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The 17th Annual Sunrise Ancestral Remembrance of the Middle Passage Ceremony, an informal, grassroots gathering with a profound purpose, will be held once again, beginning at 5:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 19, 2011, at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Drive, off Rickenbacker Causeway on Virginia Key (Park entrance is a left turn at the second traffic signal). The Ceremony, which always begins with a Native American blessing of the land, is not linked to any particular religion or ideology, and welcomes all to pause and remember both those who perished in the Middle Passage, or Atlantic “slave trade,” and those who survived to give life to our present and future generations.

The date this year coincides, appropriately, with Fathers Day, and with Juneteenth, the growing commemoration of June 19, 1865, when the last of the enslaved persons in the United States, in east Texas, received the news that the Civil War had ended and that they were now free. That date, more than that of the Emancipation Proclamation two-and-a-half years earlier, marks the true end of legalized slavery in the United States. The Ancestral Remembrance also takes on special significance this year because 2011 has been declared by the United Nations General Assembly to be the International Year for People of African Descent.

The location of the Ceremony is important as well, not only as the scenic site of Miami’s onetime only “Colored Beach” during the segregation era, but also because South Florida is rapidly emerging as an epicenter of Middle Passage and Underground Railroad history, escape routes, with such sites as Cape Florida on Key Biscayne and several in the Florida Keys.

The oceanfront Ceremony welcomes offerings of fruits, flowers, grains, nuts, and other appropriate items, which are carried out to the sea as a remembrance of the millions of human beings who were bought and sold like livestock in the barbaric “slave trade” and transported in horrific conditions for more than four centuries. The survivors not only built new nations with their skills, knowledge, and spirituality, but also give birth to new African peoples. As pointed out by the UNESCO International Slave Route Project, which commemorates the “trade” and its Abolition, those human beings, whose names have been lost to history, must never be forgotten.

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