Our travels took us to Goree Island, a world heritage site and location of an exit  point of slaves in the trade of bondage. We three had a conversation about touring and tourism of these sites of inhumanity: Goree Island, Auschwitz, battlefields and even plantation sites.  If tourism brings about reflection and consideration, that’s a good thing in my mind.  But what if this kind of tourism is a checklist: oh yeah I’ve been here and there, seen those things. Been there/done that. What makes something a site of remembrance and reflection rather than just another tour stop with locals just trying to make a living – Goree was full of guides and artisans.  A living, breathing space with citizens and families and children looking to the future.  Turning the door of no return to a door of opportunity knocking.

It was a beautiful spot.  No automobiles, no pollution, just blue skies and tender breezes 20 minutes by ferry from Dakar.  It seems almost wicked to post pictures given what took place there.

The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience website talks about the importance of linking these sites, and history, to the current struggle for human rights.  It encourages remembrance as a way for future generations to learn the lessons that previous generations had not — the dignity of all peoples and the importance of human rights for everyone. Their list of member sites and organizations is quite interesting and includes Little Rock High School in the US and an emigrant port in Belgium.

History doesn’t have to be dusty pages in climate controlled rooms. It is all around us really. What we let seep in, or rush in, to our thoughts and feelings is up to us. History is story that is one representation of the truth. It’s useful I think, in these days, to let multiple stories fall on our ears — there is meaning in every one.  And actually visiting the site of these stories is a way to make them more real, more resonant today.

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