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#1619Project: 400 Years of African American History

11 Aug

Four hundred years ago, a ship carrying the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia.


#400Years - Introduction of negro slavery into Virginia - NYPL Digital Collections

On August 13, 2019, The New York Times Magazine will launch “The 1619 Project.”

The 1619 Project

The entire issue of the magazine will be devoted to an examination of “the many ways the legacy of slavery continues to shape and define life in the United States.” The launch event is sold out. You can watch the free live stream here on Tuesday, August 13, at 7 p.m. E.T.

Suffer the Children

4 Aug

On or about August 25, 1619, the first enslaved Africans landed in British North America. The 400th anniversary will not be celebrated. Instead, it will be commemorated lest we forget that our ancestors were brought here in the bowels of slave ships.

Slave Ship - Villages at Whitemarsh

For nearly 250 years, our ancestors were sold on the auction block and subjected to unimaginable dehumanization and brutality. Children were separated from their parents and put up for sale.

Negroes for Sale - Villages at Whitemarsh

In her groundbreaking book, The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation, Prof. Daina Ramey Berry observed:

The pubescent years were terrifying. Not only were their bodies changing, but this was also a time when enslaved children experienced the separation they had feared all their lives. Daughters and sons were taken from their parents as the external value of their bodies increased. Market scenes from their childhood now made sense and haunted them for the rest of their lives. At this stage in their maturation, they knew full well that others claimed ownership of them and sexual assault came at any age.

Children are at the center of an event organized by Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC), “400 Years of Slavery and Other Official Racism: Never Forget, Always Avenge.” The event will be held on Sunday, August 25, 2019, 2:30 p.m., at the Slavery Memorial/President’s House, located at 6th and Market streets, Philadelphia.

ATAC Co-founder Michael Coard recently wrote:

The highlight of the event will be 400 Black children who will identify and condemn each of the 400 years of slavery as well as its residue, which includes the reactionary Redemption Era, Black Codes, sharecropping, convict leasing, peonage labor, mass lynchings, de jure segregation (known as Jim Crow), de facto segregation, stop-and-frisk, police brutality, mass incarceration, disenfranchising voter ID legislation, court-sanctioned gerrymandering, and other forms of official racial injustice up to and including 2019.

Of the 12.5 million Africans stolen from the Motherland, 26 percent, meaning 3.25 million, were children. And 13 percent of those children, meaning 420,000, died during the more than 60-day Middle Passage voyage in the bottom of feces-filled, urine-soaked, vomit-drenched, rat-infested, disease-ridden “slave” ships. By 1860, shortly before the Civil War, about 33 percent of the nearly 4 million enslaved Black population, meaning 1.32 million, were children. Think about that for a minute.

ATAC - August 25, 2019 - Villages at Whitemarsh

It’s not too late to get your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other young people age 4 to 14 involved. Help them avenge their enslaved ancestors by calling ATAC at (215) 552-8751 or emailing ATAC@AvengingTheAncestors.com and leave a message stating your name, phone number, email address, and the children’s names and ages. The deadline to sign up is August 9.

Fourth of July 2019

1 Jul

On July 5, 1852, before the Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, New York, Frederick Douglass asked, “What to the slave is the Fourth of July?”

What indeed?

Today we often communicate via memes, but the message is the same.

MLK - Freedom!

Juneteenth 2019

17 Jun

Black Music Month 2019

2 Jun

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Black Music Month, the brainchild of music mogul and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Gamble and broadcast executive Ed Wright. Radio personality Dyana Williams, the “Mother of Black Music Month,” breaks down the origin of the celebration.

2019 also marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in British North America. Music helped the ancestors survive the dehumanization and barbarity of slavery. This mandolin was crafted by a slave circa 1800s. It is on display at the National Constitution Center.

Mandolin4

The ancestors used music to express their grief and sorrow. In 25 Black Gospel Songs that Have their Roots in Slavery, BlackExcellence.com wrote:

This traditional Negro spiritual dates back to the slavery era. Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child expresses despair and pain. Furthermore, it conveys the lack of hope of a child who’s been torn from the parents. The word sometimes is repeated several times, which can be interpreted as a measure of hope, as it suggests that occasionally this child doesn’t feel motherless. This child can represent a slave who, in the trafficking process, has been separated from something dear to his or her heart (such as a spouse, home country, parents, children, siblings, and so on) and is yearning for it.

Music was a form of resistance. Again, from BlackExcellence.com:

Wade in the Water is a Negro spiritual song that teaches slaves to hide and make it through by getting into the water. It’s a perfect map song example with lyrics that offer precious coded directions.

Read More

Joe Biden’s Great American Novel

20 May

On Saturday, Joe Biden kicked off his third presidential campaign. Biden said he chose Philadelphia for his campaign launch and headquarters because “this was the birthplace of our democracy”:

So why do we begin this journey in this place – Philadelphia? Because this was the birthplace of our democracy. It was here that two of the most important documents in the world’s history were written.

In 1776, the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” Those words formed the American creed. Equality. Equity. Fairness. America didn’t live up to that promise for most of its people, for people of color, for women.

It is self-evident blacks were not included in the nation’s founding documents. The Declaration of Independence was written by Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner. Biden said, “Just look at the facts, not the alternative facts.” Fact is, African Americans were stripped of their humanity and deemed the property of “We the people.” Chattel slavery was not a broken promise. It was foundational to the nation’s economy and political representation.

In 1787, slaveholders and their sympathizers were holed up in Independence Hall fixing the Constitution to preserve African Americans as their property. Slavery is enshrined in the third clause of Article IV, Section 2:

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

At the same time, others were fighting to end slavery.

Pennsylvania Abolition Society

Biden’s campaign kickoff was held on the anniversary of Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of segregated public accommodations if they were “separate but equal.”

Plessy v. Ferguson

White and Colored Water Fountain

The Jim Crow regime was not dismantled until the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Biden’s assertion about “One America” begs the question: When have we ever been “One America?”

Joe Biden - One America

Fact is, Biden’s revisionist history is not novel. Brushing aside slavery, America’s original sin, is the “American creed.” As the nation commemorates 400 years of African American history, we must continue to fight to ensure our story is told and preserved in public memory. Does that make us angry? Novelist and cultural critic James Baldwin observed:

To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious, is to be in a rage almost all the time.

Stay woke.