African Burial Ground Memorial in New York

Publié le par hort

Dedication at NYC African Burial Ground
By SAMANTHA GROSS, Associated Press Fri Oct 5, 2007 
It was a day that had been a long time coming, and for the community leaders who gathered Friday to dedicate a memorial at the once-forgotten grave site of thousands of African slaves, it was also a day of regret. "Forgive us for disregarding your precious gifts to this world," the Rev. James A. Forbes Jr. said to the long-dead slaves and free blacks who were interred beneath lower Manhattan, then forgotten for decades as the city sprouted skyward above their remains.

Many speakers at the African Burial Ground memorial lamented the lack of recognition those buried there had experienced in life and after death, and vowed to make the memorial a permanent reminder of their sacrifices.Sixteen years after the remains were rediscovered, onlookers lined two city blocks on Friday for a chance to file through "The Door of Return." The entryway is named in contrast to the door of no return, the title once given to departure points where slaves were stolen away from their African homelands.
Walking through the narrow, reflective-granite structure, the memorial's first visitors stepped out into a sunken court engraved with a map of the lands and waters that once supported the slave trade, as well as the identifying details of some of the women, men and children buried nearby."Bid 'em in," poet Maya Angelou sang to the crowd assembled for the dedication, telling the story of the auctioning of a young girl, stripped nude on the block."All of us are being 'bidded in' according to how we forget you," she said to those interred beneath seven grassy mounds alongside the memorial. "And we will not forget you."Mayor Michael Bloomberg told those assembled that forgetting might sometimes seem the easier route. New York City thrived during the slave trade and much of the early metropolis was built with slave labor.
The construction workers who stumbled across the site "brought to light one of the most uncomfortable and tragic truths in the history of our city," Bloomberg said. "Part of atoning for such a terrible injustice is to acknowledge it." The Manhattan site was declared a national monument last year. At the dedication ceremony, Lt. Gov. David Paterson decried the lack of a national memorial in Washington, D.C., to mark the sacrifices slaves made throughout the nation.About half the skeletons unearthed at the site were those of children under the age of 12. The vast majority died as a result of violence, Paterson said.
 Performances by dancers in slavery-era costume and drummers in traditional garb punctuated the ceremony. Actor Avery Brooks performed a spoken-word piece, and the trio Three Mo' Tenors gave a sorrowful rendition of "Make Them Hear You," from the musical "Ragtime." Actor Sidney Poitier joined in a processional through the site.It was not always clear whether the grave site, much of which is still undisturbed beneath several square blocks of office towers, would be marked. When the skeletons were first discovered, protesters called on the government to stop construction of an office building planned for the spot.
After archeologists unearthed the bones of 419 individuals, there were numerous delays as the remains were studied and researchers and the government fought over funding. Eventually, the bones were placed in hand-carved caskets and buried in crypts alongside what is now the memorial. The project cost more than $50 million.Organizers are still hoping to add a museum, which is in the planning phase.
We are free, but not liberated!” 

by Daa'iya L. Sanusi
Wednesday, 10 October 2007

New York—On Friday, Oct. 5th, 2007 at the African Burial Ground National Monument Memorial Dedication, an audience that included national state, city and international representatives honored the legacy of the African American. Dr. Adelaide Sanford, for many years an outspoken advocate during her tenure as a Regent for the New York State Board of Education, spoke on behalf of the African American people.

The venerable and outstanding educator offered a treasure of wisdom and honor as she directed comments to her people. “My beloved ones, my extraordinarily gifted, talented, resourceful, resilient, incredibly precious ones: I wish that I could say more than Good Morning in English, and Buenos Dias and [de] Bon Matin. I wish I could greet you in the original language of your people, those first warm words of love and joy when you entered the universe. I wish that in this cosmopolitan city I could greet you, because Lisa D. Delpit says if you can greet a person in his or her own language it establishes a bond of caring and value. But most of all, I regret that I cannot greet you in my language for I can never know what it was.

And as we gather here this morning paying tribute to those who we love and hope that they hear the words of love, that they can feel the embracing and the caring; that they can dry their tears and wipe away the blood from their wounds, because we are here to validate them.But, I also very much want to remind us that their life and their history did not begin in chattel slavery. They came from the parent continent of this universe. And as we come today to acknowledge their enormous sacrifices, we must understand that the story of the African did not begin in chattel, nor did it end in emancipation.

The Question is what brought these people, talented, gifted, resourceful, strong of body and will with the desire to survive and live. What brought them from the heritage of the pyramids to this state of being called disadvantaged, deprived, at risk? What happened in that intermediate time? Let us today acknowledge the resonating residue of all that happened. For, while we are free, we are not liberated.

We are struggling toward that liberation. And you heard Senator Schumer say his children did not know about the slaves in Williamsburg [Va.]. And those of us, who are educated in New York and all across this continent, did not know. Many of us knew in our hearts. I knew because my grandmother was a chattel slave in this country, by the laws of this country. And she told me about her life and her memories, of what she had been.

