[Hold on tight, this will be my most serious and personal blog post to date.]
As a student in a primarily Jewish public school district, the concept of ‘never forgetting’ when it came to the Holocaust was something we discussed throughout my tenure. It is important for you to know that my family wasn’t/isn’t Jewish. In fact, you should know that I was the ‘other’ more often than not growing up, and that I was literally bullied into being shy.
It wasn’t until I began to travel internationally, after graduating from college, that I began to come out of that state. To this day, I remain keenly aware of the interaction between underdogs and agressors, and how this can occur in any interaction. My childhood experiences have, in the end, made me a formidable advocate for the many ways we can all do better.
When I first learned about The Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project [www.middlepassageproject.org], I wrote the following words on their facebook page: “I applaud the work that is going into this project! When I was a bit younger I worked my tail off in order to travel to Australia. As an outsider I was immeasurably impressed by the “reconciliation” efforts underway there, and simultaneously saddened about the state of things in the States. Thank you for helping us all here at home address our shared history.”
Then I began to spread the word about the project’s inaugural event here in Baltimore. I told friends who have included me in their Kwanza celebrations. I told friends who also saw the film “Traces of the Trade.” I told friends I knew would take action. And then I attended the event myself.
Yesterday, we became the first port to commemorate the Transatlantic Middle Passage, a time when *millions* of Africans perished in transit from Africa to the New World. Baltimore was chosen because many African Americans can trace their ancestry to the port; it was one of the earliest and largest centers in the Chesapeake directly involved in the human trade of Africans. Scholars note that Fells Point is the location where Africans disembarked to be auctioned as chattel. These are not things that I learned at school, and in order to ‘never forget’ you first have to know.
The event was overall a tremendously wonderful and positive experience, however, I experienced something quite negative as well, and it is something I will only share with those who ask me about it. I’ll simply say, that you can add to the problem, or you can help find the solution. We all have work to do! This event was a wonderful first step; the ancestors who perished at sea have at long last been acknowledged.
We still have much work to do, and all of us will need to come together to make more progress. In the meantime, I would like to thank Ms. Anne L. Chinn for all of her tremendously important work on this project and I encourage everyone to take a moment to learn more about it here: www.middlepassageproject.org & here: www.middlepassageproject.org/blog
At long last! Here is our multimedia piece from the event: https://vimeo.com/55890104