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St. Mark’s members ring the bell to sound freedom from slavery

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Troy joined churches around the country on Sunday in marking the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans to be sold into slavery in North America in 1619.

The ship carrying 20 enslaved Africans landed at Virginia’s Point Comfort, miles from the Jamestown settlement. That site is now part of Fort Monroe National Monument. The captain traded the enslaved Africans for food.

Father Kirk Kennington, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, said the National Park Service asked churches, community partners and the public to join in a day of healing by ringing bells at 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Sunday.

Kennington said St. Mark’s Episcopal Church chose to take part in remembering and honoring these slaves.

“I don’t know if other churches in the area participated in the ringing of the bells,” Kennington said. “I do know that other churches in Alabama participated and many churches along the Eastern Seaboard joined in ringing the bells simultaneously with the bell ringing at Fort Monroe National Monument, the site of the first landing.

Kennington said St. Mark’s Church commemorated the anniversary of the first Africans to be sold into slavery in America with a prayer service and the ringing of bells in honor if those who landed at Fort Monroe in1619.

“We wanted to join with other faiths and all faiths in proclaiming liberty,” Kennington said. “We met at 1:30 in the church for reflection and silent prayer and music. At 2 p.m. Central Standard Time, we rang the bells for 60 seconds to affirm our solidarity about racial reconciliation.”

About 35 people from St. Mark’s, Troy Church, St. Peter’s Missionary Baptist Church and several community neighbors attended the Bell Ringing Service.

“We believe in doing what we can, as citizens, to not forget to remember,” Kennington said. “We’ve come a long way from slavery but there is more to do. The way to end racism is to stop being racist.”

Kennington said it is the responsible thing to commemorate the heartbreaking history of slavery and of the Holocaust and to come together in solidarity for a better future.