The installation of markers and the ceremonial commemoration of the lives of African ancestors that provide an accurate history of the arrival, presence, and contributions of Africans and their descendants in the U.S. will educate, open the doors of communication, and provide a mechanism to heal individuals, communities, and the nation. This initiative enables on-going public and formal inclusion of their experiences and importance in the national narrative.
In a 1989 interview, Toni Morrison said: “There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves . . . There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower, there’s no small bench by the road . . . “ Not only was MPCPMP inspired by her quote, but in a letter Morrison also encouraged us to move forward with our work of honoring African ancestors.
Emboldened by her response and the assistance of others, Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project (MPCPMP) incorporated in 2011 and, on August 23, 2012, held its first ceremonies to commemorate the lives of African ancestors in Baltimore – one at dawn and the other at dusk. Since then, we have continued and expanded our work, affiliating with more than 78 organizations across the U.S. and internationally.
Using primarily Voyages: The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database housed at Emory University, MPCPMP has identified 52 U.S. Middle Passage arrival sites, those locations where Africans first placed their feet after leaving the African continent. Thus far, with our support, and occasional prodding, 29 Middle Passage markers are installed from New Hampshire to Texas commemorating the lives of these ancestors. More than 60 community people have taken on the responsibility of managing and promoting the history of African presence in their areas. We have also successfully petitioned UNESCO to designate 42 of these locations as Sites of Memory in association with its “Slave Route Project.”
As we look to the future, the MPCPMP logo reflects our vision and purpose. We are a catalyst in achieving these objectives:
- Connecting with our ancestors (the unbroken circle)
- Incorporating and learning lessons and values from our past in order to move forward (Sankofa)
- Acknowledging the responsibility of those living in the present to invite and include ancestors and the unborn in daily life (the cross – vertical and horizontal lines