Hannah Durkin Keynotes Africatown's 2021 Spirit of Our Ancestors Festival
3rd Annual Event Honors Rodishi and Matilda, the Clotilda Africans Durkin Uncovered, All Women Who Survived the Middle Passage on Mobile's Infamous Slave Ship
Set for Feb. 13, 2021, the Festival that is normally held in Historic Africatown will be virtual due to the continuing pandemic. The 2021 theme, "Women of Worth," celebrates Sally Smith (African name "Rodishi") whom Durkin identified, Matilda McCrear, another Clotilda African Durkin uncovered through additional research, and all the other women -- known and unknown -- who were brought to Mobile as human cargo in the Clotilda's bowels in 1860.
They were ripped from their homes and sold to foreigners, surviving the horrors of the Middle Passage from Africa across the Atlantic, only to face the terrors of slavery when they arrived. They thrived in the face of many, many challenges, says Joycelyn Davis, the festival's organizer.
"Oftentimes, we highlight the men of the Clotilda, but we somehow forget about the women," Davis says. "We want to honor and celebrate them. Collectively, they helped one another. As I've said when starting this festival, when I looked at the historical marker outside of my church, I also saw the names of the women who are listed. They have a voice as well."
The historical marker in front of Union Baptist Church lists the American and some African names of 12 Clotilda survivors -- women and men -- who founded it in 1872. They are among those who established Africatown in 1866 because they could not return home.
Davis and other co-founders of the Clotilda Descendants Association are excited that more research is being done to uncover even more descendants and their families' stories.
The Festival's purpose includes educating the community and the world about the complete story of Africatown, especially by inviting scholars to share their research. "We've had scholars such as historian Dr. Natalie S. Robertson, Dr. Deborah G. Plant, and now Dr. