OUR PAST & OUR PRESENT
In 1998, the first source of inspiration for the Foundation came after hosting The Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage: “a twelve-month walk through the eastern United States, the Caribbean, Brazil, West Africa, and South Africa in 1998-1999, reversing the direction of the Middle Passage symbolically and geographically. A “living prayer of the heart, mind, and body for the sons and daughters of the African Diaspora,” the Pilgrimage was intended by the participants to contribute to a process of healing the wounds inflicted by hundreds of years of slavery and racial oppression.”
The initial vision was to create a place where the history of genocide of the First Peoples of the Americas through the trans-Atlantic slave trade could be relived physically in an interactive experience called “The Memory Village” (link to see details and a virtual slide show) with the hope to open a space for memory and healing, the core mission of the Foundation.From 2003-2009, the Foundation purchased some of the projected land for this village. In 2006, together we wrote, created, produced and performed “3 Innocents and a Spirit” a historical drama/mime, to provide a live on-stage and up close version of this history as a more intimate experience with the intention of searching for reconciliation, healing and reparations. In 2006-2007 “3 Innocents” performed across the US and also Canada in 2008. Since 2014-to present (2019) we continue to perform for visitors although now expanded to include most members of our team who are also talented actors!
In 2009 a mock-up village was completed which today remains in a glass case in the Foundation center by the extraordinatry artist Carl Guerrier. Here are some of the miniature models that he so beautifully crafted:
In 2010, after the devastating earthquake in January as well as land conflicts in the area where the village was envisioned to be built, the Foundation decided to use the village model as a virtual guided journey, for participants who come to learn at the Foundation center/home instead of building the village itself still with the hope of revealing new truths and perspectives.
*A dream retained: build a 1/2 life-size simulation of a slave ship on pillars in the ravine next to the N a Sonje Foundation center where no land claims can be made, no water diverted, and no one can board without a plank when visitors curious about the experience can dare to delve into the depths of this historical moment of suffering by all of our the ancestors.
In 2015 we celebrated our 5 year anniversary together with friends:
A coincidental inspiration appeared when the United Nations declared March 25th, the exact date of the publication of the N a Sonje Foundation, “The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade”. Rodney Leon, is the distinguished architect who won the competition for the monument to commemorate this date happens also to be Haitian. “25 March 2015 – This year’s commemoration of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade will have particular significance at United Nations Headquarters in New York, where six years of work to establish a permanent memorial to honour the victims pays off with the unveiling today. Designed by Rodney Leon, an American architect of Haitian descent who was chosen in 2013 as the winner of an international competition attracting a total of 310 entries from 83 countries, ‘The Ark of Return’ honours the memories of the estimated 15 million men, women and children who were victims of the largest forced migration in history.”
From Rodney Leon’s website: “The Ark of Return” memorial is a sacred space that is designed to psychologically and spiritually transport visitors to a place where acknowledgement, education, reflection and healing can take place. The memorial’s exterior form is constructed in a fashion to reflect the image of a vessel or ship in acknowledgement of the millions of African people transported on slave ships to different parts of the world during the “Middle Passage.” Images of maps depicting the “Triangular Slave Trade” influenced the use of the triangle as a primary element in designing the memorial’s shape. The memorial is conceptually also organized in three parts and visitors are meant to pass through “The Ark of Return” to intimately experience three primary elements on the interior space. Learn about his memorial to an African American burial ground
For our 2015 celebration these 5 candles were lit by those bringing good wishes of future of continuing to bring light to the darkness, hope and healing. They remained lit throughout the evening in spite of the wind.
In 2016 we again celebrated 6 years gifted with this plaque of honor by artist Najee.
Look for our 10 year anniversary celebration in 2020!