For the 27th year, as their counterparts across the world engaged in similar activities, hundreds of people in the District joined the African Diaspora Ancestral Commemoration Institute (ADACI) in remembering those who endured and succumbed to the trauma of the Middle Passage, which many Pan-Africanists refer to as the Maafa, or African Holocaust.
Events of last weekend, including a river walk and ancestral healing ceremony at Anacostia Park in Southeast, culminated with a lecture by political scientist Lisa Aubrey at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Northwest.
Her June 9 presentation on Sunday centered on Bimbia, a onetime slave-trade village located off the coast of Cameroon.
“The ancestors become our guide in writing about the present, past and future. Our past is always in our present. When you kill the ancestors, you kill yourself,” said Aubrey, author of “In Search of Bimbia: Transatlantic Slavery and African Diasporan Rememory.”
Much of Aubrey’s lecture to the roughly 50 people in attendance highlighted Bimbia’s significance as a major source of Africans brought to parts of what’s often designated as the New World, including Brazil. As she read portions of “In Search of Bimbia,” released last year, Aubrey challenged a notion that continental Africans didn’t suffer from the slave trade by alluding to the significant brain drain that debilitated the Motherland throughout much of the 19th century.
“Our work is important existential work that’s for our ancestor, ourselves and generations to come,” Aubrey said on Sunday. “We must ensure that we tell our stories. There is a historical connection to our past and future. This reinforces across time and spatially across planes that we are African people.”
ADACI, a nonprofit organization in existence since the early 1990s, themed this year’s international commemoration “We Remember, Return, Recommit, Renew: 400 Years After the Enslavement of Africans in North America.” Similar gatherings took place in Annapolis, Boston and New Orleans, as well as Barbados, Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, Jamaica, Nigeria, Panama and Trinidad.
On Saturday, people of various ages donning white shirts, gowns and headwraps converged at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast for cultural presentations and doling out of awards to 10 elders, including longtime Washington Informer photographer Roy Lewis.
Participants later walked along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue to the Anacostia River. Under the 11th Street Bridge, they drummed and chanted heavily during a healing ceremony, in honor of enslaved Africans who crossed over from Maryland into the District for freedom shortly after D.C. gained emancipation in 1862.
Royal representatives from Nigeria and Cameroon also gave credence to the weekend of ancestral commemorations. In his comments Sunday, Cameroonian ancestral master drummer Joseph Soh Ngwa acknowledged them before heralding the gathering of Africans from across the diaspora as the realization of a paradigm shift.
“The energy has been intense and has gone through leaps and bounds,” said Ngwa, also an awardee. “The volume has turned up, and not only in the Pan-African world.
“Take this moment seriously — there is something happening that the ancestors are ushering,” he continued in speaking specifically to the five white people in attendance at the Smithsonian. “There is no such thing as Black and white — we are all African unless you’re suffering from mental retardation. We’re from Africa, but come to D.C. and still have Africa in us. We cannot fit into someone else’s paradigm and make no apologies.”