The City of Portsmouth and its Mayor-appointed African Burying Ground Committee have announced a multi-day commemoration to coincide with the completion of the African Burying Ground Memorial Park - We Stand in Honor of Those Forgotten. A reburial ceremony for the remains that were exhumed as part of the excavations at the site beginning on October 7, 2003 will be held in the morning of Saturday, May 23, 2015 at the Chestnut Street site. A series of events leading up to the reburial will include an onsite visit by Portsmouth Middle School students and project artist and sculptor Jerome Meadows, an unveiling of the artworks, an ancestral vigil and, after the reburial ceremony, a large public celebration at Portsmouth Middle School. A full listing and description of the events can be found below.
Partner Event/Seacoast African American Cultural Center: Display of Petition of 1779 at the Seacoast African American Cultural Center -10 Middle Street
Wednesday May 20, 2015 - 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
On May 20, the Seacoast African American Cultural Center at 10 Middle Street (in the Discover Portsmouth Center) will host a display of the original 1779 petition from the New Hampshire State Archives in Concord NH. Secretary of State William Gardner is pleased this priceless document is able to be displayed in Portsmouth as part of the remembrance events in conjunction with the reburial ceremony and community celebration that mark the completion of the memorial park project.
On-site event with artist and sculptor Jerome Meadows, Portsmouth Middle School Students
Wednesday May 20th - 9:00 a.m.
Portsmouth Middle School Students who worked with Mr. Meadows during a school outreach project in October 2014 join him on-site to reveal the ceramic tiles they designed, which will be installed in the decorative railing at the site. Mr. Meadows reconnects with the students and speaks with them about the final preparations of the artworks since they last met. This event coincides with a Middle School Art Show of student works about the African Burying Ground at the Seacoast African American Cultural Center gallery at 10 Middle Street (now open).
Partner Event/Art-Speak: Public Art & Portsmouth - A Community Forum Series on Public Art - Featuring Jerome B. Meadows and Sponsored by Art-Speak, City of Portsmouth Cultural Commission
Thursday May 21, 6:30 p.m. at 3S Artspace - 319 Vaughn Street (Doors open at 5:30 p.m.)
Art-Speak invites you to discover the value of public art. Learn how public art can benefit a community with featured guest, Savannah-based artist Jerome Meadows, whose sculptural work for the African Burying Ground was awarded a 2013 NEA Art Works Grant for "The creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence".
African Burying Ground Ancestral Vigil at New Hope Baptist Church
Friday May 22nd - 7:00 p.m.
As part of the reburial celebration in May, members of the community hold an all-night vigil at the New Hope Baptist Church, 263 Peverly Hill Rd, Portsmouth. The community keeps vigil with the remains in their custom-built wood caskets at the Church from 7:00 pm Friday, May 22nd until 7:00 am Saturday. Services of remembrance take place at 7:00 pm Friday, 12:00 midnight and 6:00 am Saturday morning. Tradition dictates that at no point during the night are the remains of the ancestors be left alone. To facilitate this tradition the hours between services are open for anyone desiring to pay homage to the ancestors in their own way. This could mean just sitting quietly, reciting a poem, saying a prayer, singing a song, playing the piano or other instrument, etc. Those wishing to do so should contact JerriAnne Boggis, 603 318-5120, (email@example.com), or Kelvin Edwards, 603 380-0193 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Each request should include name, phone number and/or email address, what tribute will be made and time desired for the tribute.
Reburial Ceremony at African Burying Ground
Saturday May 23rd - 8:30 a.m.
The reburial ceremony follows the August 17, 2014 Consecration Ceremony held at the site just prior to the commencement of project construction, which took place the next day. As many as 200 individuals are buried beneath the street. Nine caskets will be placed in a vault, which was constructed as part of the Memorial. The ceremony includes traditional African burial customs likely familiar to those being buried beneath the street as well as the unveiling of the art works by project artist and sculptor Jerome B. Meadows.
Public Celebration at Portsmouth Middle School Auditorium
Saturday May 23rd - 10:30 a.m.
Following the reburial ceremony, a public celebration with food, music, and inspirational voices takes place at the Portsmouth Middle School Auditorium. Full program details, including speakers and musical performances to come.
On site walk-about with project artist and construction team
Saturday May 23rd - 1:30 p.m.
After the public celebration, members of the construction team including the project artist and sculptor return to the African Burying Ground to walk the site and answer questions about the Memorial installation. All members of the public are invited to speak with the construction team members and reflect on the day's events.
Partner Event/The Music Hall: Blind Boys of Alabama at The Music Hall - A concert in recognition and celebration of the African Burying Ground Memorial
Saturday May 23, 7:00 p.m. at The Music Hall - 28 Chestnut Street
The Blind Boys of Alabama first raised their voices together in 1939. More than 70 years later, founding member Jimmy Carter can look back on a career with a long list of awards, including five Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The group has also won four Dove Awards from the Gospel Music Association and been inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. They have entertained around the world, been profiled on "60 Minutes," and performed for three Presidents at the White House. Blending traditional gospel music with contemporary spiritual material this iconic group has performed with artists from Aaron Neville to k.d. lang.
Burial Vault Lid Placement
Saturday May 23rd
At the close of the day, the burial vault lid will be placed on the vault. Members of the public will be invited to witness from a safe distance. Preparations for the placement of lid will begin at 5:00 p.m.
If you would like to know more about the project and how you can support the creation of the African Burying Ground Memorial Park, We Stand in Honor of Those Forgotten
, please write to info@AfricanBuryingGroundNH.org