Yesterday I attended a Black History Month Service of Remembrance which took my breath away. It was held to honour our enslaved ancestors in a way I have never seen done before. Many of us accept that the enslavement of Africans by mainly (but not exclusively) white Europeans and Americans was cruel, exploitative and , which is probably why so many people want to forget about it, to ‘draw a line under it and move on’.
This remembrance service, held in the Holy Trinity Church, an Anglican church in the heart of a black community, to a different view. ‘Today we celebrate the strength, courage, perseverance and heroic actions of enslaved Africans… bringing some restitution to this painful and enduring legacy.’ The programme was clear about the purpose of the service.
In a very well thought out service the ancestors were honored with drumming (Chester Morrison) in song, (Negro Spirituals sung by Byron Jackson) poetry, (Maya Angelou’s Arise and Claude Mackay’s If We Must Die) sermon, (delivered by Robert Beckford, an exquisite mix of politics and religion) music (Rivers of Babylon and many others) and dance. (The whole congregation).
The Reverend Canon Eve Pitts began by asking us to use both hearts and head in our
remembering. The service was a combination of history, current day legacy of slavery, praise and honour for those who kept our African heritage alive even as they died, and a celebration of the fact that because of them we are here.
It was electric! The service made us laugh, cry, sing, dance, toast, and eat the delicious food that was prepared. The ancestors could not fail to feel honoured. I felt honoured to be a part of it.