MPCPMP brings together many individuals who work on three distinct boards to facilitate Project activities.
EXECUTIVE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Ann L. Chinn, Executive Director, serves as the chair of the Executive Board of Directors. She is the Project founder and has worked as an advocate for children and families in Washington, DC, a textile artist, a retailer, organizer of a collective artists’ market, and historian.
Personal Statement: In 1986, when first offered the task, as a birthday gift, to figure out a way to honor Africans who had died in the Middle Passage I had little to no idea of either the what or how I could manage to make this happen. I didn’t realize that much of what I had learned or had done in life would help in fulfilling an all-encompassing commitment to ensure that the circle be unbroken – that connects literally by blood the dead, the living and the unborn.
This Project is a major undertaking and passion in my life. Coming from a family that cherishes history, stories and personalities, I am sure that an effort to expand possibilities for others to learn about their own connections to the past and places comes naturally. Delving into the data has made me increasingly aware of how incomplete the appreciation of Black people’s presence and contributions to building this country is for many of us. Over the past decade we as a group of people have worked with various communities and people along the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts; thought seriously about how and why African ancestors must be commemorated; and learned a lot of history and its legacy.
For me, this Project has been truly a gift that now defines me, as clearly as my relationship with family and friends. It has matured and developed a uniqueness that highlights a shared experience, the Middle Passage. Our particular process of approaching specific areas to acknowledge their history and to encourage ancestral remembrance ceremonies and marker installations has altered my perspective on race, class, culture, national identity and responsibility.
Ann C. Cobb serves as a communication specialist, editing and preparing press releases, grant proposals, correspondence and blog posts. Cobb is a retired professor of English composition and literature in the Department of Humanities at Coppin State University, Baltimore, MD. Alongside the Executive Director she has organized Middle Passage commemorative ceremonies and marker installations for African ancestors.
Personal Statement: I would say that I was part of Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project many, many years ago, when it was only an idea, an intention . . . when it didn’t even have a name. Back then, I promised my sister, Ann Chinn, that once I retired I would help her with the work of honoring our African ancestors. Even though I wasn’t quite sure how this idea would take shape or what it would entail, I was committed. During the years that followed, my awareness of our African ancestors and the importance of honoring them continued to grow. Each day, I realized a little more clearly the role the ancestors play in my life, the lives of my children and grandchildren, my family, and my community . . . how since the beginning of time they have moved in and out of this dimension, moving my blood line and the blood lines of my people forward, guiding us, opening doors for us, intervening on our behalf . . . strong, enduring, constant, protective, patient, generous, forgiving, brave, awesome. As my understanding of their presence as a real and powerful energy in my life has evolved, I have become aware of the depth of my gratitude and recognize the importance of giving thanks, serving, and honoring them.
In 2012, after the Project had incorporated in 2011 and I had retired, I accepted my position on the Executive Board, and since then there has been no turning back. My commitment to the mission of MPCPMP has been quite the journey and has given me the opportunity to work with local communities at Middle Passage arrival sites to acknowledge these children, women, and men and the sacrifices they made for us. Working with this Project and the descendants of these mighty Africans at these locations across the nation has inspired me to “reach back and draw them into me . . . for at this moment, I am the whole reason they have existed at all” (Cinque). Everything I do for the Project, even the smallest task, is a form of acknowledgement, a way of serving and giving thanks, a way of asking for their help and their continued presence in our lives. This is why it is an honor for me to serve on the Executive Board of this organization. Ase.
William H. Hamilton, Jr. is a retired associate professor of English and a former journalist. He assists in communication tasks, blog posts, and photographs. Distant Shore, the symbol of the Middle Passage in our promotions and publications, is his work. “I am proud of the photograph taken at sunrise on the Atlantic Coast facing eastward that is now associated with this Project. We might visualize the African Continent beyond the horizon, and that is hopeful to me.”
Personal Statement: I am proud to have been a Director on the Executive Board of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project since its inception in 2011. I have helped edit blogs for the Project website, taken photographs at commemorative ceremonies, and been part of promoting our activities at many of the seaports where we organize local support.
