Mission 3R is, frankly, audacious in its premise, narrating events that could only have been fueled by an active imagination. Or maybe it doesn’t take too much of an imagination to wish that the myriad racial problems that besiege the world today were nothing but a mirage. Nevertheless, credit must be given to J.Michael for approaching the racial question from an alternative hypothesis, a complete reverse from the common. He sought to answer the question, ‘What if 15th Century Africans had 21st-century military sophistication and the benefit of history on their side, could they have prevented the slave trade from happening?’ Mull over that, take your time.
In his book, the author strove to make the point that Trans-Atlantic slavery happened because the Europeans used their superior weapons to subjugate Africans. Flip the coin, history might have been different, or so anyone with an imagination such as that of J.Michael would think. He admits that “the sheer thought of how life would have been today if slavery had not taken place” drove him to write Mission 3R. I dare say, he was not the only who had wondered, but he is the only one, to my knowledge, who has approached the question from a time travel perspective, where descendants of African slaves returned to Africa to redeem and recast the history of over 1.3 billion people. It cannot get more audacious than that.
According to historians, the first instances of slavery of Africans by Europeans took place in the 15th Century when Portuguese explorers landed on the coasts of West Africa around 1441 AD. They kidnapped, enslaved and took their victims back to Europe. It did not take long for other European countries to follow suit. By the beginning of the 16th Century, we were told, about 10% of Lisbon’s population were estimated to have been of African origin. With the discovery of America and the establishment of plantations, there was increased demand for land tillers and naturally, at least from the perspective of the slavers, the demand had to be made with captives from Africa.
It’s over a century and a half since slavery ownership was abolished in America, yet the aftermath of centuries of subjugation still reverberates today. While racial inequality and discrimination are evident among all people, they are especially poignant against blacks especially those living outside the continent. The recent event of George Floyd comes to mind. Would incidences of targeted and systemic racism against Africa and people of colour in America be a thing if not for the forced and dehumanizing manner their ancestors were brought to America? No one has a definite answer.
According to this BBC account, the Spanish were the first to take African slaves to America in 1503 although they were transported from Europe. However, by 1518, African slaves were transported directly from Africa to America. It made economics sense to reduce the cost that way. What followed was over three centuries of brutal enslavement that resulted in over 11 million Africans forcefully taken to America, most of them from West African countries of Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Senegal and Angola. Only about 9.6 million of them survived it. While we cast aspersions on Europeans and American slavers, let us not forget that some African rulers of the time participated in the trade, exchanging humans for commodities. Nevertheless, there are numerous reports that for the most cases, Europeans used their superior weapons of destruction to force compliance, kidnap and kill Africans in their quests for human hunting. It was this aspect of the slave trade that J. Michael explored in Mission 3R as he sought to offer an alternative history to the one we’ve been told.
What if the tides were turned and 15th Century Africans had today’s military capacity and access to and modern advances in science and technology, could they have stopped the slave trade from happening? What if the ancestors of African Americans had the benefit of history and the wherewithal, could they have prevented the slave trade from happening or would they still be complicit as many of them were? Or maybe they could have used the assets to enslave Europeans?
But ‘What if’ is a euphemism for I want to be rescued. We cannot rescue history and attempting to do so is a futile exercise. But there is value in revisiting history and drawing invaluable insights and conclusions that would enable us to mould future history according to our preferred narratives.
However, General Jackson in Mission 3R didn’t quite get the memo. A highly decorated and respected general of the United States Army – a grand achievement for any army officer, doubly incredibly if you’re an African American even if only a fictional character. Jackson had his eyes on rewriting the slave trade history and restoring dignity and equality to blacks all over the world. Here is how J. Michael describes him:
“General Jackson, like most African leaders, was a highly motivated Pan Africanist who by going back in time to Africa, hoped to erase the continent’s disastrous period of slavery; which has repercussions that still holds back the progress of the continent to this day.”
It was clear that despite his meteoric rise in the military that he couldn’t have missed the systematic, ubiquitous racism targeting blacks all over the world but especially in America. From his perspective, racial inequality could only be restored if Africans returned to the Motherland. He made that his mission and pursued it with military precision (no pun) diligently. Coincidentally, at general Jackson’s disposal, was the multi-billion dollar secret Infinity Time Machine, nicknamed Genesis, a military submarine ship that can go back in time, and can be used to twerk events of the past for a more favourable future. Jackson viewed Genesis as his eureka, a weapon to right the past, bring dignity and unite blacks all over the world. The general gathered a troop of trusted African American soldiers and set off on Genesis on a mission to rewrite the history of centuries of slavery, oppression and discrimination.
