There were two expeditions, the first of which was in the Gambia and Senegal. In the Gambia we were participating in the International Roots Festival. Our first major assignment on Saturday June 3rd was a reconciliation walk to the Independence Stadium. When we arrived at the stadium, there was a lengthy carnival procession, with each group stopping in front of Vice-President of the Gambia, Dr Isatou Njie Saidy. We came after a gap at the very end – the first group including white people. As we walked there was a moving applause from the crowds. Later in the program we came to give our full apology for European involvement in the slave trade. We walked up and faced the Vice-President and other leaders from African nations as well as many visitors from the African Diaspora including the family of Bob Marley. We knelt down and made our confession, including contributions from Markus Faisst and Thierry Martin in German and French and one from Andrew Hawkins relating to his famous ancestor, Sir John Hawkins. After a pause, the Vice-President herself came and after expressing forgiveness, she released us from the yokes and chains.
This amazing event was the fulfillment of several years of planning.Some time ago it was brought to our attention that Isaiah 60 has been a significant passage for Africans of the Diaspora since the nineteenth century. The verse that we believe was particularly relevant was verse 14 – The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you.” We could never have engineered such an occasion to make such a confession before thousands of Africans and especially representing so many nations.
Many people came up to us afterwards and thanked us for what we had done, including a very lively group of Jamaicans. We understand that apart from the Gambia, our action was reported in Nigeria, Jamaica, Sweden and Germany.
On June 5th, we visited the James Island Fort and also walked in the yokes and chains from Kunta Kinte’s village of Juffureh to the NEVER AGAIN freedom statue at Albreda.
We travelled on to Senegal on June 7th and our main walk was of course on Goree Island. we walked from the castle to La Maison d'Esclaves where we were graciously received by the Curator Boubacar Joseph Ndiaye.
After the expedition ended, the story of Andrew Hawkins' participation appeared in the Times, the Daily Mail and subsequently many newspapers worldwide. The most accurate report is in the BBC website - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/5105328.stm
The second expedition to Ghana, Togo and Benin took place in late July and early August. A feature in all three nations was that we frequently brought our apology before the local kings. This took place in Osu and Jamestown in Ghana, Agbodrafo and Aneho in Togo and Ouidah and Porto Novo in Benin. In all cases what we shared was received warmly. In Ghana, we also visited Elmina and Cape Coast Castles. The director at Cape Coast told us that he had not known of a group engaging in symbolic action and prayer that represented all three corners of the slave triangle before this time.