A Day of Remembrance: Hundreds Gather at Fort Moultrie to Honor Fallen Middle Passage Slaves
By Bob Small
the Atlantic Ocean were to dry up, it would reveal a scattered pathway
of human bones, African bones marking the various routes of the Middle
Dr. John Henrik Clark
Saturday, more than 150 people gathered to honor the relatives they
never got to know. Many wore white in honor of the over 60 million
Africans who were taken from the shores of Africa and never made to the
shores of the Americas and the Antilles. Their bodies the calcium
deposits on the floor of the Atlantic that traces the dreaded Trans
Atlantic Slave Trade’s Middle Passage route.
The Charleston Remembrance Committee held their 15th observance to pay
homage to those who lost their lives in that dreaded Middle Passage at
Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island. At exactly 12 noon, Eastern
Standard Time, a libation was offered simultaneously in cities across
Cities where Remembrance ceremonies were held include Brooklyn, NY, with
the longest standing ceremony, Washington, D.C., Buck roe, Va., San
Francisco, Ca., Porto Bello Panama, Cape Coast,. Ghana, Seattle
Washington, St. Vincent, Virgin Islands, Salvador De Bahia, Brazil,
Atlanta, Ga., Detroit, Mich. and Georgetown,. S.C.
For many the event was a solemn, a reminder of what their ancestors
endured. Chained and crammed in cargo holds of ships for up to three
months. The sick and the dead were not the only ones thrown overboard.
When some ship captains found themselves short of food or water,
frequently the Africans were thrown overboard to save rations. It has
been said that the migratory routes of sharks changed as they followed
the slave ships across the Atlantic.
Some Africans willingly jumped overboard choosing certain death rather
than live under the cruelty of slavery in the Americas. The Charleston
port alone was responsible for over 40 percent of all the Africans that
were brought to the United States. They were quarantined in Pest Houses
on Sullivan’s Island before being sold off.
Committee Chairman Azikkiwe Chandler said he was pleased that so many
people came out to the program. ”To see people of all ages paying homage
to those who came before us helps connects us to a painful part of our
past and offers guidance for the future.”
The program began with a presentation by local historian and author,
Herb Frazier told attendees not to forget the period of slavery so it
can never be repeated. He also said African Americans should also honor
their ancestors who survived and endured many hardships and cruelties to
build this country.
African drummers led a procession to the beach where those in attendance
could dip their feet in the same water where many Africans perished.
Chandler said connecting with the water connected them with their
ancestors. A drum procession then took those in attendance to, “The
Bench by the Side of the Road,” where the program was held. One by
one, elders, and soon to be elders paid tribute to the ancestors.
Committee member Brother DeBuff recited a poem, dancers from Wo’se
African Drum and Dance performed and drummers from North and South
Carolina came together for the event.
Mrs. Marthina Coleman travelled from Georgetown, SC, to attend this
year’s ceremony. She said it was her first time participating and called
it, “a moving experience.” “When I put my feet in that water I felt a
connection with my ancestors,” she said. As attendees dipped their feet
in the waters off Sullivan’s Island, songs of praise and shouts to lost
relatives could be heard over the sound of the African drums that played
in the background.
After the speakers, the libation was prepared with those in attendance
put a flower or piece of fruit in a sheet. A Yoruba priest from the
Oyotunji African Village in Sheldon, SC performed the libation in
preparation for the feeding of the ancestors at noon.
At noon the libation was released into the water.
Chandler said the Remembrance Committee is starting to plan for next
year’s celebration and is looking for people interested in joining. In
order for programs like this to continue, community support in needed.
Persons interested in joining the committee can call(843)296-0479.