A heavy and cruel hand has been laid upon us. As a people, we feel ourselves to be not only deeply injured, but grossly misunderstood. Our white countrymen do not know us. They are strangers to our character, ignorant of our capacity, oblivious to our history and progress, and are misinformed as to the principles and ideas that control and guide us, as a people. The great mass of American citizens estimates us as being a characterless and purposeless people; and hence we hold up our heads, if at all, against the withering influence of a nation’s scorn and contempt.
-Fredrick Douglass, in a statement on behalf of delegates to the National Colored Convention held in Rochester, New York, in July 1853
With Deyi hefting and shouldering other people’s luggage, Ayuan and I helped Mocun carry his small number of bags and squeezed into line to get on to the platform and from there onto the train. We found a compartment to settle him in and then the three of us got off to watch quietly until the train moved off.
I remember once seeing travellers departing for an international voyage, they were boarding a small paddle steamer that was to ferry them out to a much larger vessel. Those seeing them off were casting multicoloured streamers over the small ship. As it moved away from the dock and towards it’s larger counterpart, the colourful streamers snapped one after another as the people on the bank waved and cheered. Some of the well-wishers shed tears as they waved, and it seemed as if the snap snap snap of the streamers rang out in sympathy with the pain and sorrow of those left behind. If you could see the parting sorrow of the advance party on the train and their relatives waiting below, it most certainly would not be colourful, and it would not snap so readily.¹
Mocun came to the carriage door and bid us return, no need to wait. We locked gazes from afar, but there was nothing we could say to each other now. I thought to myself, we three should return and rest easy, if only to avoid the possibility that when the train finally pulled away he would see the worry in our eyes as we watched him departing alone. We respected his wishes and did not wait for the train to go, we left early. I looked back many times, the train hadn’t moved and the platform was still packed to bursting point. We returned home in silence; Ayuan and Deyi followed and then went back to their respective factories. Like working in the same school but in different departments, they laboured at separate factories.²
¹This paragraph is quite descriptive and emotive, I purposely moved further away from a direct translation so as to better capture it’s emotional impact.
²This seems to be a metaphorical allusion to the similarities between the children and their parents. Their working in separate factories is being compared to the parents working in the same institution but in different areas.