Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sankofa...Learn from the past

Yesterday's trip to NYC didn't yield as many photos as I would have liked, but the experience itself was still invaluable. While I really liked the Bodies exhibit, the best part, I thought (other than Sylvia's Soul Food in Harlem) was the African Burial Ground. Discovered by construction workers while building the Ted Weiss Federal Building in 1991, the African Burial Ground was a place set apart from the city for Africans to bury their dead. It is the oldest known cemetary in North America. Slaves were not allowed to bury their own in church cemetaries within the city limits. Some 419 remains have been found and re-buried properly on the grounds of the federal building and it is estimated that about 15,000 remain below a 5 block area of lower Manhattan.

Interestingly enough, I took this picture before finding out this information...now, to see the kid's feet on the sidewalk holds a whole new meaning as I contemplate the unnamed dead beneath us at that moment. This bronze statue, entitled Africa Rising, shows an African woman looking west towards slavery, her wings clipped back, stripped of her liberty while the back of her looks east, to Africa, her wings spread wide open in joyous praise of freedom.
Sankofa means learn from the past...I certainly learned much about this little known national landmark. But more importantly, I re-learned an important truth...that we are all family, members of one race, the human race. Those who have gone before me are my brothers and sisters who suffered and died and were left uncared for. Today I honor with my photos both the dead and the living that continue to suffer and die and are left uncared for. May we all be reminded of our responsibility to care for others, our brothers and sisters, in a broken world. Sankofa...learn from the past.


Linda said...

Great post. Great images to go with it. It obviously had quite an impact on you, and hopefully on the young people as well.

Framing Images and Memories said...

Terrific history and cultural story to support the images. Im currently reading a book that tells why all these racial events happened and how some groups in our world started with less than others, etc. It ties all the way to the beginning of man and geography..anyway, very interesting. Your students are really learning about their past and that is always invaluable.

trishalyn said...

Terrific photos added insight and emotion to your very meaningful writing. Thank you for bringing attention to an unknown side of NYC. Super post, Jayme!!!

trishalyn said...

P.S. I loved the sepia tone of your images!

Bridget said...

wonderful and heatfelt tribute!
if only we could always learn from the past.
lovely images.

philmary said...

In your quote from Isaiah the Jewish people who have suffered will "in their rightoeusness be come like great oaks". The Black experience in America has hardly been enobelling for these people and I do not see and redemptive value in their suffering.Rather
your post does point out how utterly destitute Africa Americans were of the simplest mercies from the society which they found themselves in.

Yes we must remember those who have suffered and have been uncared for

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