What we can learn from The Book of Negroes’ Aminata Diallo

Although the mini-series Book of Negroes came and passed two or three years ago, what we can take from the story of Aminata is very much relevant in our every day lives, especially as black women.

If I bear any virtues that are listed below, know that Aminata taught me.

Perseverance: Nothing tests a human’s strength like adversity and Aminata’s life was filled with many of those. After losing her second child who was just two months old, she picked herself up and carried on because she had the will to live.

Self-love: In a time where it was dangerous for black people (especially women) to love themselves, Aminata did not waver in her self-love and pride for her African heritage. The ledger she wrote called the Book of Negroes, in one episode, shows how big she was on identity.

See the good in people: Firstly, she fell in love with a slave merchant, who eventually became a slave himself. Secondly, when Aminata’s former slave master, Solomon Lindor separated her from her daughter, it did not seem right. However, when he reunited the mother and child, it became apparent that her daughter did get a better life, under the circumstances of the slave era. This shows that very few things are black and white, and that even in the midst of a depraved paradigm, some humanity still exists.

Be assertive: Even from a young age as she was captured in the slave ship from Guinea, she did not allow a man to exploit her sexually. She had many come-backs for anyone who would underestimate her. Born to be a story-teller, she never allowed anyone to write her story for her. She knew that only she could do that best.

Know yourself: I believe Aminata had a healthy amount of self –awareness; dare I say self-mastery. From a very young age, Aminata knew she had the gift of storytelling and somehow, all forces trying to separate her from her purpose ended up leading her towards it, and we watched her life go full circle. If that isn’t inspirational.

Use your gifts/ talents: She lived in a time when black people were treated as subhuman but that did not stop her from contributing to society. She capitalized on her skills, including ‘baby-catching’ to keep her going in a world designed to bring her down. By that she made friends with people of power, who could protect her. If she could thrive with her skills then, what’s our excuse today?

Be courageous: Normally a freed person who sees others in chains would mind his or her own business to stay out of trouble, but Aminata was not afraid to give them water or rescue them, even if that meant she would possibly be killed for it.

It’s okay to be vulnerable: One of Aminata’s most vulnerable moments is when she found her beloved Chikura alive after a race riot. In between sobs, she repeatedly said: “Never leave me again”. In a film that could have easily made her a ‘strong black woman’, we learn instead that she needed companionship and thrived on it too.

Cause no harm, take no crap: I already mentioned how assertive she is, but the cause-no-harm part refers to her kindness to everyone she met. From the butler she met in England, to the people she met at Nova Scotia. That way, she made many friends and learnt plenty.

You’re it! Aminata’s own story showed that she clearly had a lot to offer the world. As a result, she attracted many people. When you love yourself without any pressure, watch people get drawn to you. Just watch.

You can’t be mediocre: Listen: in her world, she had to be excellent. That was another survival tool. As a black woman, which is a double-edged sword, she had to prove herself to be capable of reading, writing and negotiating. Does that sound familiar, ladies? Probably because it still happens today. But for the sake of ourselves and not to appease anyone else, may we be enemies to mediocrity.

Just because we’re magical, doesn’t mean we’re not real: These famous words of Jesse Williams are relevant to this story, which depicts a woman of great virtue and principle yet not immune to temptation and making mistakes. We are excellent, but we are also human.

Aminata clearly lived the full and adventurous life most of us can only dream of. All we can do is allow this story to fuel the beginnings of our own inspirational sagas.

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