Today the curriculum, teaching, and testing are still not telling the story. And as long as we hesitate it will not be children of African ancestry who are [only] damaged, but it is also children who have had unearned advantages, who are also disadvantaged. Because, from them will come our politicians, our lawmakers, our doctors, our lawyers, our leaders of corporate America.So, they too, must know that story and understand that they have unearned advantages and there are people who have unearned disadvantages.

It is very often that we have a role call of the pathology of men of African ancestry, but, today I want to have a roll call of men of African ancestry: Dr. James Forbes, Ed Lewis, Dr. Howard Dodson, Mr. Rodney Leon, Lt. Gov. David Paterson, Dr. Michael Blakey and I acknowledge all of the gentlemen here who are achievers and strugglers and believe in freedom and truth.

But because of the irony of the media I want to call a roll call of men of African ancestry who are the only ones who raised the children born of the rape of their wives and loved them. As we remember today let us not only embrace the past, but the antiquity and the nobility of the parent continent where we all came and originated from. And rejoice in the greatness of these people who came with skills and built. And they did not become terrorists. They fought in wars to free everyone.

But we are free, but not liberated. Until we speak the truth to our children and tell them that they are precious. And erase the words disadvantaged, culturally deprived, at risk, endangered species, we can never dry their tears or wipe away the wounds and the bloody mess that they suffered through.

My beloved ones, my tenacious, resourceful, energetic, courageous ones, I charge you with the responsibility of truly recognizing—it did not start with slavery, it did not end with emancipation.

"We are free, but not liberated.”

Remembering the Unforgotten
 Monday, 08 October 2007
 By Herb Boyd
 Managing Editor, TBWT
 Manhattan--Hundreds of participants at the  dedication to the African Burial Ground National Monument celebration Friday morning learned there are seven basic elements to the Ancestral Libation Chamber at the heart of the Monument. Many of those who endured the long line to enter the Chamber discovered that at its center is a small hole.

 That hole is a little more than an inch in diameter and if you stand a certain way near it and scream you can feel a slight vibration.  “It’s as if the ancestors buried below are responding to your cry,” said one person who experienced the tremor. It is an acoustical miracle akin to the one in the African American Museum in Detroit where if you stand at the center of the rotunda and merely whisper you  can be heard clearly a hundred yards away.
 I stood by as others screamed and while I didn’t feel anything, I did recall when that small hole was a  huge crater in 1991 with a steam shovel nearby.I was among the first reporters to the site after learning  that during construction of a building workers had  desecrated a graveyard, a Negro burial ground that could be traced back to the end of the 17th century.Each scoop of the steam shovel tore apart several graves and coffins, and eventually the remains of 419  Africans were preserved and protected, given the  outcry from the Black community. 
 One of the most rewarding moments during the memorial celebration was to hear at least two of the speakers mention some of those who were members of that small army of determined activists who were concerned about  the destruction of the cemetery.  Lt. Gov. David Paterson cited several of that valiant crew, including Eloise Dicks, whose gentle spirit was as constant during the turmoil as Mother Franklin’s.

 Thanks to Tara Morrison of the National Parks Service, Mother Franklin’s name resonated within a few yards of the Chamber, where the various African signs and symbols—from the Adinkra and the Akan—must have soothed her African intelligence. Ms. Dicks and Mother Franklin are with us only in spirit, but Morrison also mentioned Sherrill Wilson who has been unstinting in educating people about the historical, political and anthropological significance of the African Burial Ground.
 There isn’t room here to summon all of those who spent numerous months and years insisting that their ancestors be reburied with dignity: Elombe Brath, the late Sonny Carson, Viola Plummer, Gus Savage, Charles Barron, et al.  It was good to see two Queen Mothers who were part of that steadfast contingent—Dr. Delois Blakey and Adunni Oshupa Tabasi.  And I wonder where Emilyn Brown may be since she was one of my students who seriously pursued the story and worked tirelessly for a proper resolution. A portion of that resolution awaits visitors to the Monument, and think of those in the earth below as you pass the grove where seven burial mounds contain the remains of those unearthed—they were re-interred four years ago in exquisite wooden coffins.  Stop for a moment an absorb the saying on the Memorial Wall—“For all those who were lost/For all those who were stolen/For all those who were left behind/For all those who were not forgotten.”

 Inside the Ancestral Chamber is the essence of the sacred space, and it is a place for self-introspection, reflection and prayer. Engraved on the wall encircling the Chamber are symbols indicative of African and Latin American culture. They signify a common humanity and remind us of the  Monument’s internationality, its embrace of all humans.

 Take your time as you walk down the processional ramp that leads to the libation court; it’s as if you’re in the process of communing with the long departed.  I was reminded of the museum at Goree Island, off the coast of Senegal.  Many of those who have been there speak of its eerie quality and confess to feeling the closeness of their dead ancestors.

 Most memorable about the museum is the Door of No Return, and when you enter the Monument, it’s as though you’re stepping back through that door, and once again united with

Publié dans African diaspora

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