August 2019 marked 400 years since the first slave ship harboring enslaved Africans arrived in the English colony of Virginia. The slave ship was called The White Lion.
Morgan State University will be honoring that legacy with a show, “Since We’ve Been Here: Commemorating 400 years of African Presence in America.” This event is a multimedia production that will celebrate this historic period through dance, spoken word, music, and singing. This event will be held in The Carl J. Murphy Center Fine Arts Center on November 8, 2019 at 7:30 p.m.
Performers include Tracie Jiggetts; Keith Snipes; Baruti Kopano; the Singing Sensations Youth Choir; Slangston Hughes, and the VTDancers. Renown Baltimore actress, dancer, and storyteller Maria Broom will host the event.
“I believe the souls of those Africans who were brutally brought here are comforted and hopefully healed by each prayer, program, and commemoration offered in their honor,” said Broom.
Shirley Basfield Dunlap is the show director and coordinator of Theatre Arts at Morgan. “As an HBCU we should be a leading institution to recognize the African in America and because of the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act passed by Congress in 2018, it is important for America to witness this historic moment.”
The 400 Years of African-American Commission is a 15-member body established by the federal government to coordinate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the English colonies.
Morgan student performer Samara Flowers said she is excited about the event because of the opportunity for young people to be exposed to history. “This event is meaningful to me because it teaches me the depth of my background and the history of my ancestors as well as allowing me to be a part of it,” said Flowers. I am performing an artistic piece as I present the black codes which were the laws applied to blacks but not whites. I am preparing for this event by rehearsing a musical piece while still familiarizing myself with the codes.”
“I think that it is immensely important that people are able to say they went to this. They should bring their children. So many of our children and students do not even know their history,” said Dunlap. “The next 100 years we won’t be here. I want people to leave with a sense of pride and to continue the legacy of their ancestors.”
The show producers said given the climate in the county right now where racial and social tensions are the highest in years, reminding people of the harms of slavery though these performances is especially important.
“This should have been done years before. The commemoration is an opportunity to look at where we are and where we want to be,” said Keith Snipes, actor and show coordinator. “I hope that folks will think about it in those terms and of course show up on November 8. I hope that people can start to think of the things that they can do to force this country to live up to its promise.”
General admission tickets to the show are $10. Students can enjoy the show for free. For more information about this event visit: www.murphyfineartscenter.org or call 443-885-4440.