When you enter the final dungeon in Elmina Castle the stench is unbearable, as is the noise of millions of ancestors who died in agony or made their final journey out of Africa there. I felt like my head would explode so Eintou gave me guinea pepper and white rum to stabilize my Ori. The doorways are so very narrow, the final insult for those who survive the horrendous conditions to make the crossing is that you have to bend, practically crawl into the last dungeon. Even me with my less than fat self, had to hunch my shoulders in and turn a little sideways to get through the Door of No Return. The sea roared. Yemoja wailing across centuries. Through my tears I notice how much Elmina looks like Manzanilla.
No self respecting Caribbean person holds allegiance to any other spirit. It’s the first thing you learn to drink.
After all it is in your blood. Rum flows in the veins like rebellion. It is strong and bitter like cane burnt in anger.
It is what is left after the sweetness is taken out.
But hold on.
Before you take a sip. Before you burn the tip of your tongue and feel your whole inside go golden from the heat of liquor coursing through you.
Before the feeling goes to your head and your tongue gets loose and your waist begins a barely perceptible oscillation.
Open the bottle of rum and pour a libation. Spill three drops on the ground. You do this for those who are not here to part take of the drink themselves. For those who have gone before.
For ancestors whose names we don’t remember.
For Gods whose names we were forced to forget.
For blood spilt and lives lost to make someone else rich.
Rum is the drink of forgetfulness for some. I believe that it started as a drink of remembrance.
That’s just a little piece. I’m reading the whole thing at the Museum of London Docklands on September 26 at the Real Rum Do