By Charles Hallman
African Americans and African immigrants are forever linked, says the pastor of St. Philip and St. Thomas Episcopal Church, St. Paul.
“A mass movement of Africans from Central Africa to West Africa” in the 16th century eventually caused “a breakdown of the core African values of love, respect…and cohesiveness,” explains Father James Wilson as he spoke during a combined worship service of the congregations of his church and St. James A.M.E. Church on February 12 at St. James.
“The disintegration and breakdown of African core values laid the foundation for trans-Atlantic slavery in the 15th and 16th century.”
Settlers of a new land, which later became the United States, and Europeans began to infiltrate West Africa “because of its rich, green forests [and it] became the next place to look for slave labor after first attempting to enslave American Indians,” he noted.
This mass movement across the continent “made it easier for Europeans to penetrate the African societies. Africans captured…Africans and sold them into slavery in exchange for tobacco and agricultural tools.
“The sad history that has caused bad feelings between Africans and African Americans… We must acknowledge that sad history” regardless of how terrible it was, continues Wilson. There should be “deep regret and apologies. It’s our history because it is our African heritage. We commemorate and celebrate those who made a difference…and read out their stories of success and accomplishment.”
As a result, Black History Month “is a time for reconciliatory apology and forgiveness with our African brothers and sisters,” believes Wilson, who keenly noted some Black congregants uncomfortably squirming in the pews as he gave his 20-minute sermon on the historical significance of Richard Allen and Absalom Jones, the founders of the African Methodist Episcopal and African Episcopal churches, respectively, at St. James.
The history of slavery can’t be ignored, reaffirms Wilson. However, the uncomfortableness Wilson says he sometimes sees from African Americans he doesn’t quite understand. “Some Blacks will ask, ‘Why you want to talk about the past?’ Anytime you talk about [our history], people sometimes get so angry…and we should tell that story.
“African Americans [in our past] paid a price for us being here. When you see African Americans, you can easily see that they are Africans. Do we have the time to sit together as Africans and African Americans and have this kind of dialogue?
“We need to initiate this dialogue.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.