Saturday we celebrated James Mars Day, honoring the last slave bought and sold in Norfolk with the placement of a Witness Stone. Great thanks to the teachers and students of the Salisbury School for their research and presentation, to our Director of Community and Creativity, Kelly Kandra Hughes for her tireless efforts on behalf of this project, Elias Olsen for this video of the event, and the faith, community and governmental representatives for their participation. The video of the event is below.
Brendan Cassamajor – Salisbury School – “What does it mean to be black in America? In trying to answer this question I think of struggle and history. Our ancestors struggled with slavery, discrimination, exclusion and more. Fast forward to 2021 – black people are still facing the same challenges.”
Charlie Wilcox – Salisbury School – “Growing up, going to parochial school for 9 years before a Jesuit school for another 3, I learned a lot of American history. However, that history was incomplete. Rarely did we study black history and never black history in my home state of Connecticut. This class opened my eyes to the North’s complicity in the slave trade, and the economic gains that sustained this system.
Dennis Powell – President of the Berkshire Chapter of the NAACP – “Who were the founders and why? The why – the NAACP was formed partially in response to the continuing horrific practice of lynching and the race riots in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and resting place of Abraham Lincoln. The who – appalled at the violence committed against blacks a group of white liberals … isued a call for a meeting to discuss racial injustice.”
State Representative Maria Horne – “For all of us to listen and bear witness to those stories is so incredibly important.”
State Senator Keven Witkos – “For 19 years I walked past this portrait (of James Mars in the Concourse between the legislative office building and the state capital) and I had no idea who this was. My point is …. we cannot move forward unless we understand what happened in the past.”
U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes – “We have a rich and robust history that is made up of so many stories, and the only way that we can move that forward is to tell the truth about those stories, and to acknowledge and recognize the contributions of all of the people who contributed to this great country that we live in”
Rev. Cleo Graham – Faith Congregational Church (formerly the Talcott Street Congregational Church where James Mars was a Deacon): “My prayer might seem a little bit long, but we’ve been waiting over 200 years for this prayer.”
God Never Made a Slave
Columbia’s sons, though slave ye be, God, your Creator, made you free,
He life to all and being gave, But never, never, made a slave!
His works are wonderful to see, All, all, proclaim the Deity;
He made the earth, and formed the wave, But never, never, made a slave!
He made the skies with spangles bright, The moon to shine by silent night,
The sun, and spread the vast concave, But never, never, made a slave.
The verdant earth on which we tread Was by his hand all carpeted;
Enough for all he freely gave, But never, never, made a slave.
All men are equal in his sight The bond, the free, the black, the white:
He made them all, them freedom gave He made the man, man made the slave!