How should America observe the 400th?
In the Spring of 2015, I was engaged in interviewing people about the n-word, which culminated in the n-word Project and Journey to the Bottom of the n-Word. While engaged in that project, I began dropping in questions relating to the 4o0th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans. Upon completion of that, the 400th became the focus. Here are some of the interviews over the past few years relating to the 400th.
If you had the chance, what would you say
to the first enslaved Africans in America?
This question has always generated unique reactions whenever I ask it. It led to an audible gasp at a speech I delivered at the 100 Men of Color Awards ceremony in Hartford, Conn., in the the fall of 2018. I think it's because it's something no one has considered. What would you say to them? What would they say to us.? It would be such an emotional reaction, regardless of one's race. Following are some responses, including an excerpt from the speech I gave.
The New York Times
On Tuesday, August 13, 2019, The New York Times — through its 1619 Project — acknowledged the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans brought to America. Featuring a live-stream video of performance art, poetry, and discussion on the genesis of the project (see the video below), it follows with a series of powerful and insightful essays on the impact of slavery in shaping every aspect of American life to the present. You can read those essays at 1619 Project.
10 Ways the Descendants
of Enslaved Africans in America
can Honor the 400th
1. Know Your Anthem: The words of the American national anthem are embedded in our memory, but few know the words to what is considered the black national anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing. Learn the words. Feel the meaning. It is more than a song.
2. Honor Civil Rights Veterans: Many of them are older and in poor health. Show appreciation for their commitment and sacrifices. Recognize them with awards. Invite them to speak and share their story.
3. Respect your Name: Enslaved Africans and their descendants in America have been referred to by many names, many of them not good. Address each other respectfully. "Brother," "sister" — not the n-word.
4. Be Proud: For many years, blacks were made to feel ashamed to be black. Think of the time you felt most proud to be black — hold on to that feeling and pass it on.
5. Be Family: Raise your children. Be a presence in their lives.
6. Nuture Health: Demonstrate your commitment to family by taking care of your health.
7. Encourage Academics: Promote the love and value of learning and academic achievement.
8. Vote: Participate in the voting process.
9. Defend Freedom: Freedom is precious. Stand up and defend your freedom.
10. Do Right by All: Treat everyone the way you wish to be treated.
Following are a list of events in America observing the 400th. It is hoped that this list will be expanded with events not just in Virginia, but throughout America and the rest of the year. If you have an event going on in your town, city, state, community, school, university or other place — email me and I will add it.
Norfolk State University, Norfolk, Virginia
August 22, 2019, 12:30 - 1:30 p.m. — In partnership with the Voice of America, Norfolk State University will feature a panel discussion of the impact of the slave trade on America’s evolution.
Fort Monroe, Virginia
August 23-25, 2019 — 400th Anniversary Commemorative Weekend.
August 24, 2019, 9:30 a.m. — Commemoration Ceremony and Preview of the Fort Monroe Visitor and Education.
August 23-25, 2019 — Hampton University and its 2019 Commemoration partners will host a weekend of events in honor of African Landing Day, including public discussion panels, African-American heritage tours, historical exhibitions, living history re-enactments, spoken word, and musical performances featuring headliner Sounds of Blackness...
National Park Service
August 25, 2019, 3 p.m. — The park and its partners are inviting all 419 national parks, NPS programs, community partners, and the public to come together in solidarity to ring bells simultaneously across the nation for four minutes — one for each century — to honor the first Africans who landed in 1619 at Point Comfort and 400 years of African American history.
Norfolk State University
September 25-27, 2019 — Leading with the African American voice, over the course of two days, scholars, thought leaders, artists, filmmakers, dignitaries, and students will delve into America’s current and historic chronicle with a lens towards more inclusive narratives and perspectives on the future.
Middletown, Connecticut (Harbor Park)
September 28, 2019, 10 a.m. — The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, commonly known as UNESCO, has designated Middletown, Conn., as a Site of Memory due to two slave ships that sailed into Middletown's riverfront in the 1700s and unloaded its enslaved Africans. The ceremony will honor them and other enslaved Africans who contributed to the building of the community. Featured will be African drumming, Native American and youth participants, speakers and the unveiling of the Middle Passage commemorative plaque.
William & Mary
November 5-9, 2019 — Association for the Study of the Worldwide African Diaspora (ASWAD).
Resolution to build a Memorial to African Americans Enslaved by William & Mary.