The annual Key West observance of the International Day of Remembrance of the victims of slavery and the Trans-Atlantic slave trade takes place at 5:30 p.m. March 25 at the African Cemetery, 1094 Atlantic Blvd. at Higgs Memorial Beach.
It’s located just west of the White Street pier and adjacent to the historic West Martello Tower brick fort.
Beginning as always with a Native American opening blessing, the outdoor remembrance ceremony will consist of inspiration from traditional and contemporary multicultural prayers and rituals.
They will be followed by a historical presentation, interactive “Village Talk,” light refreshments.
Key West, by being the southernmost city in the continental U.S., and, therefore, geographically closest to the predominant historic “slave” trading routes, has multiple direct connections to this chapter of human history.
The most direct is the Key West African Cemetery where 295 Africans, mostly children and youth, were buried in 1860, part of a total of 1,432 captives who were rescued by the U.S. Navy from three captured American slave ships bound for Cuba which were brought into Key West.
The surviving Africans would be detained for 12 weeks, attracting national attention before being “returned” to the American colony of Liberia (rather than their original homelands).
In addition, Key West is home to the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, whose archaeologists and researchers have helped to organize the annual remembrance but have also brought to light a number of important and enlightening stories:
The 1700 wreck of the English slave ship Henrietta Marie in the Florida Keys, from which artifacts as iron shackles have been retrieved and displayed.
The saga of the 1827 wreck of the Spanish slave ship Guerrero off Key Largo and its survivors.
The 1860 wreck of the Peter Mowell in the Bahamas, where descendants of survivors still maintain a community known as “Congo Town.”
The observance is free and open to the public and welcomes spiritual leaders of all positive faiths and traditions, drummers and musicians, performance artists, and all who have knowledge to share.
For more information, call 305-904-7620, 305-304-1136, or 305-834-2143.