The Moravian Church in Denmark and several Danish citizens have released a statement apologizing for the atrocities of slavery in the Virgin Islands, as its former territory reflects on the Transfer Centennial and 100 years under the American flag.
“Together with several other citizens of Denmark, we declare to be troubled about a deeply regrettable past in which the forefathers of the population on the U.S. Virgin Islands were enslaved and against their will were forced to labor for masters, many of whom came from Denmark. For this, although belated, we apologize in the spirit of love,” Rev. Dr. Jørgen Bøytler, pastor of the Moravian Church in Denmark, stated in the one-page statement. “The amount of human sorrow, pain and despair caused by the slavery cannot be imagined. The lack of respect of the human dignity of the people, who against their will were enslaved, is not comprehensible for us today. The injustice caused by our forefathers to the forefathers of the population of the islands is inexcusable.”
The statement, expected to be signed by church officials and private Danish citizens during worship services in Denmark on Sunday, was received by Senate President Myron D. Jackson and distributed to Moravian churches throughout the territory by Memorial Moravian pastor Dr. Winelle Kirton-Roberts. Those churches are expected to present it to their congregations. Jackson will read the apology at the Memorial Moravian Church on St. Thomas in a special Centennial Service at 8:45 a.m. on Sunday.
“The moral compass has been set straight by the Moravian Church’s apology to the people of the Virgin Islands for the role that Denmark played in the transatlantic slave trade as well as in the institution of slavery,” Jackson said. “I think it is appropriate that this apology comes on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Transfer. I commend the Moravian Church in Denmark for taking a bold step in this apology. Its message will resonate throughout our region and the world because it is the right step towards healing and reconciliation.”
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If you truly knew what the N-word meant to our ancestors, you’d NEVER use it. It was used and still can be used to make us hate ourselvesBy Elliot Booker — 4 years ago
A few years ago, I read slave narratives to explore the lives of black agricultural workers after the end of the Civil War. The narratives came from the Federal Writers Project of the Works Progress Administration, a program that employed researchers from 1936 to 1938 to interview former enslaved people, producing more than 2,300 narratives that, thankfully, reside online and are fully searchable.
Those whom the law defined as property recounted various unique human experiences — their daily horrors and monotonies, how they freed themselves or learned of their emancipation, the surge of exhilaration upon securing freedom, and how they endured life on the edges of a white supremacist society in the decades thereafter.
As I pored over the narratives, I was struck less by their experiences, as heartrending as they were, than by how their experiences sculpted their self-perceptions. The best explanation of what I gleaned, what social scientists called internalized oppression, describes the psychological trauma that ensues when a person from a stigmatized group believes those negative stigmas.
White folk indoctrinated them into accepting their supposed inferiority. These narratives illustrate the success of this campaign of mental terrorism, and no word conveyed the depth of this internalized oppression more than “nigger.” Now, whenever I hear the epithet, a visual and emotional representation of the heinous process by which a people — my people — were induced to think they were less than trespasses into my thoughts. After years of habitual use of “nigger,” I banished it from my speech to honor the humanity that many never saw in themselves.
The internalized oppression revealed itself in various ways. Sometimes the former enslaved people clearly, perhaps subconsciously, considered themselves subhuman, just like how their former owners regarded them. Jim Allen, for example, dubbed himself his master’s “pet nigger boy” and a “stray” and thought himself privileged because he could sleep on the floor beside his master’s bed. That he likened himself to a fortunate mangy mutt or frisky feline crushed me. The word laid bare a worldview that held black folk as a lower order of being, as when Irene Robertson claimed her former master Mr. Sanders was mean, in part, because “he beat his wife like he beat a nigger woman.”
“Nigger” also signaled antipathy toward fellow black folk. After the end of slavery, Mattie Mooreman went north to Wisconsin with a white family for whom she worked. Members of the family wanted her to go to the circus to watch a black boy’s performance. She told her interviewer, “Guess they thought it would be a treat to me to see another niggah. I told ’em, ‘Law, don’t you think I see lots, lots more than I wants, every day when I is at home?’ ” But read how she talks about the family’s baby, whom she constantly watched over, fearing, irrationally, someone would kidnap him: “No matter what time they come home they’d find me there. ‘Why don’t you go in your bedroom and lie down?’ they’d ask me. ‘No,’ I’d tell ’em, ‘somebody might come in, and they would have to get that baby over my dead body.” Her eyes fixated on the white baby, but she saw too many niggers.
