By Bob Small
“If the Atlantic Ocean were to dry up, it would reveal a scattered pathway of human bones, African bones marking the various routes of the Middle Passage.”
Dr. John Henrik Clark
Saturday, more than 150 people gathered to honor the relatives they never got to know. Many wore white in honor of the over 60 million Africans who were taken from the shores of Africa and never made to the shores of the Americas and the Antilles. Their bodies the calcium deposits on the floor of the Atlantic that traces the dreaded Trans Atlantic Slave Trade’s Middle Passage route.
The Charleston Remembrance Committee held their 15th observance to pay homage to those who lost their lives in that dreaded Middle Passage at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. At exactly 12 noon, Eastern Standard Time, a libation was offered simultaneously in cities across the world.
Cities where Remembrance ceremonies were held include Brooklyn, NY, with the longest standing ceremony, Washington, D.C., Buck roe, Va., San Francisco, Ca., Porto Bello Panama, Cape Coast,. Ghana, Seattle Washington, St. Vincent, Virgin Islands, Salvador De Bahia, Brazil, Atlanta, Ga., Detroit, Mich. and Georgetown,. S.C.
For many the event was a solemn, a reminder of what their ancestors endured. Chained and crammed in cargo holds of ships for up to three months. The sick and the dead were not the only ones thrown overboard. When some ship captains found themselves short of food or water, frequently the Africans were thrown overboard to save rations. It has been said that the migratory routes of sharks changed as they followed the slave ships across the Atlantic.
Some Africans willingly jumped overboard choosing certain death rather than live under the cruelty of slavery in the Americas. The Charleston port alone was responsible for over 40 percent of all the Africans that were brought to the United States. They were quarantined in Pest Houses on Sullivan’s Island before being sold off.
Committee Chairman Azikkiwe Chandler said he was pleased that so many people came out to the program. ”To see people of all ages paying homage to those who came before us helps connects us to a painful part of our past and offers guidance for the future.”
The program began with a presentation by local historian and author, Herb Frazier told attendees not to forget the period of slavery so it can never be repeated. He also said African Americans should also honor their ancestors who survived and endured many hardships and cruelties to build this country.
African drummers led a procession to the beach where those in attendance could dip their feet in the same water where many Africans perished. Chandler said connecting with the water connected them with their ancestors. A drum procession then took those in attendance to, “The Bench by the Side of the Road,” where the program was held. One by one, elders, and soon to be elders paid tribute to the ancestors. Committee member Brother DeBuff recited a poem, dancers from Wo’se African Drum and Dance performed and drummers from North and South Carolina came together for the event.
Mrs. Marthina Coleman travelled from Georgetown, SC, to attend this year’s ceremony. She said it was her first time participating and called it, “a moving experience.” “When I put my feet in that water I felt a connection with my ancestors,” she said. As attendees dipped their feet in the waters off Sullivan’s Island, songs of praise and shouts to lost relatives could be heard over the sound of the African drums that played in the background.
After the speakers, the libation was prepared with those in attendance put a flower or piece of fruit in a sheet. A Yoruba priest from the Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, SC performed the libation in preparation for the feeding of the ancestors at noon.
At noon the libation was released into the water.
Chandler said the Remembrance Committee is starting to plan for next year’s celebration and is looking for people interested in joining. In order for programs like this to continue, community support in needed. Persons interested in joining the committee can call(843)296-0479.