Coney Island tribute cancelled — honor the ancestors anyway

Drumming Circle during a rousing tribute to the ancestors at the 30th Annual Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke, file

For the second year since the pandemic of 2020 forced lockdowns and cancellations of all public events, the annual seaside ritual held at Coney Island to honor the ancestors will not be held.

In a press release the organizers explained that “due to Covid-19 and continuing mask and social distancing recommendations on the Coney Island Boardwalk and beach, what would have been the 32nd Annual Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage on Saturday, June 12 has been cancelled.”

The disappointing announcement thwarted anticipation of the return of the cultural annual which was canceled last year for the same reason.

Supporters hoped that eased restrictions, the preponderance of vaccinations and a low infection rate might have enabled resumption of the unique tribute which honors souls lost during the Trans-Atlantic crossing to enslavement in America.

During the annual heritage fest, flowers and fruits were usually thrust into the ocean after recitations and drumming sessions hailed the martyrs.

Dressed in white or African attire, honorary elders often poured libations to mark the ceremonial rituals.

A festive, family atmosphere prevailed along the boardwalk attracting curious spectators who have been known to abandon rides at the amusement setting in order to join the cultural memorium.

The People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective is asking their loyalists to “pour libation from wherever you are on that day at 12 noon.”

The act of pouring libation is manifested by pouring a liquid — wine, alcohol, oil, milk, honey, water etc — to the earth or surface as an offering in memory of the dead.

The organizers are also suggesting that devotees “pay a special tribute to our recent ancestors and, especially, those we lost from Covid-19.”

A fraction: Grenadian Roy Hastick, comedian/writer Paul Mooney, reggae radio personality Gil Bailey, actor Chadwick Boseman, actress Cecily Tyson, singer Lloyd Price, reggae songwriter/singers Bob Andy, Toots Hibbert, Bunny Wailer, U-Roy, Civil Rights activist/congressman John Lewis, martyr George Floyd, country singer Charley Pride, athlete/basket ballplayer Kobe Bryant, pioneering keyboardist/singer Little Richard, NYC mayor David Dinkins, singers Johnny Nash, Bill Withers, model/entrepreneur Barbara Smith and so many who died from the scourge of the coronavirus.

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