This is your great-great-granddaughter,” cried the voice by the tombstones. “We are free indeed!”
Those words rang out at the Grove Street Cemetery Tuesday as Sierra Leone met up with New Haven, and the past with the present.
As part of a day recognizing the historic connections between Sierra Leone and New Haven, a visiting delegation from the African country took part in two downtown ceremonies Tuesday morning. The first, held in front of the Amistad statue at City Hall, celebrated the legacy of the famous rebellion and trial of Sierra Leonean slaves who commandeered the slave ship The Amistad. The second, a graveside ceremony in Grove Street Cemetery, recognized the Amistad slaves who died in New Haven.
Upwards of 25 ministers and officials from Sierra Leone were present. Minister of Presidential Affairs Alpha Kanu gave brief remarks in which he apologized for the role that Africans played in the slave trade.
The events drew Sierra Leonean-Americans from as far away as Boston and Washington D.C., including a twice-over candidate for president of the country.
“We Will Rejoice!”
Just inside the Grove Street Cemetery’s main gate ( the one inscribed with the words, “The Dead Shall Be Raised”), there is a small white tombstone bearing the names of six freed Amistad slaves who died while residing in New Haven. Along with dozens of onlookers, the Sierra Leonean delegation gathered in front of this tombstone to honor the memory of these six slaves and their struggle for freedom.
The ceremony included remarks by David Blight, Yale professor of American History, and Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier, the first African-American woman in the U.S. to hold such an office. Following short Christian and Muslim services, a gravestone libation was performed by Magdaline Mami Gigba (at right in picture, with other members of Tegloma), a representative from Tegloma, an organization of Sierra Leoneans in Boston.