August marks the launch of the “American Evolution: Virginia to America 1619-2019” program. Encompassing four years of programming meant to commemorate pivotal happenings that took place in 1619, including the arrival of the first recorded Africans to English North America and the emerging presence of women in the Virginia Colony, this program will offer a variety of events to engage and educate families, history buffs and curious individuals alike.
Organized by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, this year’s program will kick-off on August 20th in Fort Monroe, Virginia with 2019 Commemoration African Arrival Day — an event that will shine a spotlight on Virginia’s first African peoples, allowing visitors to travel through history and explore the lives of colonial Americans firsthand. The dynamic history of America’s colonial past will be told through diaspora-themed films, authentic African performances, onsite interpreters and living history guided tours, musical acts, and scholarly conversations. There will also be a number of interactive site tours around the scenic Continental Park, officiated by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, the event will also feature journalist and author Roland Martin as the keynote speaker. Here’s a bit more detail on a couple of the themes that will be present throughout the commemoration event:
- White Lion, Black People (The Boat You Don’t Know About) : While fabled vessels such as the Mayflower or Santa Maria are anchored to the maritime narrative of the “New World,” few know of the White Lion or the people it transported. Almost 400 years ago, the first Africans arrived in English North America at Point Comfort (now Fort Monroe), Virginia on this vessel. It’s largely believed that they did not arrive as slaves, but rather as indentured servants. African Arrival Day visitors will have many chances to learn more about these early Americans through unique first-person interpretations, art exhibits, and insightful conversations. Dr. Linda Heywood, a nationally recognized scholar on early-Africans in English North America, will serve as the program’s national history spokesperson as she works to advance awareness about this important part of U.S. history.
- Where Do Historical and Cultural Institutions Stand in Telling the Story of Black Lives?: Leading up to the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans to America in 2019, this year’s African Arrival Day commemoration aims to proactively relate our nation’s history to important themes still experienced today, while also encouraging positive dialogue among all Americans. Dr. Cassandra Newby-Alexander, a notable professor of history at Norfolk State University and co-chair of the 2019 Commemoration, as well as journalist Roland Martin will discuss contemporary issues related to race in America, while bridging current and historical motifs.
A of the highlight of the 2019 Commemoration African Arrival Day kick-off this weekend includes the Project 1619 African Diaspora Film Program, which will screen the film Bound — African vs African Americans on Aug. 21st at The American Theatre (125 E Mellen St.) at 5 p.m. The film explores the cultural and historical aspects of the African diaspora. “Bound speaks about how we connect to each other as a people, our experiences, each other, humanity, the great human story,” said Peres Owino, director of Bound. “It becomes how you understand the African and African-American story.” Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.
For more information on 2019 Commemoration African Arrival Day and the accompanying events, visit Hampton VA 2019 Commemorative Commission website.