“The significance of this property is not just about Black history, but American history,” said Glen Oder, executive director of the Fort Monroe Authority. Oder hopes the fort and surrounding beach, where Africans first arrived in the British colonies, will become a place of pilgrimage for all Americans. To attract more visitors, the Fort Monroe Authority is currently planning a new African Landing Memorial (scheduled for completion in 2026), which will be part of a larger African Landing Park overlooking the Chesapeake Bay .
But for now, it is the sound of the djembe drum during Africa’s annual D-Day festivities that draws descendants of slaves to the place where they first landed. Just before dawn on the second day of the event, more than 100 black people gathered at Outlook Beach near Fort Monroe to participate in an Africa Cleanup ceremony designed to help connect black Americans to their ancestors.
According to Robin “Osunnike Anke” Scott-Manna, co-founder of the Institute of Whole Life Healing who led the ceremony, the ritual often triggers an intense reaction in participants. As more people participated in the ritual, the beating of the djembe intensified and some people burst into tears.
According to Scott-Manna, this “letting go” is a release from the anger and pain carried for so many years.
“We need to know the truth about who we are, why we are, and rewrite our lives moving forward,” Scott-Manna said. “It’s time for all the pain, suffering and trauma to be transmuted…this is not our original story.”
Rediscovering America is a BBC travel series that tells inspiring stories about forgotten, overlooked or misunderstood aspects of the United States, flipping the script on familiar history, cultures and communities.
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