Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Freedom Schooner Amistad

I come from a family of talented sailors but inherited none of their ability or love of the sea. Still, when Jeff asked if I wanted to visit the Freedom Schooner Amistad when it was docked in London as part of its 2007-2008 Amistad Freedom Tour, I jumped at the chance.

I don’t know about you but my natural inclination when someone proposes something worthy and politically correct is to head for the hills but this year a remarkable number of events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Act of Parliament which abolished the slave trade throughout the British Empire have taken place up and down the country including several at my church in London where Granville Sharp, one of the founders of the Abolitionist Movement is buried. I thought, “if the story of the Amistad is half as absorbing as that of Granville Sharp and the early Abolitionists, then it will be worth trucking out to Canary Wharf, a thriving 21st century megalopolis of global financial institutions, to see this reconstructed 19th century schooner.

The Freedom Schooner Amistad was originally conceived by Warren Q Marr II, former editor of the NAACP’s The Crisis magazine. Inspired by Operation Sail, the 1976 parade of tall ships, Marr believed that by telling the story of the Amistad Incident of 1839, where 53 African captives fought for freedom not only on the seas but ultimately in the United States Supreme Court, the floating exhibit would help build understanding amongst people of diverse backgrounds.

A tall order for a tall ship but thanks to the charisma and communication skills of the remarkable William D. Pinkney, the first Master of the Amistad, who spoke to us during our visit, the message of freedom, justice and the triumph of the human spirit were memorably delivered. In a tour de force of connecting with his audience, which included British aristocrats, American diplomats and the usual assortment of bankers and lawyers, this former Revlon marketing executive gave a powerful demonstration of universal human themes by going off on a “rif” about mothers which Bill told us he uses in every port around the world, claiming “everybody gets it and it works every time”.

The London visit of the Amistad is part of a 18 month, 14,000 mile voyage which will include stops in the United Kingdom, Portugal, Sierra Leone, the Caribbean, Bermuda and the east coast of the United States. My recommendation if you live near any of the ports where the Amistad will call, go, see this unique floating classroom, but most importantly, find Bill Pinkney and get him to tell you the “true” story of the Amistad.
Photo courtesy of the Freedom Schooner Amistad website copyright 2007 Wojtek (Voytec) Wolowski

1 comment:

  1. ¿Hará escala en puertos españoles?