I am particularly proud of the photograph “Distant Shore” which shows the Atlantic facing east toward Africa, and now symbolizes the Project’s purpose to honor ancestors who died in the Middle Passage and their descendants who share that legacy. I also remember small contributions to the text of blogs about the issues that still face Africans in America and how those issues derive from our shared history. Black Lives Matter; always have, always will.
This Project is important to me because my training and experience as a journalist and as a teacher is now being put to great use in honoring and commemorating my own ancestors, known and unknown. I continue to learn about my culture and heritage and to share those things, all that through this Project. This is a great historical moment. This is my own great benefit.
Personal Statement: Edith Kearney Heard was born in the historical city of Williamsburg, VA, the year of 1941: “History during my educational period did not teach Blacks nor introduce Blacks to the suffering and brutal hardships that Africans in bondage experienced after their capture, during the horrific transatlantic voyages to the Americas (when many perished), and throughout their forced labor in colonies across this new nation. The Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project has given me and many descendant communities a glance at the reality of their experiences as enslaved men, women, and children and an understanding of the many ways they found to resist and survive. Our work gives us the opportunity to commemorate their lives.”
Joseph W. Jenkins is a human resource and organizational consultant who has worked as a manager and administrator in both the public and private sectors. Currently, he is President of the Surry County African American Heritage Society, Virginia. His underlying objective is “to make a positive difference in all of my endeavors.”
Personal Statement: Someone once said that, “If you don’t know your history, you are bound to repeat it.” So much of the history of Africans in the Americas (Who we are, how we got here, and why) has been distorted in order to justify our enslavement and exploitation. People of African descent have been dehumanized, animalized. Brutalized and criminalized to justify, in the minds of the oppressors, their use as tools for the benefit of the wealthy and a psychological escape for the lesser members o the majority society. To me, it’s important for all people of our society to know and understand the real history of our nation and its beginnings; to examine closely its DNA and to acknowledge its defects in order to heal the festering wounds; discard debilitating “isms” and to build a more perfect union.
The mission and purpose of the MPCPMP provides a vehicle to accomplish the end result I seek in a way that’s respectful, honorable and inclusive – and I believe that it meets with the approval of our ancestors, who made the ultimate sacrifice for us to be here today.
BOARD OF ADVISERS
- Charles E. Cobb, Jr., Chair, Author and Journalist
- Amadou Mahtar Ba, Chief Executive, African Media Initiative; Chair, AllAfrica Media, Inc.
- Teresa Doke, Proprietor, Global Resource Consultants
- John W. Franklin, Former Director of Partnerships and International Programs, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution
- Faye V. Harrison, Professor of African American Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Emily MN Kugler, Assistant Professor of English, Howard University
- Bandele McQueen, Senior Advisor, McKenna Long and Aldridge
- Brynda Johnson Moragne, Chief Executive Officer, The Wealth Zone, Inc.
- Donald C. Moragne, Managing Principal, Success Zone, Inc.; Executive Director of Finance, Accession International
- Niani C. Omotesa, Managing Partner, The Left Field Marketing
- Bernice Johnson Reagon, Composer; Songtalker; Professor Emerita of History, American University; Curator Emeritus, Smithsonian Institution
- Gladys Mitchell-Reed, Ethicist
- Benetta M. Standly, Principal, Standly Solutions Consulting
- Corey D. B. Walker, Professor, University of Richmond
- Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Chair, Civil Rights Pioneer and Journalist, who has chronicled freedom movements in the United States and Africa
- Michael Blakey, NEH Professor of Anthropology; Professor of American Studies; Founding Director of the Institute for Historical Biology, College of William and Mary
- David Eltis, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of History, Emory University
- Shirikiana Gerima, Filmographer
- J. Fletcher Robinson, Pan-African Activist
- Randall Robinson, Author; Distinguished Scholar in Residence at Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law; Founder of TransAfrica Forum.