Long have I watched the fruits of my own branches blossom, grow and ripen to maturity. Some
plucked away by eager hands and some fallen to the ground to nourish the very soil in which I stand,
magnificent and full of purpose. Over time I have seen many things, felt many things and have slept
and woken with the changing of the seasons. But nothing has this old tree witnessed such to the
likeness of the destruction of mankind’s self.
Lay your troubled heads at my roots now young ones and hear my voice I beg, for I am but a humble
bush asking for your gracious ear.
I was planted on this very hill by your hopeful hands; you with the golden skin and hair of silk. You
cultivated this land and brought life to the hills and valleys and from you I heard my first laugh, my
first baby’s cry. I remember when you sat in my shade to tell stories to your children and then later
to profess your love to your companions.
However, I also stood here when your homes were taken away from you; when your lives were
displaced by the plans of “greater” men. They laid forceful claim to the land you nurtured, to the
homes you built, to the women you loved and the children you bore. You were beaten and raped
and tortured and slain and then discarded like you were never here and didn’t matter but I
I stood here heavy with fruit when more people came… you who had skin of black velvet and hair as
strong as your souls must have been. You were bound by thick shackles on your hands and feet,
taken from your homes only to suffer the same fate as the ones before you. I watched you be
treated as a lesser people but your own species… those who like you had 2 arms and 2 legs and a
face with all the same parts… except for skin. You stood there man and woman alike, naked,
unshielded… bare to the scrutiny of uncaring eyes.
I bore the fruit that fed you and your children and I watched you live and love despite the disparity
of your situations. You endured all malevolence that came your way. You sought the depths of your
tattered souls to find the courage and the strength to uplift one another, to support one another.
You sought out love and happiness and always looked past the darkness with optimistic eyes,
peeling for a glimpse of sunlight. I watched the shackles that bound you physically; begin to bind
your souls. You had faith; for your tables and beds and homes were not headed by mere mortal
men, but by GOD.
You of the golden and velvet skins became one. You walked as one, worked as one, loved as one and
fought for your freedom as one. You fed and clothed and valued each other; not bound by blood but
by circumstance and the unwavering belief in something bigger, something better.
There were days when your blood and tears stained my aging bark. Tears from the women who had
lost their innocence by force, lost their husbands to the greed and selfishness of other men, lost
their children to those with no conscience, so much so that they would rob a child of its mother’s
milk. There were days my precious ones that men’s backs had sprouted trees of their own. Branches
formed by the steadfast sting of a whip against weary flesh. Children fell to their hands and knees as
they were dragged away from their homes, sold to the highest bidder…
My bark has felt those things. I have admired your strength in the past. The character it must have
taken for you to survive… but now I pity you. From whence you come my dears, I did not expect
deterioration. I had thought that I had seen you at your most trying time but I believe now that that
time may have been your sturdiest because my children you have forgotten and have led yourselves
astray and into the tireless whirlpool of hostility.
Look at your women. Have you forgotten how tirelessly they fought through a day? To come home
night after night to be a wife and mother after being whipped, raped, scorned, belittled and
underappreciated. How many bruises have they as a gender already suffered than to now suffer at
the hands of the same men and women who once knew how reach out and be their strength?
Look at your men. Those men who have toiled to provide as best circumstance allowed. Has it been
forgotten that these men once sacrificed their lives to protect their women and children? Was it
unnoticed that even when everything they stood for was being undermined, they still found the
courage and faith to believe in a better day?
Look at your children. Be glad that you have them. There was once a time when their births had to
be hidden. There was once a time when you could not watch them grow up because they were
taken away from you before you or they were ready. Have you forgotten my darlings? Have you
forgotten how to cherish the sanctity of life and the infinite possibilities of freedom?
It seems so. I stand here a dying tree, coming to the end of my days and yours; for I fear that left to
yourselves… you will destroy each other. Now I see the men and women I knew fighting against each
other, damaging each other beyond repair, taking lives without remorse and making light of
bloodshed. The once victims have now turned on their own and have becomes the inflictors, the
mirrors… the replicas of that which they once surpassed.
My leaves fall from my branches for they are my tears. The love in the land that nourished me is
fading and so am I… and soon will you. Man is now endangered; it is the dawn of the beasts. My
branches droop as if they were shoulders, for I am sad and angry and oh so desperate to save you,
for I love you as much as you once loved each other.
It seems you have forgotten whom you serve. The days when you used to pray that God be the head
and centre of your homes and lives have become less. You have been tainted by a society wrought
with greed and lust. Blood has become a mere colour, devoid of significance. Tears have become a
joke, for you laugh at each other’s pain. Loss has become commonplace, for you have surrendered
to negativity and you have forgotten your power.
Lay your head on my bark, place your hands on my roots, lift your eyes to my branches and feel the
words I speak. Hear the cries of your ancestors, as they will you to remember who you are. The
power that gave you your freedom before, can give you your freedom again. Remember that you
fought against that pain, against all that violence… and do it again.
Join hands as strong as the chains that once bound them, shed tears for justice and peace. Look at
each other and remember that you once stood for a common goal. Emancipate yourselves once
more from social norms that now govern our very thoughts and redefine the standards for co-
existence. Speak a word before you raise a fist and remember the words of my roots… and yours.
I am but a humble tree, planted by hands like yours, nurtured by people like you and long have I
been tending this fruit I now pass to you as nourishment of your mind so that you too can ripen and
grow to maturity.
BY: MARUSCHKA OLLIVIERRE-HIGGINS
15TH DECEMBER, 2011