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 sculpture 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.
The African Burying Ground Committee and Community Volunteers are working to raise awareness of the African Burying Ground and to raise needed funds to ensure the project is completed and the site is returned to sacred ground. With your help, we will ensure this goal is met. Please consider a donation of any amount, through either online
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Portsmouth's African Burying Ground Committee Announces Events Marking Completion of Memorial Park Project
Events Including Reburial Ceremony, May 20th - May 23rd
Read the City's full News Release Here:
Wednesday May 20th - 9:00 a.m. - On-site event with artist and sculptor Jerome Meadows, Portsmouth Middle School Students, and the Community for artist talk and to view decorative tiles.
On Wednesday May 20th, 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 designed by the students installed in the decorative railing at the site, earlier in the week. 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 (opening in April).
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 coffins 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. All services are open to the public. Services include "sending-away" prayers for the departed, music, African drumming, poetry, dance and communal singing.
Tradition dictates that at no point during the night are the ancestors be left alone. To facilitate this tradition the hours between services (8:00 pm - 12:00 midnight, and 1:00 am - 6:00 am) 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, (firstname.lastname@example.org), or Kelvin Edwards, 603 380-0193 (email@example.com). 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 Memorial Park, We Stand in Honor of Those Forgotten, is a unified public art concept with each piece connected to the Memorial's overall purpose: recognizing the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to Portsmouth and honoring those buried on this site. The works of art will be unveiled by Jerome Meadows as the final preparation of the site prior to the arrival of the remains at the burial vault, which will be followed by burial rites to be performed by Chief Oscar Mokeme. 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 at this site, under the street that is now the Memorial Park. Nine coffins 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 buried beneath the street.
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 team - Saturday May 23rd - 12:00 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.
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