On August 20, 1619 the first enslaved Africans arrived in the United States of America by ship and were unloaded in Jamestown, Virginia. There is a debate regarding the number of slaves on the ship that day; however, what cannot be disputed is that Africans and decedents of those enslaved Africans have been victims of racism and systemic oppression since that time. This period of exploitation represents more than 146,000 thousand days or 400 YEARS of subjugation. This cruelty, harassment, and persecution manifest itself in our daily lives from conception to the expulsion of our last breath. White privilege, which is enjoyed by most other Americans, has allowed the infliction of myriad punishments on African descendants simply because of the melanin of our skin.
There are historical moments in time that demand action, and the time is now for unity within the African American Diaspora. On August 20, 2019 we should take to the streets by the millions to celebrate our accomplishments and speak out against injustice. Institutional racism is not only codified in our Constitution, but it is also embedded in the very fabric of our entire social system. It is deeply entrenched in the minds of every citizen and in the soul of the entire country.
As a country, we are aware, conscious and complicit in the plight of African American people. However, the degree of racism on individuals can be seen daily on different levels. There are two factors present in each instance: (1) the lack of a moral compass of white America and (2) learned behavior.
For African Americans to say nothing or do nothing on August 20, 2019 dishonors our ancestors. However, our remembrance must begin with the Africans who were captured by those Europeans in central Africa. Forced to travel to the seaports, the long and treacherous journey was filled with rape and murder by the captors. Those who did not escape the journey embarked at the doors-of-no-return at ports like Elmina and Ghana. Millions of Africans died during the Middle Passage and therefore it would be disgraceful of African Americans to forget about the millions of Africans who survived the Middle Passage and were enslaved from birth to the grave. It would be shameful to forget about those who were raped, lynched, and treated like animals; stripped of their humanity, dignity, and their culture. Once freed from physical enslavement, they were victimized during emancipation and placed into internment camps where they died by the thousands after the Civil War at places like Natchez, Mississippi (Devil’s Punchbowl).
How can we not honor those who have been forgotten in time and from our history books? They were leaders and freedom fighters who were murdered for slave rebellions and uprising in a never-ending pursuit of freedom. How can we not honor and mourn those who lost their lives in white riots that destroyed communities like Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921? How can we not honor the thousands of African Americans who died fighting in every war that this country has had, yet we continue to be treated as second class citizens on a daily basis? (Continue Part Two next week)