The Price of Freedom

December 22, 2011
Hello. My name is Adda. I am from Africa. My sister, Auremiria, and I, were kidnapped and sent to America. This is our story.
“Adda, Come here!” My sister yelled at me. We were out picking berries for dinner just like mother had told us to.

“Coming.” I said, reluctantly.

“You know you’re not supposed to be out that far in the forest.” Auremiria scolded me. For being only a year and a half older than me she sure is bossy.

“Gosh, Miria, I know. It’s not like you haven’t told me a million times. I saw a huge patch of berries and I thought, ’wouldn’t mom be so happy if we brought back all of these wonderful berries for dinner? Then we could have enough for breakfast tomorrow!’ ”

“Well,” Miria said thoughtfully. I could tell she was considering going back and getting the berries since she loved them for breakfast so much. “I guess, but we have to pick them quickly, so we get home before dark.” ‘Yes!’ I thought. It’s a lot easier to persuade her when I know her weaknesses.

We marched through the waist high grass and were soon upon the bush.
“Aren’t you so glad you let us pick berries?” I asked Miria.
“Ya, I guess” I could tell it hurt her to say I was right. Yes. When our baskets (and mouths) were full, we turned around and began to go back when we heard them.
They sounded like men’s voices, but they weren’t speaking Mende. It sounded like gibberish.
“Hide!” Miria whispered to me. I could tell that she was scared. I could see her shaking. I didn’t see what we were hiding from. They were getting closer. I could tell they were arguing about something from the tone in their voices. Now I regret staying out here longer. Their footsteps were getting louder and now I was shaking, too. They must have seen us, because one of the men ran over and picked up my sister. She started screaming and crying all at the same time. A different man came over to me and picked me up by the shoulders. I kicked him and he slapped me across the face. That really hurt. My face started stinging like when I fell on my face running into the forest away from my mom. Mom. She would know what to do. I tried screaming louder but then realized she would never hear me. She is miles away.
I slunk to the ground in defeat. He hauled me over his shoulder and said something to the man carrying Miria. I had a feeling we wouldn’t be home in time for dinner.
I then realized that behind the men were a bunch of people chained together. They hadn’t said anything this whole time. I thought I recognized some of them. I think they were from the Oh’lon tribe. That tribe’s camp is about 20 miles from here. We trade with them often for guns and horses. The thing that surprised me is that these people who kidnapped my sister and me didn’t just have male captives, but women and kids my age and even younger. If I hadn’t already decided before, I knew then that these people weren’t friendly, and I hated them.
It was starting to get dark. The strange men added Miria and I to the necklace of people strung like beads. They chained our wrists and feet together. The shackles must’ve weighed ten pounds. We were right behind a boy about six years younger than me. The men made camp for themselves, but we were just shoved to the ground. Around us people were starting to fall asleep. I was way too scared. I look over, and see that my sister had the same idea. I leaned over and whispered “It will be ok. I promise.” Right then one of the men stood up and yelled something at me. I must’ve had a really confused look on my face so he came over and said “shhh” and put his finger to his lips. This is the first thing he said that I understood. He slapped me and then went back to where he was and fell asleep. Ow. That one hurt more than the first punch I got when they kidnapped me. I cried myself to sleep as my sister petted my hair.
The next morning I woke up to the men yelling. We got up and started the first of many long walks. I could tell the boy in front of me was tired. They must have been walking a long time before they found my sister and me.
Even though it was early morning, I could tell by the landmarks around us that we were going towards home. All I knew is that I’m pretty sure nothing good is going to happen to us if we keep going where the men want us to go, and I don’t want my people to have the same fate. We walk until we are about a mile from camp and I can tell Miria is getting nervous. Luckily, our camp is well hidden by the jungle. The only problem is I can tell by the sun it’s right before lunch, and that’s when the men go out hunting. So there is a good chance we’ll see someone and then they’ll get all of camp captured.
Just as I thought, Sake comes running through the forest. Now, Sake is not the brightest boy in camp. He is the strongest, though. Mother and father always wanted Miria to marry him, but she didn’t agree to that. I could tell by my sister’s annoyed sigh that she was not excited to see him.
As soon as Sake saw the strange men he turned to flee. But, just out of the corner of his eye he caught a glimpse of Miria.
“Miria!” He hesitated a moment when he said that and the men grabbed him and added him to the chain right behind my sister. She was not thrilled with that. The white men- as me and my sister now call them- are discussing something. Pretty soon we are marching into the forest where Sake came from. Right toward our camp.
I can tell my sister is losing her patience with Sake. He has not stopped asking her questions since he was handcuffed behind her. She mouths to me ‘why can’t they slap him like they did you?’ Ha ha very funny sister. That’s when we stumbled into our camp.
The white men were shooting their guns and running everywhere trying to round everyone up but not succeeding. I hear Miria screaming but that’s when I get hit with a rock.
When I drift back into conciousness I see our village is burning and I hear more screaming, and I fall unconscious again. The next time I wake up, we are walking. My sister is carrying me but I can tell she’s getting tired. It’s very uncomfortable since we’re connected. My head is pounding. I reach up to where it hurts the most. When I pull my hand back down, it is covered in dried blood. I wonder how that happened.
“Hey, sleepy head.” Miria greeted me. I could tell by the tone in her voice that she was trying to be happy but it was hard. My sister’s always happy. I wonder what happened after I was knocked out. I look behind her and I see the line of people has doubled. All of them my people. Tears start running down my face.
