'The nine are free, and so are we'
PHILADELPHIA (FinalCall.com) — "Nine slaves received a proper burial on July 3, 200 years after their deaths," stated a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer that was referring to the symbolic burial of the nine slaves owned by President George Washington while he occupied the Philadelphia White House. According to historians, this was the first White House and John Adams also served his presidency there.
So, on the day before America celebrated their Independence day, members of the organization Avenging The Ancestors Coalition (ATAC) stood in front of the excavated site which is also where the Liberty Bell is located and chanted "the nine are free, and so are we," as the names of the nine slaves were read by students.
According to ATAC, the nation's first president had a total of 316 slaves. ATAC is a broad-based coalition of African historians, activists, attorneys, elected officials, religious leaders and media personalities who are the descendants of the victims of the greatest holocaust in the history of humankind — the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
"We had to free the souls of these nine enslaved Africans, so that they may have their Independence Day," Michael Coard, head of ATAC told The Final Call. He then repeated the slaves' names: Austin, Christopher, Giles, Hercules, Joe, Moll, Ona, Paris and Richmond.
Mr. Coard, a trial lawyer, historian and talk show host and teacher of hip hop culture at Temple University, explained that ATAC embarked on a journey some five years ago demanding that the federal government, through the National Park Service, properly recognize and commemorate the slaves that President Washington kept in bondage at the White House.
ATAC mounted a petition drive in 2002, which turned in 15,000 signatures and held demonstrations every July 3 until 2005.
"We felt that the commemoration project was an essential step toward telling the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth," Mr. Coard said.
"They have consistently withheld our story out of history, and now we must seize every opportunity to tell it on our on," commented Minister Rodney Muhammad of Muhammad's Mosque No. 12 in Philadelphia. "America must face the painful truth that her genesis began in slavery, suffering and death," Min. Muhammad added.
The slaves lived and worked just a few yards away from the site of the Liberty Bell — historical hypocrisy.
"It slaps you in the face," noted Mr. Coard. "We believe the ancestors sent us here for this mission."
According to ATAC, there has been wide support for the project. Mayor John F. Street pledged $1.5 million, and Pennsylvania congressmen Chaka Fattah and Robert Brady appropriated over four million.
"There was another demand that we made which entailed the use of a Black architectural firm, construction firms, etc.," stated Mr. Coard. "I have also done interviews with the Australian and Chinese press. This thing has drawn worldwide attention," he admitted.
The commemoration site will include the slaves' quarters and the underground tunnels they used to get to the White House.
"That was a powerful moment, when we had the nine children eulogize the nine slaves; and after each name three black balloons were released," Mr. Coard said. "The nine are free, and so are we."
(For more info on the group see: www.avengingtheancestors.com.)