits him soon after this is published. He may grow to regret rebelling, but for history’s sake it had to be done (but did it really?).

Maria Nguyen-Cruz

In God’s Eyes, We are the Same

Olaudah Equiano’s The Interesting Narrative definitely has many references to biblical scripture throughout his narrative as a form of relative content that could be presented to his intended audience. I think he decides to use this type of language because at the time that he was writing this, religion—specifically Christianity was at its forefront. Almost everything people did revolved around religion and faith. And because Equiano wanted people to read his book in order to understand what was so bad about slavery, religion became one easy way to have access to a specific audience. Even the idea of him having theological textual references in his narrative meant that he wanted the world to know that he was educated and that he wanted himself to be considered an equal to the white man. One of the many quotes that caught my attention was:

“Oh Jove! O father! if it be thy will

That we must perish, we thy will obey,

But let us perish by the light of day.”

This quote definitely reminds me of the Luke 23:34 verse in the bible where Jesus is being crucified and he says in exasperation, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  They both cry out to a father who is not physically present to them but is there spiritually. And I think through this quote, Equiano’s intended audience would have definitely been able to relate to him and be more sympathetic to the wrongdoings that had been committed not only against him but his entire race. Equiano uses religion as a tool to emphasis that he is the same as the white man—he is well educated, he is well travelled (regardless of how he has travelled), and also well mannered. To use these kinds of references in his narrative I’m sure encouraged people who read his narrative adapt his point of view regarding his people’s enslavement.

-Laura Mateo Gallegos

Equal

“Oh Jove! O father! If it thy will

That we must perish, we thy will obey,

But let us perish by the light of day.” (78).

 

This quote was adapted from Alexander Pope’s translation of Homer’s Iliad. In 1759 Equiano sailed for Gibraltar. This quote was used when Equiano was given the warning that the french fleet was coming their way. This quote reveals the religious side of Equiano. Prior to his sail, Equiano had been attending school in London where the sisters were teaching him to read and instructing him in religion. Coming from the slave trade you wouldn’t expect someone like Equiano to be familiar with the certain teachings or beliefs. To prove that he was superior to others Equiano includes religious quotes into his writing. For one it reveals to his audience that he was more than just a slave, it shows that he was a believer of god, just like most of them. The inclusion of quotes also allows Equiano to gain sympathy from the readers. He is revealing to the readers, as said by the quote that if this is their time to depart from this world then they must obey because that is their destiny from god. In The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano , Equiano references many english authors such as Milton, Thomas Day, Denha, etc., as well as translated quotes from the bible to make it known to the reader that he is an educated man of color. Aside from all of the oppression and other people have saved, he is capable of doing the same things as the people who feel they are superior to him do. He wanted to prove within his works that he is an educated man who was capable of certain beliefs. He wanted to prove that these characteristics aren’t only found in certain people, he proved that it is attainable

-Dariana Lara.

 

Equiano’s Rhetorical Strategy

In his autobiographical work, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Equiano integrates a portion of Thomas Day’s “The Dying Negro” into his writing. “The Dying Negro” was an abolitionist poem published in 1773 that sought to express sentiment against the institution of slavery. Similarly, Olaudah Equiano’s slave narrative was another form of literary work that contributed to the abolitionist movement. While aboard a ship, Equiano has a frightening experience and states that “[he] called on death to relieve [him] from the horrors [he] felt and dreaded, that [he] might be in that place”. This statement reflects the fear that Equiano felt in that moment and how death felt like a better fate than whatever was to come after. Right after that statement, Equiano references Thomas Day’s poem and writes that he wished to be

“Where slaves are free, and men oppress no more.

Fool that I was, inur’d so long to pain,

To trust to hope, or dream of joy again.”

This part of the poem is mentioned by Equiano in order to demonstrate that he was able to draw parallels between other works of literature and his own life. Equiano longs to be free and live in a place where he could dream of joy, but he knows that because of his situation, it seems foolish. Equiano also continues to cite the poem and substitutes Day’s words stating

“No eye to mark their suff’rings with a tear;

No friend to comfort, and no hope to cheer:

Then, like the dull unpity’d brutes, repair

To stalls as wretched, and as coarse a fare;

Thank heaven one day of mis’ry was o’er,

Then sink to sleep, and wish to wake no more.”

The use of this part of the poem highlights the misery that slaves faced and Equiano is able to verify Day’s words by attaching them to his own story. The fact that Thomas Day was white was significant because it meant that even white people knew that the actions taking place during that time by their fellow brethren was wrong. Using Day’s words is meaningful because literature was considered to be an important attribute of civilized and respected people. Equiano is demonstrating to the readers that just like any white man, he was able to read and write just like them – reducing the differences between them and suggesting that he was literate and trustworthy (just like the white man). Furthermore, Equiano is making it clear that he understands English literature perfectly and he is using it as a rhetorical strategy to bring the white readers to his side in order to ultimately make them agree that slavery should be abolished. Equiano continues with his narrative and once he reaches land, he continues to use Day’s words as a description of the thoughts he had when he saw those

“Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace

And rest can rarely dwell. Hope never comes

That comes to all, but torture without end

Still urges.”

Thomas Day never experienced slavery himself, but the fact that he was able to depict the situation so vividly and accurately enough for Equiano to use his words to detail his own experience as a slave is significant. Therefore, Equiano is using Thomas Day’s literature in order to prove the point that even free, white males can relate to Equiano and feel his suffering without having to actually live through the same experience. Thus, compassion and sentiments opposing slavery do not have to be expressed by only those who have gone through the same circumstances. This allows Equiano to use his own slave narrative as a literature of power in order to move his readers and persuade them subconsciously to fight against slavery just like Equiano and Day.

-Maria G. Perez

One of the Same

No eye to mark their suff’rings with a tear;

No friend to comfort, and no hope to cheer:

Then, like the dull unpity’d brutes, repair

To stalls as wretched, and as coarse a fare;

Thank heaven one day of mis’ry was o’er,

Then sink to sleep, and wish to wake no more. (The Dying Negro, 112)

Olaudah Equiano was an individual with treacherous endeavors that would progressively change his own perception in life as he grows throughout the years. He challenges through the enigma of what he once thought was never to be touched and manifests his perspective in daily remissions of his life. His own writing is detailing enough, yet Equiano manages to reference and implement fellow English writers in order to be able to have a different intuition to be added within his work. Equiano implements such work in order to signify the importance of either positive or negative insight that has dwelled with the past, and for what lies in the future.

“The turbulence of my emotions however naturally gave way to calmer thoughts, and I soon perceived what fate had decreed no mortal on earth could prevent. The convoy sailed on without any accident, with a pleasant gale and smooth sea, for six weeks, till February, when one morning the Oeolus ran down a brig, one of the convoy, and she instantly went down and was ingulfed in the dark recesses of the ocean.” (Equiano, 112)

Equiano manifests that what occurred to the individual within The Dying Negro poem is similar in sensation to what he currently felt in that moment in time of his life. He, at the moment, had no words to be able to convey his feeling to his suffering yet, time later he finds eloquent literature that is enabling to give him a voice. Now that his voice is now formally heard, he never has to worry about being able to apply a ‘credible’ source in order for his work to be taken seriously. Olaudah Equiano is not only righteous and humble when enabling his input but also manages to change the significance of what it truly means to be human in this world. He was never formally taught in what God truly was, but he’s able to convey that for him, God is one that created human imperfectly, different and arises to the notion that many see each other as enemies rather than fellow brethren of this world. The ability to write is the enablement to speak for Equiano; and his establishment of what truly signifies togetherness is righteous, to say the least.

– Stephen Muñoz