This article first appeared On ESSENCE.COM, August 27, 2019

There was African drumming, gospel music, healing rituals, poetry, speeches—along with prayers and tears—as thousands gathered in Hampton, Virginia to commemorate 400 years since slavery began in English North America.

In late August of 1619, a ship landed in Point Comfort, Virginia (now present-day Hampton) with what was recorded as “20 and odd Negars” on board stolen from West-Central Africa.

When the `White Lion’ dropped anchor in waters surrounding what is now Fort Monroe National Monument, it set in motion the race-based system of slavery that would last for 246 years in America.

The 2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing was about remembering and honoring the ancestors while building a better nation for future generations. It was hosted by Virginia’s 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution, in partnership with Fort Monroe Authority, Fort Monroe National Monument, and the City of Hampton.