Black Lives Matter: A fitting time to create a memorial on history of slavery
When does the dehumanisation end? Folks of goodwill must reflect on their complacency in the continual physical, political, social and economic lynching of black people.
The Enslaved African Memorial Committee (EAMC) seeks to confront the issue of race by educating the public about the long and complex history of slavery and its lasting impact on American society.
In the State of New Jersey, where slavery was a recognised institution from the time of its first settlement by European colonists, not much is written about that history.
The EAMC will work diligently to address that omission. The mission and goals of the EAMC at this critical time in our history directly align with the outcry and protest we have seen displayed across the nation and the world at the senseless, and brutal killing of George Floyd.
Floyd’s death is yet another display of the callous malfeasance and savage acts of violence that are committed against black people daily.
The work to be done to combat the cycle of ignorance, bias and systemic racism that permeates our culture is never ending. The criminalisation of the black community that subjects us to the status of second-class citizens is a war in which we remain defenceless.
We witnessed the murder of a young man, Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery’s only crime, it seems, was that he dared jog in the “wrong” neighbourhood in broad daylight and was shot to death by men of ill will for doing so. If that were not enough for the populace to witness via video, Arbery’s death was followed by the killing of a young black woman, Breonna Taylor.
Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was murdered in her home while asleep in her bed. She was shot multiple times at the hands of negligent and incompetent law enforcement officers who mistakenly took her home as that of a crime suspect.
These horrific and incomprehensible killings are preceded only by others before them which are too numerous to mention here.
The work to be done to combat the endless cycle of ignorance and racial bias that permeates our culture and that is normalised by our society is a long, tedious and arduous journey.
The Civil War ended slavery in America but still the descendants of the enslaved continue post-slavery to fight unabated for their basic human rights. If ever there was a time to create a just, humane and moral society, it would be now. The future lies with us and our freedom will not be denied.
The goal of the EAMC memorial in Bergen County, New Jersey is to honour and preserve the memory of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade and for all those who fought and died in the struggle to gain freedom and equality in America and throughout the diaspora.
This memorial will be a first of its kind in the State of New Jersey. It will provide the public with opportunities at the adjacent public library to learn more about the history of slavery and its lingering effects.
Through the use of archival documents that include primary artefacts, oral histories, art, cultural and educational programmes, we offer to share and celebrate our stories. The memorial site will be a place for healing, discussion, contemplation and reflection.
It is our hope and desire that this memorial will empower, enlighten, and educate the public and specifically young people and future generations about the continuum of the African-American struggle for freedom.
We should never forget the stolen lives of Emmett Till, Martin Luther King, Jr, Malcolm X, Phillip Pannel, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Fred Hampton, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Sandra Bland, Medgar Evers, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many more. George Floyd now joins this long and painful list of black people whose lives were abruptly ended and futures sacrificed at the whim of the state. How will it end? It’s up to us. #WeCan’tBreathe
* King-Butler is the executive director for the Enslaved African Memorial Committee (EAMC), which was established in 2015 by residents in Teaneck, New Jersey. It proposes to erect a memorial to commemorate the history of the Africans that were enslaved in the region.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.