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Scholar Traces Trail of Slave Trade

By October 2, 2014June 29th, 2020News & Current Affairs, Reparations

By Herb Boyd

Special to IBW

     Many of us remember Dowoti Desir when she was the Executive Director of the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational and Cultural Center in Washington Heights.  She always exuded an air of the global diaspora and now that international aura is fully expressed in her book Goud kase Goud—Conjuring Memory in Spaces of AfroAtlantic.

     From the “Door of No Return” in Benin to the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, Desir presents words and images that clearly outline the path of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade. Sometimes the image is Zumbi in Brazil standing on one leg after being assailed by his Portuguese oppressors; or it’s her photography of the impressive fortress The Citadel in Haiti, a monument commemorating the majesty of King Christophe and his revolutionary conquest; or closer to home she captures the horror of bondage in America through a statue of Frederick Douglass by Gabriel Koren or of Harriet Tubman by Alison Saar as they mark this furious and often ignominious trail.

     Each page of the book is a portion of our history and travail as Blacks experienced the brutality of slavery and their efforts to overthrow the savage system.  Goud kase Goud, or “gourds break gourds, or rocks break rocks,” is an expression Desir heard coming of age in her native Haiti.  “I now use it as a metaphor to describe how the brick and mortar of built environment and the hushed tales of the natural environment reveal the stories of millions of people kept ‘under the rock’ of world history.”

     This Friday, Oct. 3, at 12:30pm at the African Burial Ground National Monument Desir will be making a presentation as part of the site’s annual Youth Week celebrations.  Her remarks and her research are sure to complement much of the activity surrounding the Monument’s anniversary.

     The African Burial Ground National Monument is managed by the U.S. National Park Service and is located at Duane Street and African Burial Ground Way in the Civic Center at 290 Broadway. Call 212 637-2019 for further information.

     For more information on Dowoti Desir and the book go to her website at:




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