A Funeral for the Forgotten

Most of us have been to a funeral. Let’s admit that some funerals are better than others.

There are those services that manage to capture the life of a loved one with personal touches and stories that embrace the essence of someone’s time on earth.  Some feel like there’s a disconnect between those speaking, the person who died, and the community of family and friends that have gathered to pay their last respects. Some have memorable eulogies, while others do not. 

Now imagine yourself at a service for eight people who you never knew, but whose service was so powerful and epic in proportions that it will never again be replicated or forgotten.

On a bright sunny Saturday morning on May 23, the remains of eight African slaves were “reburied” in the heart of Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The long overdue ceremony was filled with African traditions, songs, healing words and emotion. 

The African Burying Ground is a memorial park at the site of what is said to be the oldest African burial ground in New England.  More importantly, the crowd of hundreds of adults, children and even dogs, filled the park to pay their respects to those slaves that had been buried long ago under a street lined with houses and forgotten until road work unearthed their remains. 

A horse drawn cart, carved sculptures, words etched in figures posed in a circle around the burial site each illustrated the care and planning for this long overdue day. The ceremony and prayers led by Oscar Mokeme were powerful, meaningful, and memorable. As the crowd paid homage to the life the slaves lived, we were all made part of this historic reburial service. 

Go visit this park and take time to be still and find peace.  Take time to remember the past and learn about those who, as Beverly A. Morgan-Welch so aptly put, “were kidnapped to do the work for our democracy”. 

On this Memorial Day, a community came together to remember. Those once forgotten will never be forgotten again.