AIf they were alive, they would say, >We have
no names, no faces, but we are you!=@ Kadiatou Diallo
In May 1991, the truth about American history began to unfold. Through an extraordinary kind of séance, the ancestors began to speak to their descendants, revealing a truth selectively omitted from this nation s history. Some never wanted these truths told but by America=s own standards of justice, to tell only part of the truth is to tell a lie! The ancestors would not stand for it, as they inspired a diverse group, representing the 20,000 or more buried in the Old Negro Burial Ground, to right this nation=s lie so that African-Americans would neither forget the richness of their culture nor their value to this country.
These truths were self-evident at the first of five tributes for the ARites of Ancestral Return@ at Howard University=s Rankin Chapel. The chosen ones exhaled at an emotional ceremony, among hundreds, as they revealed the horrors experienced by 16th-century African people in New York City and, presumably, in other northern states. The accounts characterize their conclusions of an 11-year study of the ancestral remains found in lower Manhattan. We extend our deepest respect to those chosen vessels who studied, researched and analyzed for more than a decade to deliver these truths as inspired. They include: Michael L. Blakey, Ph.D. (team leader, skeletal biology); Edna Greene Medford, Ph.D. (historian); Warren R. Perry, Ph.D. (archeology); Mark E. Mack, M.A. (biological anthropology); Lesley M. Rankin-Hill, Ph.D. (skeletal biology); Alan Goodman, Ph.D. (chemical studies, skeletal biology); Fatimah L. C. Jackson, Ph.D. (genetics, skeletal biology); Leonard G. Bianchi, M.S. (lab, archeology); James A. Donaldson, Ph.D. (project manager); and O. Jackson Cole, Jr., Ph.D. (project executive).
This team of scientists were but a few of the vessels selectively chosen by the ancestors. As a first line of defense the ancestors summoned grassroots soldiers to protect America=s true history and ensure its all-inclusiveness. The soldiers filed right into place. In fact, the sequence of events at that unfolding can be compared to that of a divine army: Without any thought, everyone knew their position and exactly what it entailed. In this case, their Divine orders were to prevent the U.S. government=s usual cover-up by any means necessary.
Just as the 1991 sequence of events fell into divine lockstep, a mirror of that sequence occurred when the General (Rev. Herbert Daughtry) and a few of his grassroots soldiers took their rightful place onstage at this tribute. With that said, special acknowledgements are extended to those first summoned by the ancestors to inspect and protect the burial site, namely Reverend Daughtry and Minister Clemson Brown. In an emotional and determined discourse, Daughtry assailed those who dared to disrespect the sacredness of these burial grounds. With welled eyes and a splintered voice, he recognized and thanked NYC Councilman Charles Barron, Eloise Dicks, Ollie McClean, Juanita Thomas and the late Sonny Carson as he told how these soldiers used their bodies as shields against the mighty bulldozers in the fight to preserve with dignity and respect the remains of our African ancestors. Obviously, the ancestors are mighty spirits; their Awill is done@ and their remains are returned to their rightful place of rest in lower Manhattan C now a national monument.
The ARites of Ancestral Return@ was a fitting tribute to those ancestors whose uncovered stories spoke volumes about African humanity. Not only was this humanity exhibited in the deliberately decorated buried remains, but also in the cooperation and coordination among the carefully chosen team through whom these stories unfold. Watching Drs. Cole, Blakey, Medford and Perry collaborate on how best to proceed with the intricately hand-carved coffins containing the remains of a man, woman and two children (representing the total 419 human remains), was more than a humbling experience.
This distinguished group appeared to be the ancestors themselves, speaking in tongues that only they understood. Indeed, the seriousness of their facial expressions was almost frightening, as we would begin to question our own worthiness of being among the remains, participating in and witnessing this spiritual history unfold. But be reminded that the ancestors have made no mistakes. They imprinted these experiences on our consciousness to ensure that we never forget the power ied; of past truths, for they always come to light; and with this in mind, we all revelled in the joy and pain of the moments, knowing that we too had been chosen as witnesses and conveyers of the messages.
No, the ancestors have made no mistakes! That was evident when Dr. Blakey at a press conference, prior to the ceremony, held up two volumes of truth documents memorializing the lives and deaths of those buried at the African burial site. His findings confirm the economic value and impact of Africans and African culture in the building of this nation. At one point during questioning, Dr. Blakey, clearly overwhelmed with emotion, took a long pause as he expressed his sorrow about the high rate of infant mortality and the inhumane way in which the majority of those buried had died. Dr. James Donaldson, Dean of Howard=s Art Department, and Master of the press event, watched supportingly, as these revelations invoked bouts of emotion for everyone in the room, at one time or another. But, most importantly, they compelled us to tell the story so others will never forget that the truth is still unfolding, and the true American history is yet to be written.
The historical finding of the African burial site, and the unprecedented calling it inspired, sparked a fire that has resurrected an old civil rights movement that seemingly had died. In spite of covert actions by the U.S. Government to drive nails into its coffin, the ancestors are speaking out. They are saying: ANever forget the Holocaust of slavery when millions of our people died; never forget that we were lynched, beaten and murdered C all supported by the U.S. Congress only a few years ago; never forget our contributions of America=s infrastructure; never forget the drugs and guns imposed in our neighborhoods and killing our children; never forget racial profiling or the glass ceiling C nor Bush=s presidential brief to the Supreme Court!@
Cries of the ancestors are time and time again silenced through legislative processes, but the truth always finds a way to reveal itself. Perhaps the ancestors have decided that it is time to alter their approach to mirror that of the oppressor C a covert psychological approach through repetitive media and imagery. This remains to be seen.
In any case, to forget the past would mean that we have no real future. Therefore, we must grab hold of the truths revealed by the ancestors through this 11-year séance, and utilize them to advance the task of rewriting history. The true American history will include the intimate role of Africans in making this nation great! All must know of the torn ligaments, diseases and early deaths of these people due to intensive labor and malnourishment. We must not be ashamed of these truths, but absorb strength from them, as the ancestors intended.
We salute and thank the team of distinguished black Americans who so diligently towed both the burden and the honor of conveying the messages from the ancestors. We will never forget what you have done for us.