Stirring commemoration for 30th Annual Tribute to our Ancestors

Libation ceremony by, Ifakolade Atinumo Arasa of Odi Olow Kingdom, Lagos, Nigeria, Baba Taiwa Adesola, and Menes de Groit.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Public Advocate for the City of New York, Jumaane Williams, proclaimed June 8, 2019, Tribute To Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage day, in honor of the 30th Annual celebration, last Saturday, at Ancestor’s Circle, Coney Island Boardwalk, at 17th Street, Brooklyn.

The politician presented a Proclamation to Jelani Akeem, son of Tony Akeem, producer, of the People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective, during an inspiring, and honorable day of praise to the ancestors.

Reading from the proclamation, Williams thanked the organizers for its exemplary service to their community, saying the Collective has for decades worked to educate people of the horrors of the Middle Passage, which enslaved men and women brought to America, many of them not surviving, and those who did, sold into slavery.

“This year marks 400 years since the first Africans were caught and enslaved,” he said, applauding the 30th annual event, intended each year to honor lives lost, and to show Brooklyn and the world, what took place centuries ago.

The hours-long tribute, courtesy SGA, Brooklyn Borough President, Eric A. Adams’ office & Student Life, and Medgar Evers College, was honored in solemn reflection and prayer, drum beats, song, dance, and deeply moving ceremony for the lives lost in the Atlantic ocean.

The celebration that has expanded to include Miami, Washington DC, North Carolina, Grenada, Jamaica, and Panama, run concurrently, and raises consciousness of modern slavery, while honoring the ancestors, said Williams.

Williams recognized the people of the organization, for its work that acknowledges the history in all of its reality, and collective status. “This institution is worthy of our highest respect and esteem,” he said.

Menes de Groit, board member of the People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective — committed to erecting a permanent monument that commemorates the Africans who died during one of the most horrendous period of human history Atlantic Slave Trade — thanked Brooklyn Borough President, Eric L. Adams, for the Proclamation, honoring the organization for keeping the Ancestors tribute alive.

Keeper of the drums, Menes de Groit, who joined Araba Ifakolade Atinumo Arasa of Odi Olow Kingdom, Lagos, Nigeria, and Baba Taiwa Adesola, to pour libation, at the historic presentation, that began at Noon, afterward, joined performers for a rousing day of tributes.

Haitian drum and dance ensemble, Imamou Lele, headed by Alexandra Jean-Joseph, called up their predecessors in two dance sequences, that got dedicated celebrants, in all-white attire and African garb, on their feet, for a spirited session fit for a commemoration.

Hosted by Jamaican-born poet and board member, Ras Osagyefo, the homage was captivating and emotional, as youths played their part to entertain the passionate crowd, while being educated about the Middle Passage.

Artistes Sister Carole, a Drumming Circle, consisting of Menes de Groit Shanto Troupe, Congo Square and the Marcus Garvey Park Drummers, along with Queen Mother Imakhu, and Merowe Nubyahn and RBG Girls, all participated.

Stephanie JNote, singer of the National Black Anthem, paid tribute to late blues singer, Ella Fitzgerald.

Professor Dr. Mary Umolu, founder, Tribute of Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage, that began in 1989 — Baba Bill Jones, Maxwell Haywood, Dr. George Irish “and many others, were remembered during the tribute, punctuated by cultural offerings. The event culminated at sundown, with the rhythmic sounds of the African drums, accompanied marchers down to the water’s edge, where flowers were put into the ocean in memory of those who perished.

Menes de Groit thanked the NYPD and the Parks Department, for their extremely helpful actions in extending the time of the tribute to complete the program.

Celebrants at Coney Island’s water’s edge.
Ras Osagyefo

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