If the bones and souls of the African Burial Ground could talk, there would be laughter ringing beneath the streets of Manhattan today. The 20,000 buried there, awakened and shivering with the vibration of joyful drums overhead, would call out to each other to listen to the tread of thousands of New York City’s children learning of their existence and celebrating their lives in a centuries-old African Ring Shout, that stunned passers-by as the City prepares for the African Burial Ground memorial to be built.
If they could, these souls would shed tears at the prayers to them echoing through the canyons they had made possible through the streets they had cleared and laid the cobblestones on end to end.
They would hear and feel the love reaching into the ground, passing through the layers of fill and concrete. Passing through like a spiritual radiation permeating the earth. They will listen to the laughter of the young people and know that at last their stories will be told. That they have outlived their oppressors and that they have triumphed after all. That the centuries of being scorned and forgotten have passed. That they will never be forgotten again.
This is the new chapter in their spiritual history being written by men and women committed to their memory, begun by the descendants who stopped bulldozers with the warrior from Brooklyn, Sonny Carson, leading the way.
They would marvel that this chapter is being written by men who look like them, with the power to move a nation to do great things. Donald Murphy Deputy Director of the National Parks Service, saying that he is “confident, extremely confident, that this site will become a national historic monument and it will be managed by the National Park Service for posterity for this and future generations.” He echoed the words of Stephen Perry Administrator of the U. S. General Services Administration, who said that “as a part of the consultation process, the Secretary of the Interior, is reviewing the site to determine whether to recommend to the President of the United States, that it in fact be declared a National Monument.”
They were speaking at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the African Burial Ground Exterior memorial and the presentation of the final memorial design of the Ancestral Libation Chamber by architect Rodney Leon.
In his remarks on the occasion Howard Dodson, Director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture said that “With the construction of this permanent memorial, made in granite, not to be washed away by water, we will mark this spot. It will say we are a part of the history of the city and it will be here to tell generations to come of our presence.
“We had the misfortune, and several generations before us had the misfortune of forgetting what our ancestors have done in this city. This monument will be the instrument to ensure that we never forget again.”
Construction is to be completed in the Fall of 2006 and there will be held a series of celebrations and the lines to pass through the “Door of Return” of the Libation Chamber, will stretch from the newly-named African Burial Ground Way to the streets of Brooklyn and Harlem and around the world.