John White / May 30, 2013

Singbe’s Dream

A note from the author: In this poem, written in 1995, I sought to recreate the kind of atmosphere found in 19th century American poetry which inspired patriotic feeling in readers. I also wanted to honor the Amistad prisoners’ struggle for freedom and the eventual triumph of justice and brotherhood. The Committee mentioned in it is the Amistad Committee, formed by abolitionists to support the Amistad prisoners in their quest for liberty. Singbe is the African name of Singbe Piet, better known as Cinque, the leader of the Amistads.

“To be born free is a great privilege; to die free is a great responsibility.” –Anonymous

They crossed the wild Atlantic sea
Enchained in ships of slavery,
Stripped of their humanity
And, most of all, their freedom.

Captured as chattel through tribal strife,
Then auctioned off and sold for life –
Child from mother, husband from wife
And each from precious freedom.

Then forced to labor in the field
Of those to whom the Africans kneeled.
But one man, Singbe, would not yield
The distant dream of freedom.

In self-defense, he rose to fight
Against the cruel, tyrannical might
Of laws and commerce which lost sight
Of Man’s inherent freedom.

To court and conscience Singbe spoke,
Assisted by Committee folk
Whose righteous action then awoke
A just regard for freedom.

The Amistads then won the day,
But lonely months would pass ere they
Could board a ship and sail away –
Away to home and freedom.

‘Twas thus a brave and hardy band
Returned, without bound foot and hand,
To walk again their native land
And savor fragile freedom.

So Singbe’s dream at last came true.
America had forged anew
A statement of the sacred view
That God gave all men freedom.

But other suffering does not end,
Nor shall the heart begin to mend
Till all men call each other friend
And all men honor freedom.

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