Slavery Remembrance Day

Sugarcane

Sugarcane

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.

Cheese Pumpkin Pie

1 lb. of cheese pumpkin (2 cups)*

9 in. unbaked pie shell

3 eggs

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/8 tsp. ground clove

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, beat eggs slightly. Add pumpkin, sugars, spices, salt and beat until well blended. Slowly add milk and cream. Pour into shell and bake 60 to 70 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack.

*This recipe really shines with homemade pumpkin. Therefore, look for Cheese Pumpkins (sandy or white colored). They are officially called Long Island Cheese Pumpkins or Cucurbita Moschata (scientific name). Prepare the pumpkin by cutting it in half, and scooping out the seeds. Then, oven roast it in a shallow pan with enough liquid to cover bottom. (Add more water as needed). Allow the squash to cook until soft without browning (approximately 45 minutes; check with a fork). Allow the cooked squash to completely cool, then puree in a food processor. Any left over puree can be frozen for up to six months. Yes, it may be a bit more work, but the difference in taste and the smell in your house will definitely welcome in the holidays.

Photos courtesy of 123rf.com

The Holidays Approacheth

Is Thanksgiving next week?  My head is spinning, because I just got up on April 30th, and hit the “public” button on my website.  At least, I thought I did.  Now, Memorial Day, 4th of July, the summer, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, and finally Veteran’s Day have all passed.  Is it age?  I remember the old folk saying to me as a young woman, just wait until you’re older, then the time really does fly.  I think when one is younger, they are so busy living and enjoying, they aren’t cognizant of time’s passage.  Of course, that’s an entirely different topic; one for another day.  As a high-ranking member of the Procrastinator’s Club, I have to say – each year I plan to do my gift shopping during the summer months and every time, there I am running around all of December trying to get it done.  Why don’t I ever learn?  But, for this upcoming holiday, I will take my two days to do some much-needed resting and allow someone else to do the cooking.

Moving on, has anyone reading this ever watched the show Love/Lust?  No, it’s not about that – it’s broadcast on The Sundance Channel, and each week they feature one other thing after which we on this planet love or lust.  The other day they discussed comfort foods.  The episode began with Mac & Cheese, then moved on to Pizza, Soul Food, Hamburgers, and finally the infamous Jewish Deli.  I said that to say, the holidays are a time when we all look for that familiar spread – each ethnicity to their own, and although some years I have stepped away from the traditional; I do find it kind of mandatory to enjoy my ethnic comforts at least once a year.  Even as I write this, I have to smile – I get giddy when I think of the Thanksgiving and Christmas eats, and depending on your nationality it could instead include Chanukah, Kwanzaa or whatever other day that’s celebrated in this time frame.  But these really are times when it’s almost obligatory to present the classic pacifiers.

However, food or not, “Tis the season” for getting together with family and friends –  making your way through some crowded airport or stuck in traffic on one or more of the many highways and byways; all to spend time with your folks.  Not to get off topic, but I just need to add a complaint.  I think every year industrialization pushes us one day – two days – one week further away from the beginning of the festivities by shoving their time clock in our faces.  I don’t know about where you live, but the local Rite-Aid by me, had December 25th items in the store the week of Halloween.  Someone left a joke on Facebook of a turkey screaming at Santa – “Okay, Fat Boy, get back in your sleigh and wait your turn,” (something to that effect).  Although, somewhat crude, I found it right on time, and a turkey after my own heart.  Over the years, statistics have proven that this approaching celebration is the busiest of all, since at Christmas most people are home with their children.  So, right now take a deep breath, slow down, enjoy the scenery, and let’s operate on our own time clocks.  Now, although it’s a whole week away – have a happy.

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Photos courtesy of iStockPhoto