‘12 Years a Slave’ & counting

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Solomon Northrup, an 1800s skilled black free man from New York with a musical flair, plied his trade wherever an invitation was extended. Unsuspecting, he accepted money to entertain at a carnival across the Mason-Dixon Line. There he wandered into something he hadn’t expected and almost didn’t live to exit. Northrup was transported to a plantation in the South where he would face the duplicity of that vile institution known as slavery.
My student and young friend taunted me into attending the movie, “12 Years a Slave,” screenwritten and produced by John Ridley, directed by Stephen R. McQueen and co-produced, financially backed and acted in by Brad Pitt. “12 Years a Slave” in all its brutality captured accurately the harshness of this institution known as slavery which considered humans of a darker skin as property to be used and abused at their “master’s” discretion.

In the theater of human tragedy, grown men cried and were shaken to the very fiber of their being, with many black souls feeling the ever-present heavy hand of powerlessness and the stench of debasement which this part of history has left all over us. One even remarked “When if ever will we ever overcome, for the white man is always in control, as Oprah Winfrey with all of her money suggested, even with Barack Obama, a black-skinned man who would become president of the United States of America.”
I intently listened to historical stories about my paternal grandfather who was a slave, and read in my father’s book about some of the same — “The Master’s Slave, Elijah John Fisher: a biography” — my kinsman and grandfather’s plight. In the darkness of the auditorium, I sat appreciating the words sung by Janis Joplin, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing else to lose.”

I wasn’t made despondent by the movie’s realistic portrayal of slavery as much as I can be from mourning the struggles of our historically black colleges and universities as well as other cultural institutions; violence directed at each other rather than the cause of our oppression; complacency in not challenging the status quo or the ever-expanding creation of a dependency mentality rather than demanding that doors of opportunity be opened allowing us to get and do things for ourselves.
Missed is the upside of my grandfather’s slave experience, exhorted by his example: Just open the door of opportunity and walk in to get it for ourselves.
I won’t despair, for the things spawned by slavery in our mentality have been institutionalized, belying the lack of genetic contributions. The “mutton grease” dabbed on my grandfather’s wounds were akin to that applied to slave whip burns so tragically and deeply inflicted in the movie’s depiction. But when my grandfather was freed, he didn’t seek to entertain the master or the masses; he sought to help our people, starting with the liberation of their minds, knowing our behinds would eventually follow.

E.J. Fisher Sr. passed on to his son, the Reverend Dr. Miles M. Fisher, who passed on to his kids (me being the last of the Mohicans) an understanding that the thing which keeps a man a slave isn’t the chains or the whip. Instead, it’s our unwillingness to release our minds in appreciating our unlimited possibilities — as well as our search for false prophets and gods of the here and now, centering on decadence of body and soul, making us children of a lesser god. At the same time we’re witnessing the desertion of the faith of our fathers, with for some the need of God in our lives and in our deeds being questioned.

Dr. Ada M. Fisher, a physician, is the state’s Republican National Committee Woman and author of “Common Sense Conservative Prescriptions Solutions for What Ails Us, Book I.” Contact her DrFisher@DrAdaMFisher.org.