KANSAS CITY, KAN. — On Wednesday, a ceremony took place at the Quindaro Township Site in Kansas City, Kansas — a stop on the underground railroad.
“It’s a full circle, or at least a continuation of a circle for those from Ghana, and those from other nations who may be here to come to this site of the ocean to speak to us," said Gayle Townsend, a Wyandotte County Commissioner. "And to reach across oceans is really a significant thing."
The United Nations Educational and Scientific Cultural Organization, alongside delegates from African countries, read apology letters from chiefs and tribal leaders for their ancestors hand in enslaving and trading fellow Africans across the world.
“This is the healing that I begged for as a Black woman in America,” said Anita Dixon, executive director at UNESCO said.
Local and state leaders from Kansas and Missouri were joined by the Wyandotte Tribe at the ceremony on Wednesday.
The apology letters took a look at the dark past and the role some African chiefs played in the slave trade.
“(It's) The apology of the awareness that there is a broad culture that contributed to this travesty of enslavement,” said David Haley, a Kansas senator.
Dixon said it was important to invite delegates from African countries to the Quindaro site for the ceremony.
“This apology is directed specifically to not people of color, but Black people, African people, who have been dispersed in all parts of the world," Dixon said.
Charles Nzally was a ceremonial delegate who traveled from Gambia, West Africa.
“(I'm) Most saddened by the fact that some African chiefs were in violation of their sworn duty to protect the interest of the people, as well as those yet unborn," Nzally said. "(They) Would kidnap, sell, trade and otherwise negotiate the transfer of their own people to foreigners."
Chiluba Mosunda was another ceremonial delegate from Zambia who offered apologies.
“The opportunity today gives us a chance to have the most important of conversations that must happen between our people in addressing the Trans Atlantic Slave trade that forever changed people of African descent from continent to continent," Mosunda said.
According to Dixon, the letters were meant to help people think about the past decisions made by African tribal leaders.
“When you look at a Black person and you can’t know where they are from, that’s the heart break of being a Black American,” she said.
However, the letters were also meant to open up a new chapter of love, life and healing
“When we face up to the things they were apart of, and understand why it happened, once we do that, we can move forward to the next level,” said Paul Ceesay, from The Gambia.