Slavery, whether past or present, is a horrific state of affairs where the innocent is deprived of their life and liberty. The US-funded, British-directed Academy Awards film Twelve Years a Slave is one that should concern all who have an interest in history and humanity.
We all acknowledge slavery as one of the most shameful chapters in history where millions were enslaved and transported to provide labour in the US and the Caribbean. Since Roots, no movie has captured one’s imagination like Twelve Years a Slave, a movie based on a book written by Solomon Northrup, the free man from New York, kidnapped and sold into slavery in Louisiana, in 19th century US.
The film, with its stunning visual brutality deserved Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong’o, whose riveting and heartbreaking portrayal of slave girl Patsey, particularly the scene when she was being whipped (her painful screams will make you weep and stay with you long after the movie has ended). It dawns on you that Patsey’s predicament after Solomon is freed from slavery is she is left to a life of brutal desolation on that plantation, now that her protector has left and there is no happy ending.
This was the life of millions of men and women during slavery, until its violent abolishment in the US, post-Civil War, and emancipation in the Caribbean. But slavery has continued to rear its ugly head, and we have now to deal with modern-day slavery where young children are forced into servitude and women prostituted under the guise of human trafficking.
In Trinidad, we have this problem of modern-day slavery, in which many have adopted the ostrich mentality that if you bury your head in the sand, you cannot see anything. We as a civilised society need to have our voices heard for those who cannot speak, cannot defend themselves and cannot be free.
As you go about your daily life, think for a moment if your liberty was suddenly taken away from you, what would you do? I bet you will fight for your freedom as nothing in life is as precious.
R Bernadette Shah