By Donna Lamb
CaribWorldNews, BROOKLYN, NY, Fri. June 5, 2009: On Sat., June 13, from noon to sunset, the 20th Annual Tribute to Our Ancestors of the Middle Passage will be held on the boardwalk at West 16th Street (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.
The organizers of this 20th annual Tribute to Our Ancestors see it as an historic moment in the Collective’s history. "We want to make this momentous celebration special," said Tony Akeem. "We hope to welcome an enormous turnout for this extraordinary day. We are looking for the participation of as many drummers and other percussionists as possible so we can really do justice to our ancestors."
The tribute began twenty years ago as a storytelling event conducted by the late Dr. Mary Umolu, a noted African storyteller born in Virginia of Southern and Jamaican heritage who became chair of the Department of Mass Communication, Creative & Performing Arts & Speech at Medgar Evers College. The Tribute’s mission, she always said, was to educate people about what happened during the Middle Passage, to give them a fuller understanding of what their ancestors endured.
Some of the other people who were also part of the initial committee were Zala Smith, Phyliss Jackson, Habte Selassie, Richard Greene, Safia Bandele, Tony Akeem and Andrea McLaughlin. As they, too state, the Tribute to Our Ancestors is not religious or political, and over the years people of all religions, traditions and political persuasions continue to be a part of the annual observance. The program is one of enlightenment, enrichment and love.
The program 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. It will begin with a libation ceremony by New Khemet Society, followed by a drum invocation led by Guyanese Master drummer Menes De Griot. As he explained, 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.
This year special drum tributes will be made to Dr. Mary Umolu, Dr Ivan Van Sertima, Bernie Mac, Cheryl Byron, John Hope Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Monica Chopperfield (Lady Guymine), and all other recent ancestors.
Some of the many singers, drummers, dancers, spoken word artists and other cultural artists schedule to perform are Kowteff, Chris Slaughter, Osagyefo, Shanto, Ngomo, MEC Drama Club, The Lola Lewis Creative & Performing Arts Studio, Sunu Thoissane & Orin Ayo Dance & Drum Ensemble, Something Positive, Abaddon & New Vibrations, 5B Plus, Congo Square Drummers, Utopia Pan Soul, Harmonica Man, Junior Culture, Gold Teeth Lance, Afari & Rock of Ages.
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. If you do not have a drum, bring a shekere, whistle, cowbell,or shac shac.
For more info contact 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).