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Wadadli Pen Challenge Prompt – Reimagining History

Recently I had the opportunity to witness presentations by students at the Antigua State College on a series of rebellions and/or revolutions of that period during the colonial era when the enslavement of Africans was legal. Have you ever thought of what it might be like to be owned by another person to have even the way you think of yourself (slave/not human) be defined by them? Have you ever thought what it must have been like for our ancestors, those of us of African descent living in the Caribbean, to bring children into this life, to look into the future and see nothing but this life, to maybe make a kind of peace with this life in order to survive it? What about the person who can’t make peace with it, the person who feels the rattle of the invisible chains with each restless step, each crack of the whip? What would be that person’s breaking point, the point where they’d had ENOUGH!!!

The presentations I saw at the College were specific to uprisings in Berbice, Jamaica, and Haiti (an earlier presentation had also touched on the thwarted Antigua revolt of 1736). I had the opportunity to return to the classroom and share my assessment of the presentations – the good, the bad, the could’ve been betters. I’ll keep most of those comments between me and the students. But I will share that I was pretty impressed with the group that used the technology at their disposal (their iphones and ipads, lap tops and of course the projection screen) to create and broadcast a mini-documentary about their chosen revolt. They went the distance with visuals, sound effects, and sound track…not groundbreaking necessarily but not bad at all for a wholly amateur student production. What I liked though was that they chose to be creative in presenting on the revolt, enlivening it.

Why am I telling you all of this?

Well, it made me think of the ways we can breathe new life into history with a little creative reimagining. Sometimes how we reimagine that history can change fictional reality, think the alternate realities of the sci fi genre, the ‘what ifs’ of speculative fiction in general. Our history in the Caribbean (though obviously not the entire history of our personhood) begins on the plantation, a place where brutality was normalized, the impact of which we’re still unraveling. Confronting that past like confronting anything can help us make peace with it, and in time move on from it, don’t you think?  So, here’s my workshop exercise. This snippet (from the Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion Volume 1 by Dr. Junius P. Rodriguez)…

…gives an explanation of what sparked the Berbice rebellion.

Using this excerpt to ground you, can you create a fictional tale of an uprising; it can be on an island, a carrier, a netherworld wherever. You’re establishing a setting, whether historical or invented, writing of the inciting incident and the hero or heroine who steps to the fore. Go forth and imagine.

If you’re up for an even bigger challenge you might want to research one of the actual revolts mentioned and write a tale that imagines how society might be different today if the outcome of the uprising had been different. Like, what if the 1736 revolt in Antigua had succeeded? What if?

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Wadadli Pen Challenge Prompt – solving a mystery

Currently reading Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (don’t tell me how it ends) and I hit up on the section where there’s a possible unearthed serial killer in their midst, spanning decades. It got me thinking of the likelihood of a serial killer in our midst, unearthed – we certainly have enough unsolved murders, even or especially for a small island nation where hiding should be impossible. That got me thinking of patterns in past crimes, signatures that maybe we didn’t pick up on that connect one crime to another – as seems to be the case in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (I said, don’t tell me how it ends). What would it take for a person to remain hidden and move among us faking normalcy, and what if a young (Nancy Drew/Trixie Belden/Hardy Boys esque) island youth stumbled upon the pattern and began to dig at the mystery. What if?

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Wadadli Pen Challenge Prompt – mythologies

This comment – “The huge demand for slaves…led to constant wars over large areas of West Africa. When prisoners could not be acquired this way, West Africans started looking for new excuses to condemn someone to slavery, including twins and mothers of twins” – on Page 299 of Matthew Parker’s Sugar Barons had me googling “west African” + “twins” + “slavery”

This link provided some perspective, not on slavery but on how twins were perceived in Yoruba culture:

“In traditional African societies, twins were considered of
preternatural origin and raised emotional reactions oscillat-
ing from fear and repugnance to hope and joy (Leroy,
1995). In ancient times, the Yoruba used to reject and even
sacrifice newborn twins (Leroy, 1995). Strangely enough,
historical scales were tipped so that twins are nowadays not
only well accepted but welcomed, their birth being an occa-
sion of great rejoicing.”

The reference, elsewhere in the article, to the Yoruba gods had me thinking of the absence of these deities in popular culture – why does Thor (from Norse mythology) have a Hollywood franchise and not Shango. They’re both gods of thunder, right? Here’s hoping we see some of these Africa deities making it into Wadadli Pen Challenge submissions maybe re-imagined in Caribbean culture in some way. It’d be interesting right?

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