This week is so deeply personal for me that I am departing from our usual format on the blog postings. We think that not often in a lifetime is there an opportunity to be a part of something that we know is bigger than our individual self and immediate communities, but of course that is not true. There is the commitment to another person in a partnership, there is the birth of a child, there is the creation of a work of art, there are words of comfort or support offered to another. All of these acts, if we examine them in the long range and measure their ripples, are bigger than the moment or the immediate people involved.
On Thursday, August 23, 2012, at dawn when I was part of a ceremony that honored and remembered ancestors known and unknown, I kept a promise. Some 25 years ago I accepted an invitation to pursue a long-held belief in bringing people of the African Diaspora together to honor those forgotten during the Middle Passage – literally millions have perished, and lie forgotten in the depths of the ocean. I gave my word, but as the years passed, I did what many of us do: rear families; pursue professional interests; take joy in social and artistic impulses. Still, the promise to commemorate the ancestors remained, waiting.
Then, in July 2011, it was time to keep the promise, the Midde Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project was incorporated, and a year later, this first of many ceremonies is now taking place. On this long-awaited day, we celebrate our struggles and victories as a people. We are all small links in a chain binding us to a proud heritage. The project begins. The vow is being kept.
As an inspiration and wordsmith, Ms. Toni Morrison best explains the mission of our project and I will think of them as my libation is being poured:
There is so much to remember, to be done for purposes of exorcism and purposes of celebratory rites of passage. Things must be made, some fixing ceremony, some memorial, something, some altar, somewhere, where those things can be released, thought, felt.
We all have opportunities if we recognize them. I thank everyone who has helped make this ceremony a real “something,” a “fixing ceremony.” So many have contributed their time, talent, and energy. Let us continue.
Ann Chinn, Executive Director of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, Inc.