“Are mother and father ok?” I ask, almost too afraid to hear the answer. Miria breaks down and starts sobbing so much she has to put me down. I stagger a bit but then I can handle it on my own. “Father is at the back of the line, but mother got shot right after you passed out. I don’t know if she died, but she was injured and the white men just left her on the ground. I just hope she’s ok!” My sister breaks down again. My poor mother. We walk about ten more miles before we were allowed to sleep. It was dark. I was so exhausted I fell right asleep. But my dreams were plagued with my mother on the ground slowly dying.
The next morning we keep walking. We’ve gone so far I don’t even know where we are anymore. The white men capture more tribes but all I can think about is my poor mother. And that I’m starving. Since the berries we ate before we got captured, I haven’t eaten anything. Luckily, we eat a little bread when we stop. It’s not enough, though. It just makes me hungrier. The rest of the walk is a daze. Miria keeps trying to talk to me but I won’t talk to anyone.
We have walked so far, we come to a village that had huge stone huts. And past the huts all I see is water. My father used to tell me the story where is grandfather went to the land of all water and never came back. I have a feeling we won’t come back. The camp is filled with more white men and they’re all staring at us. It’s terrible. We stopped moving. I think we are waiting in line for I don’t know what. Hopefully it’s food. Up ahead I hear screaming and I can imagine my mother screaming after she got shot. Even though I was asleep I can still picture what Mom went through. It is starting to hurt me.
The line is moving faster now. The screams are getting louder, too. Finally, I can see about three people in front of me. They are coming to a table where a white man is sticking a piece of metal in the fire. He pulls it out and presses it to the skin of the person standing in line. The man lets out a scream louder than I knew was possible. I am horrified. Do I really have to get branded like cattle? It looks like it hurts so much! The line is moving. I’m only two people away. As soon as I know it, it’s my turn. The man sticks the iron in the fire and quickly presses it against my skin. It feels like it is on there forever. My skin is melting off! I let out a scream that doesn’t sound human. The man pushes me aside and does the same thing to Miria. She just starts crying. I look at the man who is branding people. He is looking at my sister and I see the pain in his eyes. I think he knows this isn’t right but he then he shakes it off and shoves my crying sister towards me. I look at my arm for the first time. It is bloody and red. There is a burnt-flesh snake twisting around a spear. It is so ugly I can’t believe it will be stuck on my arm forever. We have no time to mourn our broken skin, just like we had no time to mourn our mother. We have to keep moving since we are still chained together.
We walk through a doorway and the world seems to open up. I poke Miria who was staring at her arm. She looks up and a look of awe goes across her face. There is a huge boat on the coast. It is big enough to hold our whole village! On the side of the ship is its name- The Anna Maria. We walk down and they load us on. The air smells so nice above deck with the ocean. I didn’t know this would be the last time I saw the sun or breathed fresh air. Because then we walk below deck.
Down here it smells like rats and rotting meat. A white man shoves me and my sister on to a shelf and locks our chains in place. Miria and I have it a lot better than others. We are both really small so we have more room on our tiny shelf than the two men across from us. We are packed like sardines. We have only been down here about ten minutes and it already is hard to breathe. The next 6 months were a living nightmare. It was so long. I could barely breathe! They didn’t feed us very much, but that just made us smaller so we fit in the shelves better. I’m glad I was put next to Miria. We talked and played games just to try to get us to not think about the unspeakable horrors. For example, a woman died across from us and the white men didn’t come and pick her up for three days. Or our mother. We don’t speak about it but we both know she’s dead. I hope someone found her and buried her but I know that’s a long shot. The only thing good that happened on that ship was one day the man next to us leaned over and asked Miria what her name was. When she told him he said that there was a man about thirty people down that says he’s your father and he just wanted to make sure you’re alive. I was so filled with joy from hearing from father that I hit my head on the top shelf. We continued to keep in touch with father through a kind of telephone with the others on the ship. Sometimes, just to keep our spirits up, the little boy in front of us, we now know his name is Hocha, would start singing a song we all knew, like a spiritual my father taught me. It helped a little bit and I decided I really like Hocha.
When we finally reached land, I was so excited to leave my horrid shelf. As soon as I breathed in the fresh air I immediately felt better. We were still chained together, though. During the voyage, we had lost 75 lives. Once on land, we were marched over to where each one of us was examined and then sold to a farmer. Hocha got sold to a man named Jonathan Slater. When I got up there no one wanted to bid on me. Finally the same man who bought Hocha bought me and my sister for half price. I was so excited we were going to stay together we both jumped up and down. We were unchained and walked over to a table where we were re-branded. It didn’t hurt as much this time because the man did it over the scar tissue from the last one. I glanced over to see who was getting sold now and I see it was dad. I nudged Miria and she saw him too. This was the first time we’ve seen him since we’ve been kidnapped. The boat was obviously really hard on him. He was a bag of bones. I’m sure we were too, but Miria and I always were. His hair was really grey. My heart dropped when a man named James Little bought him. I screamed to see if he would look up and he must’ve heard me. He lifted his head and saw Miria and me. A huge smile grew on his face until he was marched away.

Miria became a house servant for Mr. Slater’s wife and daughter. Miria and I got to share a room and saw Hocha often because he was Mr. Slater’s son’s servant. The girl and her mother were very kind to us. I knew then that people might beat us, not feed us, or take us away from our family, but what they can’t take away is our hope.

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