A barrage of dispiriting uses of the word bloodied me as I combed through the narratives. “The Ku Klux kept the niggers scared.” “The Ku Klux did a whole lot to keep the niggers away from the polls. …” Slaves owned by “nice” masters are repeatedly called “free niggers.” “Niggers ain’t got no sense. Put ’em in authority and they gits so uppity.” “I’se just a poor old nigger waitin’ for Jesus to come and take me to heaven.” Slave traders are called “nigger traders.” Defiant enslaved people required the service of a “niggerbreaker.” “Nigger dogs” aided the recapture of those who escaped.
Perhaps more depressing, ironically, was that circumstances sometimes led them to opt against calling a black person a nigger. William Porter stated that “some of the Tennessee niggers was called free niggers. There was a colored man in Pulaski, Tennessee, who owned slaves.” A black man who kept others in bondage — he’s a “colored man,” yet those who were owned were “niggers.” I instantly thought of a moment from the O.J.: Made in America documentary when a white woman who saw black people talking to Simpson uttered, “Look at those niggers sitting with O.J.” Simpson delights in hearing this because she “knew I wasn’t black. She saw me as O.J.” Porter’s outlook matched that of both the racist white woman and the unspeakably racially deranged O.J.
Since reading those narratives, I’ve noticed this mindset when perusing the remarks of freed people in other contexts. For example, before the trial of Rufus Martin, a black man who stood accused of the 1903 murder of Charles Swackhammer, a woman whom the Fort Worth Star-Telegram referred to as an “old negress who occupied a front seat in the court room” bellowed:
It’s the white people that is to blame. They know that they got to make niggahs work or they ain’t no good and they know as long as they ‘low niggah men to loaf aroun’ low down saloons they ain’t goin’ to work. This man come from a good niggah fam’ly — one of the best I knows of, but the p’lice ‘lowed him to loaf aroun’ without workin’, and to drink and gamble, till he just got to be no good and thought he didn’t have to work. The p’lice ought to raid them low down niggah saloons every day and every night till they make every blessed one of the niggah toughs go to work or else send ’em all to the county road. Them saloons is what makes bad niggahs and the white folks is to blame for it, ’cause they let ’em run.
That Martin sported a reddish mustache, light hair and skin so bright he could pass for white almost certainly colored her perception that Martin came from a “good niggah fam’ly.”
Black folk rescued the word from the smoldering debris of a virulently racist land, reclaimed it and renovated the slur into a celebration of black comradery — defenders of contemporary usage of “nigger” repeat this. When this tale collides with reality, however, it shatters as a misreading of history — the current use of the word is owed less to white folk calling black folk “nigger” and more to black folk who thought they were niggers and said so. Black people have hurled the infamous word for nearly as long as white folk have. It exists within black speech now because it existed within black speech then. The uncomfortable truth must be confronted: Absent the internalized oppression of those who called white men and women their masters, “nigger” would probably not be a part of black folk’s lexicon. We black folk are reclaiming it not from bigoted white folk but from our ancestors, who, sadly, deemed their blackness a badge of inferiority.
I seek not to usher the word to the gallows. I harbor no aims to kill it. I can still bump a Young Thug track or chortle at a Dave Chappelle routine. “Nigger” does not bar my enjoyment of popular culture. My soul, though, winces whenever I hear it. The decision for black people to include it in their vocabulary, nonetheless, remains personal, and I reject the criticism of black folk who continue to wield it.
I write only to summon the words of former enslaved people from beyond the grave to express that “nigger” is haunted by the ghosts of hate and the more spiritually chilling ghosts of self-hate.
Brando Simeo Starkey is an associate editor at The Undefeated and the author of In Defense of Uncle Tom: Why Blacks Must Police Racial Loyalty. He crawled through a river of books and came out brilliant on the other side.Post Views: 667
By Elliot Booker — 3 years ago
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It would be amazing to hear your perspective. So please call in we want to hear what you guys out there have to say always. Once again this show is for the people. We here at REVIVE thrive off of communication. So call us at (215)490-9832. This episode of REVIVE will be an open forum so all perspectives can be heard through great conversation.
