He knew then that the memory of the fire that burned, then fled, would haunt him, his children, and his children’s children for as long as the line continued.
“Weakness is treating someone as though they belong to you. Strength is knowing that everyone belongs to themselves.”
Quey had wanted to cry but that desire embarrassed him. He knew that he was one of the half-caste children of the Castle, and, like the other half-caste children, he could not fully claim either half of himself, neither his father's whiteness nor his mother’s blackness. Neither England nor the Gold Coast.
This was how they lived there, in the bush: Eat or be eaten. Capture or be captured. Marry for protection. Quey would never go to Cudjo's village. He would not be weak. He was in the business of slavery, and sacrifices had to be made.
“I did it,” Ness says. She has spent the night hidden in the left corner of the room, watching this man she's been told is her husband become the animal he's been told that he is.
“There's more at stake here than just slavery, my brother. It's a question of who will own the land, the people, the power. You cannot stick a knife in a goat and then say, Now I will remove my knife slowly, so let things be easy and clean, let there be no mess. There will always be blood.”
“That was my father and grandfather's work. It is not mine.” He didn’t add that because of their work, he didn’t have to work, but instead could live off the family name and power.
He loved the look of those boats, loved that his hands helped build and maintain them, but Ma Aku always said it was bad juju, him and all the other freed Negroes working on ships. She said there was something evil about them building up the things that had brought them to America in the first place, the very things that had tried to drag them under.
He would never truly know who his people were, and who their people were before them, and if there were stories to be heard about where he had come from, he would never hear them.
An unmarried twenty-five-year-old woman was unheard of, in her village or any other on this continent or the next. But there were only a few men in her village, and none of them wanted to take a chance with Unlucky's daughter.
In her dreams the fire was shaped like a woman holding two babies to her heart. The firewoman would carry these two little girls with her all the way to the woods of the Inland and then the babies would vanish, and the firewoman’s sadness would send orange and red and hints of blue swarming every tree and every bush in sight.
“You are a sinner and a heathen,” he said. Akua nodded. The teachers had told them this before. “Your mother had no husband when she came here to me, pregnant, begging for help. I helped her because that is what God would have wanted me to do. But she was a sinner and a heathen, like you.”
“This is the problem of history. We cannot know that which we were not there to see and hear and experience for ourselves. We must rely upon the words of others […] We believe the one who has the power. He is the one who gets to write the story.”
“What I know now my son: Evil begets evil. It grows. It transmutes, so that sometimes you cannot see that the evil in the world began as the evil in your own home. I'm sorry you have suffered.”
He was mad at her because he didn’t have a father, and she was mad at him because he’d become as absent as his own.
“We can’t go back to something we ain’t never been to in the first place. It ain’t ours anymore. This is.” She swept her hand in front of her, as though she were trying to catch all of Harlem in it, all of New York, all of America.
Her father had told her that the necklace was a part of their family history and she was to never take it off, never give it away. Now it reflected the ocean water before them, gold waves shimmering in the black stone.
And if he slammed the book down, then everyone in the room would stare and all they would see would be his skin and his anger, and they’d think they knew something about him, and it would be the same something that had justified putting his great-grandpa H in prison, only it would be different too, less obvious than it once was.
How could he explain to Marjorie that he wasn’t supposed to be here? Alive. Free. That the fact that he had been born, that he wasn’t in a jail cell somewhere, was not by dint of his pulling himself up by the bootstraps, not by hard work or belief in the American Dream, but by mere chance.