Kabbah graces AMISTAD Program in Connecticut

 

 Monday September 19, 2005President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah  last Saturday in Connecticut graced a program commemorating the heroics of Sierra Leonean slaves  held captive onboard the Spanish ship Amistad who gained their freedom in a historic court battle in Connecticut 165 years ago.

According to the Hartford Courant newspaper , the program was held to celebrate the plight of the slaves on the ship and part played by abolutionists in Connecticut to seek their freedom. Kabbah said at the program  : “We are very grateful to you,. What Connecticut did for the cause of humanity should be emulated everywhere.”

The Hartford Courant report says in part : “About 100 people attended Saturday’s ceremony. Because of impending storms, it was moved from the Riverside Cemetery graveside of Foone, one of the captives, to the nearby First Church of Christ Congregational. Foone was drowned in the Farmington River while the former captives stayed in the town awaiting their return to Africa.”

“In the ceremonies, speakers invoked the spirits of blacks who had fought for freedom, and encouraged others not to forget the history that led to freedom.”

‘This is the heart of the tradition, to remember our ancestors and those who have gone before us ‘ said Julianna Rowe, whose husband, Sylvester Rowe, is Sierra Leone’s ambassador to the United Nations. ‘Those how have gone before us have blazed the trail we are following today.’

“For many who attended, the ceremonies provided a cultural education as well as an observance of freedom. Members of a musical group called Nzinga’s Daughters performed a spirited chant, “Meyango,” a West African funeral song in celebration of the dead; and another titled “E-Ajo-ajo,” wishing the deceased a safe journey to the spirit world.

In a ceremony called “libations,” participants placed a glass of water on the grave. “The tradition is that if some of the water, or liquor or whatever, is gone many hours later, the spirit you are invoking is accepting of the offer,” said Albert Senesie, an official in the Sierra Leone Community of Boston.

Several teenagers and children were part of the audience that joined in at the end of the service to sing ‘Amazing Grace.’ ”

‘My mother made me come to this because I have to do a report on the Amistad,’ said 11-year-old Calvin Brown, a Bridgeport resident who was visiting an aunt in Unionville. ‘It is kind of interesting,’ he whispered as he watched Senesie perform the libations ceremony.

Kabbah told the audience efforts are being made to formally acknowledge the historical significance of Sierra Leone and formalize the relationship with Connecticut and the ties between the two places formed by the Amistad revolt.

‘We are all members of the human family,” said Kabbah, repeatedly thanking Connecticut for its efforts. “When someone does something that astute, we should not forget that.’ ”

Ahmed Conteh  of New York attended the program . In an interview with COCORIOKO,  he said he felt proud to be a Sierra Leonean .The program, he went on, epitomised the rich history of Sierra Leone. He was impressed by the sentiments expressed about the bravado of the Sierra Leonean slaves.

 

Photo : President Kabbah at the Farmington gravesite of Foone,  meets  Mr. Charles Fitch , who acted the role of a member of Massachsetts Volunteer Infantry. Courtesy of the Hartford Courant.
Juliana Rowe performing a traditional libation ceremony in Mende fashion during a segment of the program at the First Church of Christ in Farmington.

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