The Different Faces of Slavery
Slavery seems to have taken many faces in our ever-changing world. We all know about the transatlantic slave trade but there are other forms this trade has morphed into because of how abject poverty and desperation has pushed people into voluntarily joining the trade just for daily bread
There’s something called the Bronx Slave Market. During the great depression (1929), many African American women who once had corner jobs as domestic workers or industrial workers were left with no jobs.
These women both old and young would come out every day with their paper bags containing their work clothes hoping and waiting for Bronx housewives to buy their strength and energy for an hour, 2 hours or a day. They were often referred to as the “Paper Bag Brigade.
You can find them at any corner of the congested section of New York City Bronx – Fertile sole for mushroom “slave marts”. Some of the notable areas of the Bronx Market include the areas of Jerome Avenue and Simpson Avenue in New York.
This area was home to the predominantly white, upper- middle class and had a sizeable middle-class Jewish Population. But due to the crash of 1929, the African American domestic workers had a new class of employees- Lower middle-class housewives who had always wanted the luxury of having a maid.
These housewives go to the spots where they know the paper bag brigades congregate to look over their prospects; and once they find one that pleases them, they begin to bargain and of course, beat the price down as low as the worker will permit.
But we know that these women were not approached by just housewives. Sometimes husbands and other men came by to pick up the women for sexual services.
Moving away from the US, I recently read the ordeal of a Nigerian author Kelechi Onuoha, his book A Gamble with Death gave us insight into his journey to Europe through the Sahara Sea and Mediterranean sea. And just like many Africans, he found himself stranded in a city called Tamanrasset – a Southern Algerian town in the middle of the desert.
Tamanrasset is a place where many stranded Africans turn to their home but some stayed there while they waited for the day their turn would come for them to be smuggled to Libya or continue uptown to Morrocco or Algiers (Algerian Capital)
To make ends meet there, just like the Bronx Slave Market, hundreds of stranded Black Africans head out to a place called Travaux- ground or Shogo- ground, meaning work ground in French and Arabic.
The Arabs came to Shogo- ground to get laborers sometimes to go to the mountains and break rocks into smaller stones. To say that they were used is an understatement, in his words, they were voluntary slaves who worked like horses but got paid just enough to eat and pay rent.
Some people stayed in that town for over 3 years with no hope of ever making enough money to continue the journey. And how much are we talking about here- just about $200!
But apart from working like slaves, they must also be wary of the police because the manner in which the Moroccans and Algerians deport Africans is a crime against humanity.
They are arrested and detained for days or weeks, and then taken to court to be sentenced for several weeks imprisonment. After serving the time, the journey of deportation begins.
The deportees are either dumped in Asamaka (Republic of Niger) or the Algerian Border with Mali; with no money or means of livelihood. The author refused to give exact dates but I did my research and found out that this happened from 2002, as he was in Algeria when the civil war began and Abdulaziz Bouteflika was the President.
If we recall just 2017. last year CNN went undercover and discovered that people were auctioned and sold as slaves.
When you read all this, you are forced to ask yourself- Are things getting better or worse? But you know because it seems like its happening far away, we are oblivious to what’s happening in our own backyards.
How common is it for a newly married couple to call their relatives in the village to demand a maid! And before you blink, they have an array of maids to select from; and of course the younger the better.
This is not limited to just girls, young boys are brought to town for labor. Promised a better life by their oga or madam, they find themselves hawking or slaving away in their homes. They are not paid, sometimes the pay goes back home to their parents but often, simply having food and a roof over their head is pay enough.
We need to open our eyes, things are happening all around us. People have lived and continue to live through these horrible circumstances.
In a country like Nigeria, that’s been declared to have the highest amount of poor people; I can confidently tell you that the country is a PERFECT breeding ground for Crimes against Humanity to prevail.
POVERTY IS KILLING OUR PEOPLE.
SOMETHING NEEDS TO CHANGE.
How can we work together to uplift our people?