Senegal. My native land. Beautiful, fertile, unthreatened Africa. My kindred are the most important thing to me in the world. Around me, it is tranquil. The year is 1760. I am sixteen years old. There is no calamity. Life is serene.
Stolen. I don’t know where they come from. Cruel white skinned men surround and seize me. I can’t get away. Pitiless, they drag me to a ship. I am brutally thrown into the hold. Other unfortunate prisoners stare at me. Terror is in their eyes. They put me in unmerciful shackles and chains. The metal bites into my skin. Like teeth hungrily gnawing on my flesh. The stench! I am smothered, squished, suffocating. The air is hot and stuffy. Two months I endure this. Others give up hope. Death is all around me. I wish the nightmare to end! Horror and terror engulf me. I must be strong.
Sold. The market is packed. The crowd crushes me on either side. My identity is lost in a sea of nameless black faces. We were cargo. Now we are merchandise. One by one we are forcefully handed over to white men. They are our masters. Our freedom lost by the exchange of coins. Uncertain about my future, questions bombard my thoughts. Apprehension consumes me. My master is a British officer. He gives me a name. I am now Richard Pierpoint. Doomed to service.
Soldier. It is 1780. I am thirty-six years old. Liberty is within my grasp. War has broken out. The British make a promise: Fight for us and you will win your independence. This is my dream. The silver lining in my life of dark storm clouds. The Americans furiously attack the British. I run away. I join a unit called the Butler’s Rangers. The base is on the west side of the Niagara River. A weapon is placed in my black hands. I am a freedom fighting man. I tolerate tedious days and freezing nights. Wind, rain, and snow seem to force their way into my very bones. I continue to survive.
Soil. 200 acres of my own labour. The British defeated. The Americans have independence. I have mine. Freedom at last! The joy of being my own master is indescribable! It is 1783. I live in Niagara, Canada. Then, disillusionment sweeps over me. Liberated or not, I am still looked at with discrimination. Overwhelming fear has a hold on my heart. Peril skulks at my doorstep. Prejudice, exclusion, kidnappings. As darkness falls I search.
Settle. I am called Black Dick. There are others like me. Free Negroes. We are each other’s tribe. A great longing to be among my people, to defend and assist one another envelops me. I earnestly dream of a Black community. We petition the government and are declined. Frustration churns inside me like cream pounded into butter. I sell my land and move to Grantham, Lincoln County. Working as a famer among my own people, life continues to be a challenge. I am not satisfied.
Sacrifice. It is 1812. I am sixty-eight years old. Another war has broken out. The Americans are attacking Canada. The old anxiety swells up in me. I can’t endure slavery. An inspiration! A way to show the British our loyalty. I entreat the government. “Allow Blacks to have their own militia unit. We will fight!” Under white leadership, we are the “Colored Corps.” My body is frail but my heart and spirit are strong! I risk my life for the freedom of my people. The first battle is at Queenston Heights. We are victorious! The Colored Corps do many things. We defend Canada’s border. We prevent desertion from the British army. Three years pass. Canada remains a British colony. The liberty of my people remains. Relief washes over me. The Colored Corps is disbanded. I have surpassed the storm.
Seeking. Where is the meaning of my life? I have served long for the British. It is 1821. My age is seventy-seven. I am ready to go home. I can picture Senegal and my kinsmen. I wish to return to my homeland. Closing my eyes I can perceive a breathtaking view. The open plains of golden grass, the great mountains embracing the sky. It is easy to imagine the chirping of the birds of Africa. The rhythm of the bubbling surf upon the sandy beaches. Longing for the time when I lived without obligation, I send a request to the government. Denied, I am heavy-hearted. I’ve fought for freedom all my life. Freedom for my soul, my people, this country. Canada I have served.
Solace. I have helped keep the liberty of this land. They will not let me return to my true home. I adopt this country as my own. Canada is safe.