In 1991, I was living in New York when the burial place of Africans who were enslaved and free were discovered at what is now 290 Broadway in downtown Manhattan. Their remains were buried from the late 1600’s to the 1794. It is only recently in 2013 that I am fully understanding and appreciating the African Burial Ground in the context of a long history of Africans and people of African descent . . . my history . . . our history.
The National Parks Service offers a broad experience at the monument including an indoor video and exhibition at the museum, and an outdoor memorial.
Some of the focus is on the spiritual implications of a people in bondage holding onto their humanity by burying loved ones in the midst of oppression and violence. Only humans bury their dead. The curators offer insightful social and cultural context to the lives of people of African descent including how some labored and family lives.
Learn more reading Audrey Peterman’s “African Burial Ground National Monument: Peace at Last” in Our True Nature: Finding a Zest of Life in the National Park System.
Photos by Dianne Glave
I really had to practice some self control when I arrived at Laguardia Airport in Queens outside New York City. Super Shuttle took an hour to arrive at the airport. Shame. And the driver was no bargain even with GPS. Shame. He almost left the back door open. I visualized my luggage, strewn across the BQE-Brooklyn Queens Expressway.
I did look to my left and saw soccer players playing under the dark of night lit by powerful lights. What a pleasure.
We took the Kosciusko Bridge into the Lower East Side. Darkness . . . Illusion of brightness in the bright lights.
Back to the driver. He jumped over a stop and had to double back. I really wanted to get in the passenger seat and direct him. We were a few blocks from my hotel so I grabbed up my bags knowing I was a few moments from freedom. I yelled to the driver, “There’s my hotel on the left.”
I jumped out of the van and yelled at the other passengers, “Good luck, ya’all!”
They looked at me like frightened birds, appearing as though their last hope had ejected from the shuttle.
So here I am back in my homeland . . . bright lights, big city . . . Singing a different song having lived in so many places . . . But so quickly returning to the core of my New York self.