Ceremonies Middle Passage

Ceremonies Middle Passage


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



In the crepuscular light of dawn, about 60 people, most of them

dressed in white, gathered at the foot of Broadway to welcome

the day and to remember their ancestors, many of whom died

somewhere in the Atlantic between the coast of Africa and the

Chesapeake Bay. While channel markers blinked red and green

in the distance . . .  the gloom, the people prayed. . . .




Ceremonies Middle Passage

Fells Point, Broadway Pier / Baltimore, Maryland

August 23, 2012 / Ceremonies—Dawn, 6:00 am / Dusk, 7:15 pm

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International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition


23 August 2012

The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, has designated August 23rd an International Day of Remembrance of the Slave Trade and of its Abolition. And Baltimore became the site today of the first remembrance ceremony. WYPR’s Joel McCord has this report.

McCord: In the crepuscular light of dawn, about 60 people, most of them dressed in white, gathered at the foot of Broadway to welcome the day and to remember their ancestors, many of whom died somewhere in the Atlantic between the coast of Africa and the Chesapeake Bay.

While channel markers blinked red and green in the distance and the cranes of Domino Sugar emerged from the gloom, the people prayed. Facing the rising sun, they chanted, they poured water on the bricks and into the harbor as they called the names of lost loved ones.

They listened to readings and drumming. And Bernice Johnson Reagon, the founder of the a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, sang.

Music: Bernice Johnson Reagon sings.

McCord: This was the first of what are expected to be 175 such ceremonies at seaports throughout North and South America commemorating the arrival in the New World of Africans in chains.

Ann Chinn, director of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, said the ceremony has been 26 years in the making; ever since someone told her that the poet Toni Morrison was “haunted” by the millions of Africans who had died in the middle passage and whose memories were ignored.

Ann Chinn: And the person who gave it to me said I don’t know what to do with it, Ann, so happy birthday you figure it out.

McCord: She said they chose Baltimore for the first ceremony because it was one of the earliest slave ports.

Chinn: The Chesapeake region was the first region where large groups, at least in the United States, entered because of the tobacco farms…And from here, the Africans who came, a lot of them ended up being transported to the south as the frontiers opened. So this really is a point of origin for a lot of us.

McCord: Chadra Pittman Walke, of the Sankofa Project in Hampton, Virginia, helped create the template for this ceremony and the others that are to follow.

Chadra Pittman Walke: It’s important to honor the ancestors and to know that connection and to know what your cultural roots are. Sankofa, which is my organization, teaches us that it’s a proverb, and it means you have to know where you’ve come from in order to know where you’re going. So it’s imperative that you look back and you touch your history.

Music: Buddhist chants.

McCord: The ceremony included chanting from Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhists, as well. Claire Carter, of the New England Peace Pagoda in western Massachusetts, said later it was part of her efforts as an American of European ancestry to honor the history of those of African descent.

Claire Carter: So we have to pen our hearts very deeply. And I feel like that’s the deepest way for European descent folks to change is to realize what the truth of this history has been. And it brings healing to walk it together.

McCord: At the end, they tossed white carnations into the water. Darren Wall, of Columbia, stood at the bulkhead deep in thought as he watched his flower float away. He said he thinks often about eh sacrifices his ancestors have made.

Darren Wall: So I just wanted to say thank you and to offer them healing and to reach back and to hopefully heal them from their pain and their misery that they suffered through during the middle passage. So I just want to honor them and all of my family members who have passed on.

McCord: The ceremony is to be repeated at dusk, 7:15 this evening. I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Fells Point for 88.1, WYPR.

Source: wypr

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Dawn Ceremony Attendees

There are no words to describe the power of the Presence that visited our gathering. Thank you for allowing me to be part of our great tradition and history. We redeem the suffering of our ancestors and transform the evil of the Middle Passage into a force of liberation and light. We liberate the courage, genius, and vision of our ancestors and possess them to further inspire us. We all are blessed by our consecration of that place and time. Please God, may we be privileged to further consecrate our lives. Thus the great Spirit continues to bless us with its infinite blessings.—Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dov Shualy who spoke as a representative of Chizuk Amuno and the Jewish community.  

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  The drums summoned those departed and energized those standing on the pier [morning ceremony].

I expected to see Africans rising from the water and I told myself NOT to be amazed.—Rhonda Bristol/ Fernandina Beach, Florida:


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We thought of Africans tumbled one upon another in the bowels of the many ships that crossed the Atlantic . . . and looked at each other almost unwilling to grasp the inhumanity of it all—And stood on the pier—franchised people—and thanked them, the first of the forced, for their endurance and resolve . . . and vowed NOT to let their sacrifice be in vain.

I am PROUD to be of African decent and I know that I am in good company and that Healing Has Begun.  I, like you, am part of that movement. Thank you. Eventually America will thank us all.—

Notes from a worker bee:

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Evening Ceremony attendees / Dancer and drummer Kaki

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I want to express my gratitude for being the catalyst for all that has taken place and all that which is to come. It was an honor for The Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage to included in the program.—

Brother NorthStar

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What an amazing event! Thank you for your hard work, due diligence, beautiful spirit and commitment to raising up and exalting or ancestors. Both ceremonies were very powerful. I really appreciate the diverse spirituality woven throughout the event.—Michael Campbell, Co-Founder of the Universal Sailing Club

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Buddhists chant and drum/ Attendees pour libations

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It was truly a spirit filled evening. . .The ceremony embraced all faith traditions and even non-believers. . . Bernice Johnson Reagon moved the audience with several powerful and soulful renditions. —

Herbert Rogers Enoch Pratt Library, Baltimore

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What an amazing event! Thank you for your hard work, due diligence, beautiful spirit and commitment to raising up and exalting or ancestors. Both ceremonies were very powerful. I really appreciate the diverse spirituality woven throughout the event.—Michael Earle Campbell, LifeWay Wellness Services, Inc., Baltimore

The ceremonies at Fells Point on the Broadway Pier were historic, moving and reflective. At dawn approximately 100 persons attended and the dusk ceremony was 3 to 4 times that number. We thank all those who joined us.—Ann Chinn, Executive Director of the MPCPMP

 Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project

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posted 2 September 2012




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