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Nikkolas Smith: Nikkolas Smith a native of Houston, Texas, is a Master of Architecture recipient from Hampton University, and Theme Park Designer/Concept artist at Walt Disney Imagineering. He currently assists in the concept development, schematic design, and construction of Disney Parks in Florida, California, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. After hours, Nikkolas also leads in youth mentoring every Saturday morning with the kids of Compton/Watts, CA, giving lessons in Photoshop painting, and life in general. His viral paintings have been featured in TIME magazine, ABC, Bleacher Report, the GRAMMY’s, BuzzFeed, and all across the Internet, in the form of freelance concept art (featured by Pixar for his digital painting of the Obama family as the Incredibles), activist art paintings (featured on CNN for his Trayvon Martin-inspired MLK Hoodie piece), & Hollywood movie posters such as Lionsgate hit, Dear White People.
Triona Roberts: Triona Roberts has been in sports her entire life. However, she started her journey of health and fitness in about 11th grade when her cousin Tiray was diagnosed with Bone cancer and was given 3 months to live. She became committed to health and sports in college when she realized nutrition played a vital role in her performance. She is now an independent track coach and personal trainer building her brand Trionasfitn5 to decrease childhood obesity and being aware of Breast Cancer.
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It would be amazing to hear your perspective. So please call in we want to hear what you guys the listening audience out there have to say always. Once again this show is for the people. We here at REVIVE thrive off of communication. So call us at (215)490-9832 & follow on Twitter, IG & Facebook @REVIVE_POC
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By Elliot Booker — 5 years ago
WE MUST NEVER FORGET!!!
PRAISE OUR TRIUMPHS…..LEARN FROM OUR ERRORS!
The Afro-American Council (AAC) was established in Rochester, New York, in September 1898 by newspaper editor T. Thomas Fortune and Bishop Alexander Walters of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. They envisioned the organization as a revival of the earlier National Afro-American League (NAAL), which in 1890 became the first national black organization specifically created to challenge racial segregation and discrimination. By the mid-1890s the NAAL dissolved as conditions facing Southern African Americans continued to worsen. The AAC proposed to take up the goals of the defunct NAAL. Like its predecessor, the AAC opposed lynching, disfranchisement of black voters, and racial discrimination against all African Americans.
The immediate impetus for the AAC was the brutal murder of African American postmaster Frazier B. Baker in Lake City, South Carolina by a white mob. In response to the incident, Fortune and Walters called for a number of black leaders to meet at Rochester to dedicate a statue of Frederick Douglass, the city’s most prominent African American resident, and to remain there to create the Afro-American Council.
With the inclusion of a broader spectrum of black leaders including journalists, attorneys, educators, politicians and community activists, the AAC was both more representative of the larger black middle class and better positioned to generate funds to support its activities. Bishop Walters of Washington, D.C., was its first president. Other officers included Ida B. Wells of Chicago as secretary and John C. Dancy of North Carolina as Vice President. Representative George Henry White of North Carolina, the only black member of Congress at the time, was later a vice president of the organization. Other prominent members included Mary Church Terrell, W.E.B. DuBois, former Louisiana governor Pinckney B.S. Pinchback, Professor William S. Scarborough, Henry O. Flipper, the first black West Point graduate, and Booker T. Washington, founder of Tuskegee Institute.
The AAC was notable in that it was one of the first black organizations to welcome women as equal members. The organization also was the first black group to meet regularly with a U.S. President. It met with President William McKinley each year between 1898 and 1901. The AAC lobbied for the passage of a federal anti-lynching law and raised funds to challenge the Louisiana constitution’s “grandfather clause” which effectively eliminated black voting in the state.
Despite its goal of having African America speak with one voice on politics (black Republicans and Democrats joined the AAC), the organization eventually divided into pro- and anti- Booker T. Washington factions. By 1902 Washington supporters dominated the Council and three years later most of the anti-Washington Council members including DuBois, Wells, Terrell, and Bishop Walters left to form the Niagara Movement. The AAC held its final meeting in Baltimore in 1907.
Although the AAC was torn by factionalism and achieved few successes, it laid the groundwork for independent black political action in an era of racial segregation and helped train some of the nation’s most prominent black activists who would go on to create the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.Post Views: 719