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Heartwarming tribute to the ancestors at Coney Island

Written by on August 1, 2023

Decked out in traditional African wear, singer of the NYC Nayhabinghi ensemble paid tribute to the ancestors with moving renditions, at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk on June 10, 2023.

A heartful tribute to the ancestors returned to the Coney Island boardwalk, and water’s edge to celebrate 34 years of stirring performances and prayers organized by the People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective to honor the spirit of those who struggled and sacrificed to pass down their wisdom, traditions, and spiritual gifts.

Rhythmic pulsating drums, and singing, filled the air over the June 10 event attended by celebrants decked out in symbolic purity white attire, who no doubt, were joyous at the return of the salute, sidelined, by the three-year long Covid pandemic restrictions.

The ancestral drumming circle, that is pivotal to the noon to sundown tribute. The celebration opened with the pouring of Libation and singing of the Black National Anthem.

Coinciding with the birthday of Haile Selassie, and Juneteenth, the honor told of the haunting journey Africans endured along the middle passage.

Menes de Griot and Mama Naya on stage with the drumming circle at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk.
Menes de Griot and Mama Naya on stage with the drumming circle at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk. Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Hosted by Osagyefo, Michael Hooper and Habtee Selassie, the performances brought liveliness and spirited exuberance to the boardwalk, surrounded by participating spectators, who sang and danced with merriment.

The Haitian Imamou Lale folk dancers, through their storied choreographer, connected in a touching, engaging way that captured the essence of the presentation, and the approval of the crowd.

From the melodious voices of Sister Idana, and Sister Charmine, accompanied by the NYC Nayhabinghi group, to the young sisters of RGB’s lyrical rap singing, powerful words from St. Lucian Poet, Ras YaYah, set the tone for a thrilling sunny afternoon of performances.

The verses of CJ EmpressPoetry Lane, in turn aroused the crowd when she chanted. ‘let’s learn from each other, let’s end the violence, let’s bring this madness to an end, join hands with me, let’s love, lets unite, and walk in the spirit of unity.”

This young African rapping group, explore the culture with their verses to thrill the crowd at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk on June 10, 2023.
This young African rapping group, explore the culture with their verses to thrill the crowd at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk on June 10, 2023. Photo by Tangerine Clarke

Preeminent African drummer Menes de Griot, leader of the Baba Menes de Griot and the Shanto Drumming ensemble, who has been a long-standing member of People of the Sun Middle Passage, engaged the audience by singing and dancing, at times, banging on his drum, as part of the rhythmic drumming circle.

Ngoma Hill, Congo Square Drummers, Marcus Garvey Park Drummers, and the Seshmit Ubuntu Maat drummers, made up the drumming circle.

De Groit also paid tribute to legendary late singer, Harry Belafonte by singing Day-O (the Banana Boat Song) followed by Mother Africa, going back home.

The overflowing love and dignity for the ancestors, once again, truly showed the roots of the African community, that passionately gave the historic period the prominence it deserves, when they journeyed to the water’s edge with flowers to pay their respects.

CJ Empress Poetry Lane’s poem “Join Hands with Me” was well received at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk, on June 10.
CJ Empress Poetry Lane’s poem “Join Hands with Me” was well received at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk, on June 10.Photo by Tangerine Clarke

De Griot later told Caribbean Life that this presentation was the second official Tribute since Covid-19 and most of the persons present were excited to be there because they knew it would be a treat.

“Those who were there for the first time didn’t know what to expect, many folks looked forward to the various dances, drumming and other performances, like poetry, learning about the history and current events that impact our communities. There is a Love connection amongst the people irrespective of religious convictions or places of birth.”

“The idea to come to coney island and pay respect to our ancestors whose bones are at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, the largest burial ground for African people was initiated 34 years ago by Dr Mary Umolu in the year 1989 after a Black Storyteller Conference was held at Medgar Evers College.

“Brother Tony Akeem was a part of that initial team and continues to spearhead the Tribute making sure that permits, sound system for a successful program.”

This young African rapping group, explores the culture with their verses to thrill the crowd at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk, on June 10.
This young African rapping group, explores the culture with their verses to thrill the crowd at the 34th Annual Tribute to the Ancestors on the Coney Island boardwalk, on June 10. Photo by Tangerine Clarke

“The importance of the tribute is for those who chose to forget. For the generations that are lost, it is incumbent upon us the older generation to make sure those behind us know of the sacrifices of our ancestors. They are the ones that cleared the path making it possible for us to enjoy the present as we prepare for the future. A perfect example is the Jewish people. They make sure the world never forgets their Holocaust.”

He said folks always comes out in droves for the Tribute and this year was no different. We have collaborated with groups in the Caribbean, South America, Europe, and Africa to pour Libation at the same time with us. I must admit we had a larger viewing audience this year due to our Live streaming presentation,” shared de Griot.

However, he contends that the Tribute to The Ancestors needs much funding to carry on the tradition.

The organization also accepts donation of clothing and toys for distribution to community children. For more information, contact Tony Akeem at 718 659 4449, and Menes De Griot (Shanto) at 347 488 5010.