Black History Month Forum Highlights Horrors of American Slavery

Organized by the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., an event featured representatives of The Gambia and an American entrepreneur working to raise awareness and connect African Americans to their roots.

A Black History Month forum February 12 hosted by the Church of Scientology National Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., looked at the past and future of Black Americans. It featured presentations on the plight of the American slave and initiatives inviting African Americans to discover their roots.

The program featured Mr. Eric A. Sheppard, CEO of Diversity Restoration Solutions Inc. (DRS), a U.S.-based international trade development and cultural heritage awareness firm. His Excellency Sheik Omar Faye, Ambassador of The Gambia to the United States and the Honorable Mr. Benjamin A. Roberts, Minister of Tourism and Culture of The Gambia, also spoke.

Mr. Sheppard spoke of a book written by his ancestor, Narrative of the Life of Moses Grandy; Late a Slave in the United States of America.

Grandy’s memoir describes the day-to-day hardships and personal challenges he endured as a slave in North Carolina. He lost his first wife when her master sold her to another owner far away. Several of his children were also sold to other owners, and he never learned what became of them. When he finally succeeded in purchasing freedom from his owner, he built a hut in the Great Dismal Swamp, a region and phenomenon that was the was subject of the film Mr. Sheppard screened at the event.

Freedom & Slavery in the Great Dismal Swamp is a documentary produced by an archaeological project of American University about the region in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. It served as a place of refuge and a route to freedom for as many as 50,000 enslaved African Americans prior to the end of the Civil War. In 2003, the swamp was recognized as a National Park Service Network to Freedom “Underground Railroad Site.”

Mr. Sheppard also spoke of his 2019 Motherland Homecoming Project, through which he hopes to forge strong cultural and economic connections between African Americans and emerging countries on the African continent. 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the August 20, 1619, arrival of the first African slaves in the colony of Jamestown, Virginia.

It was through this 2019 project that Mr. Sheppard met the next speaker, His Excellency Sheik Omar Faye, Ambassador for The Gambia. Sheik Faye spoke of his country’s biennial International Roots Festival. This year, the festival will take place May 6-13. In 1994, the president of The Gambia initiated the program, inspired by the late Alex Haley’s book Roots: The Saga of an American Family in which Haley traced his ancestry to the Gambian town of Jufureh.

The Honorable Benjamin A. Roberts, Minister of Tourism and Culture of The Gambia, spoke of great potential inherent in a stronger bond between African Americans and The Gambia and of his country’s dedication to bringing this about.

The event ended with a screening of The Story of Human Rights documentary, part of the United for Human Rights initiative supported by the Church of Scientology to raise awareness of human rights through education in the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Church of Scientology National Affairs Office was opened in September 2012 to serve as a central point to coordinate the Church’s many social and humanitarian initiatives on a national and international level.

The Scientology religion was founded by author and philosopher L. Ron Hubbard. The first Church of Scientology was formed in Los Angeles in 1954 and the religion has expanded to more than 11,000 Churches, Missions and affiliated groups, with millions of members in 167 countries.

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