MAAFA remembered at Ocean Beach

November 2, 2007

Black Holocaust honors our ancestors who have survived ‘Middle Passage’

The Transatlantic slave trade was one of the most brutal acts against humanity in the history of mankind. Millions of Africans were kidnapped, separated from their families, and sold into slavery.

Ultimately, these prisoners of war were dispersed to three continents over a period of four centuries. It is estimated that up to 12 million Africans reached the "New World," while many more did not survive the forced journey from Africa to the Americas.




Many were thrown overboard to be fed to sharks who followed closely behind the ships in hopes of human meat; others decided it was better to seek a watery grave than to continue to face the inhumane conditions onboard, and leaped to their deaths, sometimes bringing their children with them.

To this day, sharks still swim along the same triangular path forged centuries ago.

"Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome," seeks to explain many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African-Americans communities in the United States and the Diaspora.

The atrocity is well documented and many believe that this experience, and that of slavery, is responsible for much of the psychological turmoil African-Americans experience today. A theory, known as "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome," seeks to explain many of the adaptive survival behaviors in African-Americans communities in the United States and the Diaspora.

On an early Sunday morning in October, hundreds of the descendants of Africans who survived the Middle Passage, slavery, Jim Crow, and institutionalize racism, gathered at Ocean Beach in San Francisco to deal with the trauma and heal from the legacy oppression. The "Maafa Commemoration Ritual," is a "Black Holocaust Remembrance" which was started 12 years ago.

"Maafa is a Kiswahili term for disaster, calamity, or terrible occurrence," according to the Maafa SF Bay Area website.

This ritual is for the 200 million stolen, those unnamed ancestors whose bones lie on the ocean floor and for those who survived the passage--whose sweat fertilized the coffers of Western culture.
Wanda Sabir

"People of African Descent are invited in an attempt to honor our ancestors who have suffered through the middle passage and the lives that continue to be compromised due to racism and oppression. This ritual is for the descendents of the Africans who were unwillingly transported to these shores and elsewhere in the Americas 500 years ago," says Wanda Sabir, founder of the Bay Area Maafa Commemoration.

"This ritual is for the 200 million stolen, those unnamed ancestors whose bones lie on the ocean floor and for those who survived the passage--whose sweat fertilized the coffers of Western culture."


The program began before sunrise with a drummer-led procession through the "Doors of No Return," a cloth gate supported by wood and cloth, which symbolized the doors of a slave dungeon in which captured Africans would never return again.

"The Maafa is not a choice, it is a destiny we haven't been able to escape without returning through the fire. Travel with us there this morning."
Wanda Sabir, Maafa Co-Founder

After passing by an altar, which held candles and images glorifying African civilization, sojourners formed a large circle on the beach standing close to one another to collectively bear the early morning cold from the Pacific Ocean.

Sabir gave a greeting and welcome as the circle was completed with nearly 300 African people awaiting sunrise and reconciliation.

"The Maafa is not a choice," said Sabir, "it is a destiny we haven't been able to escape without returning through the fire. Travel with us there this morning."

Sister Sipiwe and Sister Carol Afua poured libations and led the "Maafa Prayer," as people repeated the lines in both English and Shone (Zimbabwe).



As the sun peeked out over the San Francisco hills, the group then sang the "Maafa Song," led by Brother Clint. This was followed by more libations and prayers led by Minister Mxolisi of the Wo'se Community Church and Sister Geri Abrams.



The song was followed by the Maafa Chant and Dance Cycle, which was led by the Wo'se Choir and Sister Isaura Oliviera, respectively. The dance cycle featured Yoruba chants titled, "Healing," "Love," "Freedom," and "Thanksgiving," to symbolize the journey necessary to recovery from the Maafa.



"Let go of the rage that simmers in your stomach, curdles in your throat, burns as it travels in your veins," instructed Sabir, as participants were encouraged to release their frustrations, anger and pain through screaming and yelling.



The group then headed to the water's edge for individual prayers and meditation. Some chose to silently reflect, contemplating the experience of their ancestors, while others rejoiced, hands towards the sky, as their hearts felt anew. Flowers were thrown into the ocean onto the breaking waves as offerings.



Meanwhile, children danced with the incoming waves, running after receding waters and retreating in anticipation as the tide climbed up the shore towards bare feet and tennis shoes alike.

The drums soon signaled for the people to return to the circle and the event ended with a song by Lady Sunrise called "Calling all Angels," announcements and a closing poem by Javier Reyes.



"This event is an honoring of our past and also a prayer for our future," said Sabir.

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