Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage

Master drummer Menes De Griot leads tribute participants down to water’s edge for final ancestral offering.
Photo by Donna Lamb
Photo by Donna Lamb

On Saturday, June 8, from 12 noon to sunset, the 24th Annual Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage will be held on the boardwalk at West 17th St. (Ancestors Circle) in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the site where some of the earliest slave ships once docked. Sponsored by The People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective, this annual tribute is in remembrance of the tens of millions of Africans who, after being kidnapped from their homeland, died during the Middle Passage – the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean and North and South America.

Prayers for all ancestors will start at noon, rain or shine, in coordination with other gatherings around the world carrying out this same rite at the same time.

The tribute will begin with a libation ceremony, followed by a drum invocation led by master drummer Menes De Griot and his Shanto Troupe. Menes will be playing the ancestors’ Ngomas, made for him in South Africa by the Venda people. These drums are played only three times a year, and the trinity drum – so named because it can be played on all three sides – is the only one in the world. During this invocation, which is to be carried out in all four directions, Grandmaster Kham will chant sacred recognition of the ancestors.

Special drum tributes will be made to those in our families what are no longer with us, including Professor Vanrea Thomas, Mr. Boyke, Mama D, and Richie Havens. Also remembered will be Professor Dr. Mary Umolu and Medgar Wiley Evers on the 50th anniversary year of his assassination.

The tribute will feature inspiring performances by numerous singers, drummers, dancers and spoken word artists, including Ngomo, the KowTeff African Dance Company, Poetryflow, Shanto New Generation, and the Congo Square Drummers.

The event will culminate at sundown with the final ancestral offering, during which the Ancestral Drummers will lead participants to the water’s edge where each person will place flowers into the Atlantic Ocean, the largest African burial ground in the world.

Attendees are asked to wear white or African attire and bring flowers to place in the ocean to in honor of those lost in the Middle Passage. No vendors please.

For more information, call Akeem at (718) 270-4902 or (718) 659-4999 or email him at [email protected].

Transportation: D, F, N or Q train to the last stop, Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue, or B36, B64, B68 or B82 bus to Stillwell Avenue/Surf Avenue (Coney Island Train Station).

Woman rings bell to welcome spirits of the ancestors in Coney Island.
Photo by Donna Lamb
Photo by Donna Lamb

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