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I AM MORE Pledges to Remember

A. McNeil

Israelite youth leaders from Canada, New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Georgia, and England convened at Fort Monroe Monument Park in Fort Monroe, Virginia and took to the stage in song, dance, poetry, drama, and speech to commemorate the 400-year anniversary of the first enslaved Africans to arrive in Virginia in 1619. The I AM MORE youth event is the youth cultural arm of the RememberThe400 campaign, an initiative created by Elder Shadrock Porter to celebrate the achievements of slave captives and their descendants as well as to set the stage to move forward and promote racial reconciliation and healing. "We are here today to bring to light our stinking past," Porter told his listening audience.

Porter reminded listeners of the times when black people stuck together. "There was a time when we needed each other's body, not to use or abuse, but to keep us warm in the cold and dark belly of a ship." Porter stated. He challenged the audience to ask why black people have suffered more than any other nation on God's earth and why black people were so silent regarding their suffrage. Members of the listening audience began to tear-up when Porter stressed the importance of remembering the past which included being packed like sardines in the belly of slave ships, the humiliation of the auction block, bearing the marks of ownership by the branded iron, standing naked while white grown men stared at the bare buttocks of slaves, the tearing of flesh by the whip, mothers who were raped and sisters who were robbed of their virginity, brothers and fathers who hung from oak trees like the strange fruits blues singers often sang about.

Perhaps one of the most provocative ideas put forth by Porter was the notion that the month of August should be endorsed as Black History Month. "Why are we still embracing February as Black History Month? What can we tell our children about February?" Porter questioned. Porter pointed out that February was the shortest, coldest wintery month. "We are children of the sand, the sea, and sun," he exclaimed. "We need a day of our own choice with meaning to our history."

The crowd applauded as Porter highlighted the possibility of August as the new Black History Month. Porter noted that it was the 24th of August in 1619 when a Dutch slave ship brought and sold 20 Nigers to the American colony of Virginia. It was the 7th of August in 1833 when the British House of Commons raised and passed an act freeing ex-slaves. It was the 28th of August in that same year that the act received royal approval. And it was the 1st of August in 1834 that the act was made official law and extended to the British colonies. One thing Porter did not mention was the fact that Marcus Garvey was also born in the month of August. "When we say never again, we must work hard to prevent it," Porter asserted. "We must let the world know the real meaning and definition of slavery. There has never been an entire nation enslaved and brought to Egypt again in ships," Porter pointed out to a crowd of several hundred.

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