In Honor of Our Ancestors, A Declaration. We are here to honor and celebrate our ancestors. To honor ancestors who paved a way for us. Courageous persons on whose shoulders we stand. Beloved ancestors who fought and survived horrific onslaughts of oppression and brutality, so that we, our children, grandchildren and generations to come will live and flourish. We are here to speak truth to power and to celebrate their lives in memory, music and words. In the midst of the atrocities committed against people and nations of color, we choose to stand tall, courageous and proud. Understanding whether the descendants of enslaved or colonized Africans, we are duty bound to preserve their legacy.
While acknowledging crimes committed against their humanity, we remember we are not defeated, but are strong, brilliant descendants of the mothers and fathers of all civilization. We are the creators of culture, mathematics, science, philosophy and history. We are not nor have we ever been second nor third world nations. We are and remain the first.
Today while we remember our past join with us in celebrating purpose and the ever determination to heal physical, emotional, psychological and historical wounds. Join with us as we celebrate and commit to renewing and constructing a new paradigm whose foundation is healthy minds, bodies, homes, communities and a world which honors their legacy and sacrifice.
Saturday February 28, 2015 the Bronx Book Fair in partnership with the Bronx Library Center presented A Celebration of Life, In Honor of Our Ancestors. Poets Mercy L. Tullis Bukhari, Gary Johnston, Ngoma Osayemi Ifatunmise and yours truly Lorraine Currelley with Special guests master drummer Tyrone Owusu Slater and Atiba Kwabena Wilson and Befo Quotet. The event was held at the Bronx Library Center. Jean Harripersaud welcomed guests with on behalf of the Bronx Library Center along with celebratory drumming by Tyrone Owusu Slater. The above declaration Honoring Our Ancestors was delivered by Lorraine Currelley Bronx Book Fair committee member and co-host. Gary Johnston co-host presented the mission statement for the Bronx Book Fair.
Our featured artists and special guests were each phenomenal! They came with purpose, truth, in power, passion and were unapologetic in their messages of healing, restoration and consciousness. We thank them and hold each up before our ancestors. Our ancestors were pleased by our offering and each time we come together in love, peace, unity and purpose.
Mercy L. Tullis Bukhari, wife and mother of two young children, and a tenured high school English teacher. She finds inspiration from being Bronx-bred of Honduran-Jamaican descent, and being married to a Paskistani-American from Brooklyn. Author of “SMOKE”, a first collection of poems and short stories.
Lorraine Currelley poet, writer, educator, storyteller, mental health and grief and bereavement counselor, founder and executive directof of Poets Network & Exchange, Inc. She is a recepient of numerous awards for service to community, widely anthologized and has featured at venues throughout the United States.
Gary Johnston is a New York State Foundation on the Arts Fellow and winner of the
William C. Wolfson Award for Poetry, BRIO Award, for poetry and Herbert H. Lehman College Award for Poetry. He is a member of Poets & Writers, Inc., Bronx Council on the Arts, African Diaspora Poets and a co-founder of Blind Beggar Press.
Ngoma Osayemi Ifatunmise performance poet, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and paradigm shifter who for over 40 years has used culture as a tool to raise sociopolitical and spiritual consciousness through work that encourages critical thought.
Tyrone Owusu Slater master drummer, instructor, storyteller and community organizer from Saint Vincent Grenadines. He’s traveled and performed in venues across the Caribbean and United States.
Atiba Kwabena-Wilson musician, poet, storyteller and the founder and artistic director of both Songhai Djeli and the Befo’ Quotet. He was the recipient of a full scholarship for voice and flute, earning his B.A. in Music from Long Island University. Atiba Kwabena-Wilson studied arrangement and orchestration for jazz ensembles with Calvin Hill (bassist with Max Roach and faculty advisor for L.I.U.). He also studied Jazz Improvisation with the late John Lewis (pianist with the Modern Jazz Quartet and professor at City College).
Before guests arrive the room is empty with the exception of your fellow committee members and featured artists. You flow in optimism, always hoping invitations will be honored. As if by magic something truly wonderful happens.Your heart opens wide as familiar faces of friends and soon to be new friends start arriving. We are here in this moment and place together.
Am I still beaming and reflecting on our community experience? I am! I’m holding my memories close with much joy and affection. There are no masked attempts at a feign societal sophistication (cool). My memories are too rich and good to not honor and respect.
We must embrace moments when we connect with each other. Living in a world today where so many reside in their private corners of the world; neighbors afraid to speak to engage each other. Living in huge buildings never really knowing who lives next door. Avoiding eye contact and any form of human connection. Still others lock themselves away and exist in isolation. This is a paradigm that must change. This is existing on the fringe, unhealthy and definitely not living. We cannot come to celebrate and honor our ancestors and not speak with each other. Leaving having had a private experience. In some cases just as lonely for human touch and connection as we came. I’m grateful this was far from the case on Saturday. We were one in joy, love, spirit, community and purpose.
Thank you to all Bronx Book Fair committee members for helping to make this event a success.Your individual and collective efforts do not go unnoticed. I would be remiss if I did not give a special thank you Jean Harripersaud and Michael Alvarez for responding to my emails and calls with great enthusiasm and laughter when I needed it the most. Thank you, Ron Kavanaugh for keeping the process on track and your wonderful event photography. Thank you Peggy Robles Alvarado for photographing moments of our event and Americo Casiano for networking. Thank you, Gary Johnston, my co-host for organizational tele conferences, answering my emails and laughter. My gratitude and that of the Bronx Book Fair and Bronx Library Center for all those who supported us by attending. Thank you, Maestro Marlon Daniel, conductor and artistic director for Ensemble du Monde. Maestro Marlon Daniel recently arrived in New York City from a worldwide tour conducting and instructing to join in A Celebration of Life, In Honor of Our Ancestors. Our Gallery of attendees:
©Lorraine Currelley 2015. All Rights Reserved.