On Saturday, November 13, St. Mary’s College of Maryland presented The Sacred Journey: Re-Making Our World Anew in observation of the first anniversary of the dedication of the Commemorative to Enslaved Peoples of Southern Maryland.
The two-part program began at 1:30 p.m. in Auerbach Auditorium of St. Mary’s Hall with a Panel of Remembrance and Reverence that focused on the experiences of the enslaved and their descendants. The panel began with a welcome from Regina Faden, executive director, Historic St. Mary’s City. The keynote address was by Maya Davis, historian, archivist, activist, and director of Riversdale House Museum in Prince George County, Maryland. She spoke about her time at Riversdale House Museum, beginning her presentation with, “Here I stand before you in humility that my ancestors paved the way for me to be here today.” She concluded her presentation, “Let us all take time to be thankful for the thousands of individuals who built this county and let us thrive.”
Other panelists included Julia King, professor of anthropology at St. Mary’s College; Travis Parno, director of research and collections, Historic St. Mary’s City; and Gwen Bankins and Angela Wilson from the Sotterley Descendant Community. The Panel of Remembrance and Reverence was made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.
Following the panel, Father John Ball of Trinity Episcopal Church offered a blessing in the Trinity churchyard. St. Mary’s College President Tuajuanda C. Jordan then led the Procession of Dignity, traversing the campus to the Commemorative to Enslaved Peoples of Southern Maryland, where she spoke briefly.
“Around this time last year, virtually we dedicated this sacred structure before us—the Commemorative to Enslaved Peoples of Southern Maryland. Today we honor its spirit in person –an immersive tribute to the resilience, persistence and creative problem solving that defined the lives of the people who were enslaved throughout Southern Maryland,” said President Jordan.
Following President Jordan, William “BJ” Hall, president of St. Mary’s County NAACP, also gave remarks, followed by a performance by the St. Mary’s College of Maryland Chamber Singers and members of the Southern Maryland Community Gospel Choir directed by Larry Vote, professor of music, and accompanied by Sherri Fenwick and alumna Rie Moore ’19.
The procession then continued to the water’s edge that was so crucial in the lives of the enslaved. Along the way, the procession honored those who resisted at the first documented site of such resistance. At the River Center beach along the St. Mary’s River, the lives of those enslaved were honored with a reading of their names, candle lighting, celebration, libation, remembrance, and reflection. The Reception of Reflection followed the Waterfront Ceremony where participants in the walk reflected on the Sacred Journey.
Walking the Procession of Dignity was an opportunity to walk the roads that the enslaved walked, to contemplate the lives that they lived, and to give value to the idea of the unbroken chain that links the present and the past. The procession served to proclaim the unity of our community, our commitment to treating one another with dignity, and our shared responsibility to preserve the history of the enslaved persons who had inhabited our ground. It was a public sacrament to restore and reaffirm the dignity and humanity of the enslaved.
The event was overseen by the Sacred Journey Steering Committee consisting of (Chair) Garrey Dennie, associate professor of history; Kelsey Bush, chief diversity officer; Julia King, professor of anthropology; Ellen Kohl, assistant professor of environmental studies; and Erin Peters, director of Boyden Gallery and Collection and lecturer for museum studies.