Miami-Dade County

400 years ago, the first slaves were shipped to America. Remembering that dark period

Year of the Return: Remembering 400 Years of Captive Africans in the US

Virginia Key Beach Park, the only beach that allowed Black Americans during segregation, hosted a commemoration for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves to the British colonies in 1619.
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Virginia Key Beach Park, the only beach that allowed Black Americans during segregation, hosted a commemoration for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves to the British colonies in 1619.

About the end of August in 1619, a pitiful, frightened group of “20 odd” Africans from the kingdom of Ndongo, Angola, bound with ropes and chains, were forced aboard the ship “White Lion” and were brought to the shores of America. It was the beginning of the slave trade, one of the darkest times in the history of America.

Starting Sunday, commemorations will be held throughout the country to mark the 400-year milestone. Commemorations in Miami will be Sunday, Aug. 18, and Tuesday, Aug. 20, at the historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., just off Rickenbacker Causeway, said Dinisulu Gene Tinnie, one of the organizers of the events.

“This milestone opportunity to revisit, reflect upon, and be empowered by the full meaning of the last 20 generations of African presence in English-colonized Native North America, has provided the vision for ‘The Year of Return’ observance from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday,” Tinnie said.

“The event is being presented by the South Miami-Dade Branch of the NAACP, in solidarity with the national organization’s groundbreaking, ‘Jamestown to James Town,’ a 7-10 day pilgrimage of African Americans to Ghana, where a district of Accra, the capital, is named James Town. It is near Fort James — one of the numerous dungeons along the coast of Ghana where captured Africans were held until they could be sold to slave ships,” he said.

On Tuesday, Aug. 20, an “Emancipation Circle” will be from 6 p.m. until sunset. The event is presented in cooperation with the Association of Black Psychologists and South Florida People of Color. The program will include an open dialogue ritual that dates to traditional African villages.

“One of the most notable aspects of all the observances being held, is the emphasis on recognizing that we are all carrying the inherited pain of centuries of trauma related to the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and to enslavement itself.

“Now, we are more ready than ever before to acknowledge and confront that pain… because we have an even more powerful story of individual and collective strength and wisdom that has enabled our people to live, laugh, love, and create. We are not defeated in spite of all the suffering and horrors. Ours is a remarkable legacy like no other that is now coming to light,” Tinnie said.

Participants at both events are invited to bring offerings of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers, grains, honey, and other items that do not harm the environment. The offerings will be placed at the conclusion in honor of ancestral generations and those yet to come, Tinnie said.

Admission is free. For more information call 305-960-4600, or email

New rabbi, new programs at Bet Shira

The new rabbi at Bet Shira Congregation, 7500 SW 120th St. in Pinecrest, has introduced a program called “Halacha.”

The program entails members of the congregation going to different sites of nature across South Florida, where he will teach on spirituality.

Rabbi Ben Herman.jpeg
Rabbi Ben Herman

Born in Milwaukee, Rabbi Ben Herman, 35, who started on July 1, attended Jewish Day School through the eighth grade before transferring to public high school. He said he had planned to become a lawyer until he had a spiritual encounter during his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin.

“I was taking a very powerful Hebrew class called Haskalah — which means Jewish enlightenment. It changed the trajectory of my life, and placed me on a new path,” Herman said.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Herman earned a master’s degree in Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

He joined Bet Shira after serving at the Jericho Jewish Center in Jericho, New York.

Another program he plans to develop is “Reiki Torah,” a guided meditation where people will reach above the Torah while meditating to feel the energy from the Torah.

“We will also have a Friday Night Live musical service, geared to attracting more youth to the synagogue.”

Herman and his wife, Kaina, are the parents of a 3-year-old and an 8-month old baby.

If you want to learn more about Herman and his plans for Bet Shira, the community is invited to “Connect. Reboot. Renew,” at the synagogue Aug. 23-25. The weekend will include free membership for a year for new families in the Jewish Religious School Program, and a Welcome Back BBQ open to the community at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 25.

To RSVP for the BBQ, call 305-238-2601, ext. 211. You may also email

Appointed to board of African American Museums

Congratulations to Timothy A. Barber, on being selected a board member for the Association of African American Museums (AAAM). Barber is the executive director of the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida.

Barber started his career with the Black Archives as an intern, 15 years ago. He worked his way up, serving as assistant archivist, archivist and his current position as executive director. He has been an active member of the AAAM for over a decade.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be selected to serve on the Board of Directors for the AAAM,” Barber said. “The work that I am doing here locally, and on a national level with AAAM, is more than just a job to me. This is a large part of my life’s purpose, and I find great satisfaction in knowing that the work I’m doing today will help to ensure that our [African Americans] stories will live beyond my time on this earth.”

Session on navigating life’s detours

The Universal Truth Center for Better Living will present a workshop, “How to Negotiate the Detours of Life” from 10 a.m. to noon on Aug. 24 at the church, 21310 NW 37th Ave. in Miami Gardens.

It’s free, but a love offering will be accepted. Call 305-624-4991.

Lourdes Reunion

Warm congratulations to the Class of 1969 of Our Lady of Lourdes Academy on their Golden Class Reunion.

Class member Debby Lakin Riston said, “There was a tremendous turnout at the reunion, including two IHM Sisters and other teachers.”

“We are like sisters who learned and developed through our awkward teenage years together,” Riston said. “We were similar, and yet so different. We were taught to value and respect each other, and we are so grateful to the IHM Sisters who gave us the gift of community in faith and values.

“They gave us the foundation to develop as strong, caring, independent women. Now, 50 years later, we know we can count on each other and we certainly value our lifelong friendship.”