Their mission was three-fold: Return to Africa before the commencement of the slave trade, Redeem the continent from the horrible aftermath of the slave trade by getting Africa ready to fight for her freedom by the time the whites arrived and Recast Africa’s future by acquainting her with technology from the modern era. That was how the book got its name Mission 3R. But was their Mission successful?
J.Michael crafted a story that was gripping to the end. Jackson and his troop landed successfully on the fictional African country of Limbaki, itself another set for another of J.Michael’s book, Black Spell.
Call it fate or luck, they quickly found favour with the people of Limbakiki and events unfolding saw Jackson becoming a powerful king. Of course, the advanced military power and modern knowledge he brought with him was certainly to his advantage and he made quick progress. But Jackson was only a man and prone to men’s weaknesses. He was not immune to the influence of power, which ultimately proved to be his Achilles heel. He reminds us of many leaders of African descent that had started nobly but ended disgracefully. When prompted on whether Jackson was inspired by any known person, J.Michael confirms that Jackson was an embodiment of “beginning and end of most of the characters that have ruled and continue to rule in Africa.
“He was not based on any particular real-life character,” he says. “The General meant well but the old cliché of absolute power corrupting absolutely turned out to be his undoing.”
If you haven’t read the book, you might begin to think that the mission was bungled. To some extent, you would be right. Many of the problems the Mission faced could have been avoided if Jackson had at least paid attention to what his trusted aide, Colonel Bruce Jones, was saying. Bruce remained steadfast almost to the end when Jackson’s power drunkenness could have resulted in the shedding of several innocent blood. Reading the book, I didn’t feel he betrayed Jackson but then I am not a military person where loyalty, they say, must always be unwavering. But I don’t subscribe to the gospel of blind loyalty, not when it calls into questions morality and a higher purpose. To the extent that Bruce abandoned Jackson in Africa and decided to return to America, some might view the Mission as having failed no thanks to Jackson’s power drunkenness.
Mission 3R leaves us with some valuable lessons. Human beings wield power whether for good or bad and these ultimately have profound consequences. Sometimes, the intentions are good but they “may not necessarily lead to good results if we lose sight of the appropriate basis on which the intentions can be realised,” J.Michael tells me.
That exactly explains Jackson, who had noble intentions but got derailed along the way. His actions saw his friends abandon him, and he quickly realised that he was left at the mercy of the people he once dominated. It was all by his own doing. Still, J. Michael thinks we should “have to find a way to rescue General Jackson and bring him back to the US. I believe that he must have eventually learnt a useful lesson from his fall from power.”
Me: “That sounds like a sequel to me.”
J.Michael: “It is.”
Me: “Will be great. It will certainly be almost inhuman to abandon Jackson in 15th Century Africa, he may never survive it but then he is a soldier.”
J.Michael: “He is my favourite character in the book.”
J.Michael: “Because of the risk he took to redeem the fate of a whole race; even though he did not succeed completely in achieving his objective.”
Me: “Have you started writing the sequel?”
J.Michael: “Not yet. I am currently working on one which should be ready between July and August this year. Shortly after I shall be returning to new details that archaeologists have unearthed in connection with The Emperor’s Daughter and bringing them out in book form; although from the details, the book form of the story may not be suitable for minors and this would be so mentioned at the start of the book.”
Note: Emperor’s Daughter is a short story for children that recently won Yahoo!’s STOR14S competition. It was turned into a podcast that was narrated by Nigeria British actor, David Oyelowo. You can listen to it here.
Me: “You certainly have a lot of projects lined up. How do you manage it? Any tips for aspiring writers like yours sincerely?”
J.Michael: “Yes and it is just one word: WRITE! At least 1000 words a day. And do so in the first instance without worrying about the grammar or logic of your story as you can take all the time in the world to revise as many times as you like; until you come up with a final version that you can read to the very end without getting bored.”
Me: “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”
Before concluding my chat with the author, I wanted to clarify a point of debate concerning the book. History was made in November 2008 when then-Senator Barack Obama won the US presidential election, becoming the first African American to do so. In Mission 3R, the epilogue stated that an African American was sworn in as the president of the United States. So, I asked the author whether the scene in the book refers to Obama when he was sworn in January 2009, as there had been some debate on that point. Without missing a beat, he replies:
“It was definitely Obama and the logic was that although the overall objective of the mission was not achieved, the mission still triggered measures that ended up reshaping events which through time resulted in the swearing-in of an African American President.”
Life imitating art? You be the judge of that.
Meanwhile, Mission 3R is being scripted for a Hollywood blockbuster film. The book is available on Amazon including Kindle.
Check out other books by J.Michael.