Celebration and re-internment of our ancestors

Amadi Ajamu | 8/1/2019, 9:03 a.m.
NYC Councilmember Inez Barron and NYS Assemblymember Charles Barron joined together to honor the legacy of African ancestors who endured ...
Opening of Sankofa Park in East New York, Brooklyn Lem Peterkin photo

NYC Councilmember Inez Barron and NYS Assemblymember Charles Barron joined together to honor the legacy of African ancestors who endured centuries of enslavement in the formation of East New York, Brooklyn. Our ancestors were buried on the land previously known as “Schenck Park,” named after a former slaveholder. The land was renamed the Sankofa Park African Burial Ground in a tremendous cultural ceremony and re-internment of our ancestors bones, which took place Thursday, July 18, 2019.  “Sankofa” is a Swahili word meaning “looking back to go forward.”

The park land is the actual resting place for those Africans who were prisoners of war, stolen from Africa, chained, shipped, and forced to build the foundation and development of the U.S. and other European colonies for centuries. Far too many died in the process. 

Councilmember Inez Barron explained, “The preliminary excavation for the renovation of Schenck Park, located here on Barbey Street between Livonia and New Lots Avenues, was put on hold. Historical maps had previously revealed that the park, library and surrounding area was once a site where enslaved Africans were buried. Before starting the park renovations, archaeologists were employed to search for any possible desecrated remains. And indeed, remains including bone fragments of our Ancestors were found!”

Assemblyman Charles Barron stated, “This is an historic day! East New York has gone from having a slave holders’ names for this park—Schenck Park—to a liberated named—Sankofa Park. Our youth can now feel proud to know that it was their ancestors that built the roads and the homes and cultivated the land of East New York, the community that they live in now. Every time they see the park named Sankofa and the street signs named African Burial Ground we can tell them about our ancestors who built the foundation of East New York and were never paid. We now have a strong case for reparations. We must tell our youth how the land of the indigenous people, the Lenapi, Canarsie, and Rockaway or so-called Indians, was stolen. And how we were stolen from Africa to build it.”

Ceremonial participants included Brooklyn clergy members: Chief Baba Neil Clarke, who opened up the ceremony with an African libation to the ancestors; the Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, national presiding minister of The House of the Lord Churches, delivered the eulogy; Minister who Henry Muhammad, Mosque #7C, Nation of Islam; the Rev. Dr. David K. Brawley, St. Paul Community Baptist Church; the Rev. Dr. Anthony Graham, New Hope Family Worship Center; and the Rev. Brenda Ross, Trinity Pentecostal House of Prayer; and Community Board 5 Chairman Andre T. Mitchell, among many other community activists and cultural artists including the phenomenal performances of Victory Music and Dance.

Assemblymember Barron and Councilmember Barron recognized Brooklyn Parks Commissioner, Marty Maher, as a partner on the multimillion dollar Sankofa Park renovation African Burial Ground development project. The renovation process will start this year and is expected to be completed by 2020.