About 2,000 guests stood cheering and applauding as Larkspur Middle School student Brycen Dildy exited the stage after telling the First African Landing Commemorative Ceremony crowd, “I challenge you to let today also be a celebration of your commitment to become a more caring and kind individual to all.”
Dildy was just one of the powerful speakers who gave remarks during the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution ceremony that took place in Continental Park at Fort Monroe in Hampton, Virginia on the morning of Saturday, August 24.
“Imagine the problems that could be solved if all people were kind and cared for. It doesn’t matter what your race or religion may be, we all deserve kindness. And we all should show kindness. And as we commemorate 400 years of the first Africans Landing here at Fort Monroe, let’s make them proud,” said Dildy.
The ceremony began at 9:30 a.m. and went until noon at the place that was once named Point Comfort when the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America arrived by ship in 1619. The event generated a vast media coverage because of its significance to African-American history and resulted in about 5 billion impressions worldwide.
“African American people and our close allies have been the driving force for progress and democracy on these shores, over these 400 years,” Said Van Jones, TV host, Author and Changemaker. “We have to take charge in our time as seriously as the people before us did so that someday, when we put our hands on our hearts, we will have a democratic republic, with liberty and justice for all.”
During Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam’s remarks, he announced that he had signed an executive directive to assign a new commission on African American history education in the Commonwealth. The new commission will review the education standards, instructional practice, content and resources that are currently used in Virginia schools to teach African American history. “African American history is America’s history,” he declared.
Other speakers during the morning ceremony included U.S. Senator Mark Warner, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, U.S. Congressman Robert Scott, Virginia Senator Mamie E. Locke, Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates Kirk Cox and more. Jacquelyn E. Stone, Co-chair of the First Africans to English North America Committee, read an original Poem by Poet, Educator and Activist Nikki Giovanni titled 1619 Jamestown (but not only) An Answer to the New York Times. The I.C. Norcom High School Choir from Portsmouth, Virginia opened and closed the ceremony with song.
Read highlights from some of the speakers here.
The ceremony was part of the larger commemoration event, the 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing, that was held from August 22 – August 25, 2019 in Hampton Virginia. American Evolution, Fort Monroe Authority, Fort Monroe National Monument and the City of Hampton partnered together to provide 4 days of music, performances, speeches, tours and the preview of the Fort Monroe Visitor and Education Center with galleries to commemorate 400 years of African American History.