Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage

Guyanese Master Drummer Menes De Griot at Annual Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage.
Photo by Donna Lamb
Photo by Donna lamb

On Saturday, June 9, from 12 noon to sunset, the 23rd Annual Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage will be held on the boardwalk at West 16th St. (Ancestors Circle) in Coney Island, Brooklyn, the site where some of the earliest slave ships once docked.

Sponsored by Akeem Productions and the People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective in conjunction with Medgar Evers College Student Government Association, 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 precisely at noon, rain or shine, in coordination with other gatherings around the world carrying out this same rite at exactly the same time.

The tribute will begin with a libation ceremony, followed by a drum invocation led by Guyanese Master Drummer Menes De Griot and his Shanto Troupe. He 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.

Special drum tributes will also be made to those in our families who are no longer with us, including Professor Charles Jones, Gil Noble and Louis Reyes Rivera, with a special remembrance for Dr. Mary Umolu.

The tribute will feature performances by many singers, drummers, dancers and spoken word artists, including Ngomo, KowTeff African Dance Company, Crown Heights Youth Collective and the Congo Square Drummers and Dancers.

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 in honor of those lost in the Middle Passage. If you do not have a drum, bring a shekere, whistle, cowbell, or shac shac. 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).

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