The Middle Passage website celebrates and supports the history and memory surrounding the transatlantic slave trade, its effects on Africans in the Americas and its representation in literature and the humanities and in culture more broadly. Here you will find multi-ethnic educational and creative consultant services, lectures and presentations, curriculum development, ministry, rituals of remembrance, and editorial work,. Diversity Matters. Our site is currently is under construction, but we'll be up and running soon. While you're here, please enjoy the poem "Invisibles," written by our founder, Dr. Joanne (Jodi) Braxton. If you want us to notify you when the site is complete, just send us an email. Names and email addresses are confidential.
Windward, never leeward, always windward,
Breathing toward Africa, four by five feet,
Thatched with palm, these exile houses, empty now,
Alone on the stony beach, except for tourists from America,
Come with our cameras and measuring tapes.
Incredulous in Bonaire, island of coral rock
Where even scrub cannot grow.
Mountains of salt at our backs,
Pink, gray and white as far as the eye can see.
They faced East, a pinnacle of torture between them and the sea.
Some refused to work and raised the cry,
“I am a man,” stripped and staked to the thing to dry out,
Wind whipping salt and sand like a knife,
An inhospitable place, a bad place to die.
Just offshore, the brother guide nervously introduces “Invisibles”:
No further explanation, no particular hazards,
Nothing particular to see.
“Invisibles” is what you don’t see.
Clearest water in the world.
Ninety feet, turquoise clear to the bottom.
Dropping over the side like a stone, I equalize,
Weightless in descent and eerie silence.
Down and down and down, seventy feet.
Immense flats of sand loom white as the salt above.
Someone who knew this place never became anyone’s ancestor.
Down and down and down, eight-five feet, ninety feet.
Suddenly, the crazy singing of the Saints.
This lamentation is not nitrogen;
And not a living soul can make a
Sound at ninety feet.
Yet, I am not in harm’s way.
These, who might have been my ancestors,
Beseech me to “Bear Witness,”
And I ascend, following a trail of bubbles.
Below a black tipped reef shark glides along a boney drop off,
Feasted on African souls of Yoruba and Fanti.
Back on deck, the guide looks fathoms into my eyes and smiles.
“Invisibles,” I respond.
And he, “Invisibles.”
"Invisibles"was previously published in VERSE and THE AFRICAN AMERICAN REVIEW. Dr. Joanne M. Braxton, a former senior Fulbright Professor, received a 2002 Oni Award from the International Black Women's Congress "for uncompromising commitment to uplifting the lives of African people." In 2012, Dr. Braxton convened a team of three writers who created a ritual of remembrance for those Africans lost in the transatlantic slaving trade for use in 178 port cities affected by the trade. An ordained minister with full standing in the Southern Conference of the United Church of Christ, Dr. Braxton is also trained Clergy Community of Practice Facilitator and a widely published poet and writer. She has received continuing education in Narrative Medicine from the Duke University Center for Integrative Medicine and Columbia University Medical School.