Celebrating the Launch of the Amistad Atlantic Freedom Tour
Written by Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President
June 21, 2007
NEW HAVEN, CONN. - It is an honor for me to greet our distinguished guests, the crew of the Amistad, national and local leaders of the United Church of Christ who have traveled here from our General Synod in Hartford, and the people of Connecticut as we prepare to write an exciting new entry into the log book of the Freedom Schooner Amistad. As the General Minister and President of a church that was one of the major financial partners in the construction of the ship, and which continues to encourage the transformative programs of Amistad America, we are pleased and proud to be here today.
To be here in New Haven is to return to a place where the dramatic partnership between the courage of Sengbe Piah and the faithful convictions of New England Congregationalists launched a freedom saga that continues to encourage and inspire. Each week in our denominational headquarters in Cleveland, we celebrate that legacy, worshiping in the Amistad Chapel under the watch of Sengbe's portrait, and beneath the murals depicting the uprising, the trial, and the homecoming of the first Amistad crew. We remember that historic partnership with gratitude and thanksgiving even as we confess the bitter and brutal history of slavery that prompted it.
The enslavement of Africans in the Americas was but one expression of a global oppression and exploitation born of racism and colonialism. The beginning of the Amistad Atlantic Freedom Tour on the occasion of the bicentennial of the abolishment of the slave trade in the British Empire is an acknowledgement of this transatlantic reality that linked the global north and the global south in a sad history of human suffering and moral failure of unparalleled magnitude.
Today the infamous Triangle Trade has been replaced by a global economic system continuing patterns of greed and exploitation that leave much of Asia, Africa, and Latin America burdened by the oppressive weight of poverty, starvation, and violence. Amistad's homecoming in West Africa will be bittersweet, for amid the joy of that historic return will be the painful reality that even today, in Africa, in Europe, and in North America, Sengbe's descendents are not all free from a profound suffering that is a denial of the very faith we confess.
Today we look forward to sending the Amistad forth on a journey of remembrance and recommitment. And we pray for her safe homecoming to New Haven. But we know that the Amistad will only truly come home when the full human dignity of all of Sengbe's children is honored in the world, and when not just a ship, but the human community will, in the words of the prophet, "go out in joy, and be led back in peace."