The Deep Well of Black Lives

On August 25, 1619, the ship the White Lion arrived at Point Comfort, now known as Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton, Virginia. The ship contained enslaved Africans. This is the first recorded arrival of Africans in America. This year, this anniversary was commemorated at Fort Monroe as a day of healing and reconciliation. The community was asked to ring bells at 3:00 for 4 minutes, signifying the 400 years that have passed since that historic moment.

"How do we mark that first day, that hour, that minute
the White Lion docked at a point that would be of no comfort
to the twenty enslaved Africans chained in her bowels—
heralds of a coming storm of millions
whose bodies would break—through soil and rock to
build an America that could never fully embrace its progenitors.
How do we mark that day, that hour, that minute,
that foreshadowed the centuries of degradation, violence,
of attempts to separate the soul and spirit
from the deep well of Black lives.
How do we mark that day, that hour, that minute
four hundred years ago when the first drop of African sweat
co-mingled with the earth’s warmth, planting the seeds
of a new culture, a new way of life, a new heartbeat
into the fabric of a new world—
When the roots of freedom sparked deep underground
and spread, from generation to generation,
blossoming into resistance and resilience.
So today we will ring bells of sorrow, bells of grief,
bells of atonement.
We will ring out the ghosts of those lost in the middle passages,
lost to the whips and depravation, lost to the lynches and the bullets,
lost to the prisons and the chains of racism.
Today we will ring bells, so that tomorrow we may ring in freedom, ring in liberation, ring in peace."

About the Author

Kristen L. Harper

The Rev. Dr. Kristen L. Harper, senior minister of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable, Massachusetts, was the second woman of African descent called to a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church through the UUA settlement process. She is a contributor to … from the Margins: An Anthology of Meditations,...

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