Residents observe date of first Africans in city
Community members gathered for a sprayer service honoring African Landing
Commemoration Day at Fort Monroe in August 2012. Pictured above, from left to
right, are Chadra Pittman Walke, Baba Awo Adeyemi and Larry Gibson playing
instruments in from of the historic first landing marker where the first documented
Africans arrived in Virginia at Point Comfort in August 1619.
By By Andrea Castillo
Hampton Roads, VA
August 21, 2013
About 100 people gathered Tuesday at Fort Monroe’s Continental Park at the site where the first African slaves arrived to British-occupied Virginia nearly 400 years ago.
In 1619, a Dutch ship carrying “20 and odd” slaves from Angola arrived at Point Comfort — where Fort Monroe is now — and the captain of the ship traded them to the British for a bushel of corn, said Calvin Pearson, founder of Project 1619, the Tuesday’s African Landing Day event. Pearson’s organization aims to raise awareness about the history of the first Africans in the area.
The city of Hampton already has declared Aug. 20 African Landing Day, and Pearson seeks to have a national monument marking the occasion built by its 400th anniversary in 2019.
“From those ‘20 and odd’ Africans … those Africans are the ones who planted the seeds for America,” Pearson said.
Representatives from the Angolan embassy in Washington, D.C., also at tended the event and received a greeting from Hampton City Councilman Donnie R. Tuck.
Sofia S. Pegado da Silva, minister counselor at the Angolan embassy, also taught the crowd how to say “good evening” in Portuguese, which is spoken in the African nation.
The event also was put together by The Sankofa Projects, an organization that hosts events around the world that recognize Africans who died during the trans-Atlantic slave trade, including an event at Buckroe Beach conducted each June, said Chadra Pittman Walke, who is with the organization. Other sponsors include the city of Hampton and Fort Monroe Authority.
The event also included a prayer from Khemetic tradition of ancient Egypt, a drum procession and dances performed by girls who are part of local dance group Ubuntu Dance Collective.
Hampton resident Ghana Smith and her 14-year-old son were among those who attended the event.
“It’s important for my son to learn the history of the city outside the four walls of the classroom,” Smith said.