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The Maafa Experience

The Maafa Experience

On Monday, February 15, from 12:30 - 5:00 p.m., Leadership Excellence will be offering a very unusual experience to the community. "Maafa," derived from the Swahili word for great tragedy or disaster, refers to the cataclysm of suffering surrounding 500 years of the African slave trade. This event simulates the experience of being kidnapped and forced into the most violent and brutal institution in history: slavery.

Why, oh why, would participants agree to pay $40 (or $20 for students) to be treated as slaves were? Leadership Excellence has some convincing reasons. It asks, "You may have read your history, but have you really felt it?" Connection to one's ancestors and past is a good reason, as is this description: "Maafa Experience is a journey from our past to our present, with the goal of aligning us for a common future." In other words, perhaps in the immortal words of Winston Churchill, "The farther you look back, the farther forward you are likely to see."

Leadership Excellence describes itself as "a community-based, non-profit organization committed to Black youth wellness," and adds, "For over 20 years, we have helped children, teens and their families transform their lives and their communities through self-awareness and critical thinking." 

Offered in that context, there is certainly nothing about the Maafa Experience that doesn't suggest self-awareness, critical thinking, transformation, and looking ahead. Experiencing adversity encourages those things, as does being able to go home and reflect on that adversity afterwards. Understanding the thread of the past that carried us to the present is essential in devising a way forward as well--and it certainly helps inspire us all to make the most of that forward movement.

This event is being held at Leadership Excellence, 1714 Franklin Street, Suite 325, in Oakland. Participants are asked to RSVP to and to wear comfortable clothes. For more information, the curious may also visit the Leadership Excellence website or call (510) 267-9770. "The journey awaits."

About Meg Bertoni

Meg has been a writing, editorial, and research mercenary for over two decades. (Have laptop, will travel.) She holds a Ph.D. in international relations, and when not absorbed with Oaklandā€™s stories and events, mostly teaches online. She has been obsessed with justice and strategy for as long as she can remember.