‘MAAFA – Across the Continent’ play explores tragedy and trauma of African slave trade

Mount Pisgah Baptist Church in Bed-Stuy continued a decades-long tradition on Saturday by sharing the story of the MAAFA – a time period that refers to the trauma experienced by African people during the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Cast members of the play “MAAFA – Across the Continent” performed through song and dance to highlight the experiences of slaves during the 16th to 19th centuries.
"MAAFA it's not an acronym, it is a word that means 'the great disaster, the great struggle, the great song,'" explained Bishop Johnny Ray Youngblood, who also oversees the annual performance. "The reason we began it is we recognize there are things we need to do to heal from the white supremacy in our country."
The play feature more than 50 performers, which include churchgoers like Ivan Rawls.
"It's been a wonderful experience. The things I've learned, my reverence for my people has just gone through the roof," Rawls said.
The performers' acting is both educational and emotional. Writer Kenya Cagle carefully scripted each scene.
"The main theme is always hope. There's hope in healing, and we've found the way to heal is by going back through what we've been through," Cagle explained.
The play has been put on for more than three decades. Each year focuses on a different storyline.
"A lot goes into what the climate is at the time. Even though we're talking about our past, I look at what is relevant to now," Cagle said.
This year's the story focused on Queen Nzinga, a leader who fought against the Portuguese as they expanded their slave trade in central Africa.
"So that hasn't always traditionally been something that has happened. So this year, we had to learn more about the woman in her role and how it was going to be done in the script," said interpreter Howard Hines, Jr.
The final performance of "MAAFA – Across the Continent" is Sunday afternoon.
If you are interested in purchasing a ticket for the final performance, click here.