I pledge to remember and honor those who came before me. I will cherish their lives, their sacrifices, and the lessons I have learned. I will practice the values transmitted to me from my ancestors and my community to the best of my ability in order to sustain our humanity today and create a better world for future generations.
People have traditionally honored ancestors. Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) is no different. We encourage a multi-generational method of ancestral remembrance. Beginning in the mid 20th century with a growing Civil Rights Movement and escalating with the August 2019 commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first Africans to arrive in 1619 at the British colony of Virginia and the expanding Black Lives Matter Movement, a more pronounced demand to publicly address African American history continues to gain momentum. The work of MPCPMP is one response.
Focusing on 55 documented U.S. arrival locations, 52 extending from New Hampshire to Texas and 3 in the territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, MPCPMP, established in 2011, requests that local communities conduct ancestral remembrance ceremonies and install historic public markers to acknowledge Middle Passage history. Defining our work as the “narrative of place,” we work with community residents to acknowledge and honor the lives of the two million captive Africans who perished in the trans-Atlantic voyage known as the Middle Passage. Our mandate is also to recognize the presence and contributions of Middle Passage survivors and their descendants who were and are instrumental in the creation and development of each location and this nation. The commemoration of African ancestors with the participation of First Nation people, diverse faith practitioners as well as local academic and cultural organizations are suggested components of the remembrance ceremonies. The installation of a permanent marker to reflect a more accurate and inclusive past makes this often unknown or omitted history easily accessible to everyone. These are the first steps in truth-telling.
As these ceremonies and marker installations are completed, what options should be in place to continue to raise awareness of the value of ancestors and our connection to them? This year as we share this history and celebrate the 10th anniversary of MPCPMP, we urge the following:
- Acknowledge the first shipment of captive Africans to the North American mainland (Sapelo Sound, Georgia, 1526)
- Take the Pledge of Ancestral Remembrance (see above)
- Identify a physical memento or trigger that begins the personal process of ancestral remembrance.
As we move forward, let us take definitive steps such as these to reconnect with our ancestral heritage, to honor the spirits of these people, and to heal.