Of course, there were always hurricanes. Saharan winds astir with West Atlantic seas traveled west crossing the Atlantic. But there are those who say the character has changed since the days of American slavers. African storms, born on African shores now cross the Atlantic gaining strength and bearing down on America as whirling hurricanes delivering retribution, mayhem and loss. And it doesn’t matter that the worst harmed are usually her own children, or the children born for millennia in these of lands, indigenous souls whose ancestors honored the wetlands and did not live on them, acknowledged the low lands as places to fish, but not sleep. People who left room for a hurricane’s rage to be absorbed by marsh grasses and tide pools. African winds cannot see, they do not hear. All they have, the storytellers say, is history, memory and fury.
And the fury never dissipates. It quiets at time, becomes muted in current travails and occasional celebrations. It rests on the west coast of Africa ready at a moment’s notice to begin its howl and spin, thirty million dead Africans buried underneath its pathways of waves and tides, their bones still breathing, their spirits still mourning. Swirling spirits pushed to the surface to join the winds circling, circling, growing stronger and stronger and stronger heading to the western shores where many of her children were carried.
African birthed hurricanes wreak havoc as they travel. “We remember,” they say dumping down piles of water, “We offer you the tears that were shed, the tears held back, the tears denied… Let your homes be swollen with our sadness. Hear the howls, hear the screams of families torn apart, women raped, men whipped, children starved, hear the cries and remember.”
Now this is just a fable, but it is true that American hurricanes are all birthed in Africa seas. The storytellers say that these storms born of Africa, recall a treacherous history sending out reminders of the centuries of abuses. And it is true that they blow longer and more harshly each year.
At the story’s end some caution that we should listen to their voices and their silences, and tremble. There is a debt to be paid.