In continuing the Black History theme, today I’d like to discuss a holiday that I vaguely remembered. However, I did experience a jolt to a neuron or two when I began research on Slave Museums. Sometime in the late ’90s I recall talk of Slavery Remembrance Day, but as quickly as it became a topic it slipped from sight. I had planned another post for today, but the more I thought of a holiday to remember long-lost ancestors, of course it became more urgent. How many people in this country have heard of this day? If you have, please let me know by leaving a comment. I’m imagining (maybe) people with school aged children may be more aware than the remainder of us. How did this shake my recollection? I came upon a website for the Merseyside Maritime Museum in Liverpool, England, and The International Slavery Museum connected to it. In fact, there is a whole website dedicated to the issue, noting the celebration on August 23rd. Now, considering all the talk of trading began on those shores, how apropos. But, since the landing-place for many of these souls and the remainder of their lives were lived in the New World (America) – since ALL of us African-Americans are their descendants, wouldn’t you think it might catch a higher up’s attention to make a holiday on the National level?
Now, in case you were not aware, the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization (UNESCO), a specific agency of the United Nations, initiated this day. So, you ask why August 23rd? On the night of the 22nd and 23rd in 1791, in what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic, an uprising took place that would play a crucial role in ending the transatlantic slave trade. In my exploration I also found someone complaining that the day should be called “International Day of African Resistance Against Enslavement.” The person criticizing the name simply thought Slavery Remembrance Day proved a misnomer. In any event, let me reiterate by saying this holiday has been around since the late ’90s. When you consider an estimated 15 – 20 million men, women and children were plucked, wouldn’t that alone warrant a day of remembrance in this country? Why has our government not taken any further steps in nationalizing the day. For instance, instead of a budget to raise awareness on – oh, I don’t know…the effects of cow manure on the ozone, why not earmark those funds to Slavery Remembrance Day.
Now, I know many of you may simply click “exit” from my website, and you’re free to do just that, but these topics are dear to my heart. I understand that Liverpool: the United Kingdom, has apologized for their participation in the slave trade, even though some consider it – too little, too late or simply lip service. In 2008, Congress, “issued an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow segregation laws.” If you are black American and reading this, did you know that? I have asked a few of my friends and family; they weren’t aware either. In thinking about this apology, I don’t believe a “hackneyed day in congress” admission of guilt will suffice. Were you there? They didn’t invite me to the floor that day. I originally thought, receiving a letter from our government would help – for starters. But, the more I rolled it over in my mind, the more I realized – what good would that do?
What about that first person – the one seated in a gentlemen’s club somewhere in England, who brought up how they could increase their sugar cane harvest, and the one on this side of the pond who agreed with him. My husband says land would be the only thing he’d accept. I, seriously don’t know what would fix the matter. But, moving on, I found a name I’m certain many of you here on these shores haven’t heard before – Eugine Lange or as he’s now known – Mohammed Khalil, and an excerpt from a familiar poem known throughout England, I’m sure. This poem, titled “Slavepool,” recounts Liverpool’s role in the slave trade:
“Branded like beasts who feel no pain
And all for Merrye Englande’s gain
But England’s Changing-Rearranging
Only we can clear our Name
Growing! Knowing! Trade Winds are blowing!
Things’ll nevva be the same.”
I thought I could get through this post without mentioning the second human nightmare of our society. Yes, I speak of the Holocaust. If you remember, Adolf Hitler thought his work had been divinely appointed, because no person or country could seem to put a stop to his lunacy. We don’t know why God allowed these atrocities, and we may never know. Like Mr. Khalil’s poem – although powerful, and yes we may be able to clear our name – but as God kept Hitler’s heart hardened, you have to know, it’s only God who can soften that same heart or for that matter, any heart. Thank you for listening.