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Posted under: News

400 Children Gathered In Philadelphia To Commemorate The Arrival Of The First Enslaved Africans

“Commiseration Commemoration Day” communicates the history of America to the next generation.

A ceremony was held at the Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in honor of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans 400 years ago on Sunday.

Keith Collins, a spiritual leader at the Church of the Overcomer, led 25 children from Trainer, Delaware County, on a 20-mile journey to Independence Mall.

The children gathered with about 400 other Black children in Philadelphia as they marched across a stage in Center City. They carried decorated signs representing each year since the first slave ship arrived at the Chesapeake Bay in 1619. 

Coard wanted the children to be the center of the event as a reminder of the large amount of enslaved children brought across the Atlantic. 

“This isn’t just Black history, this is all history,” Collins told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “This is the history that shaped the world. And until we understand the things that put this system in place, nothing will improve.”

The celebration was organized by Michael Coard. Coard is a member of Philadelphia’s Avenging the Ancestors Coalition, an organization made up of historians, attorneys, community activists, religious leaders etc. 

The coalition named the ceremony, “Commiseration Commemoration Day” which was hosted near the President's House, a memorial serving as a reminder of George Washington's dependence on slaves.

“We’re talking about slavery and its residue — which is the Black codes, which is sharecropping, convict leasing, Jim Crow, federally ignored/sanctioned lynching, gerrymandering, redlining, mass incarceration, police brutality,” he said.

Coard hopes the event can effectively communicate knowledge to the next generation about the history of America, the triumphs of their ancestors and hope of a bright future for the Black community. 

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Shelby is an arts and culture writer currently based in the Bay Area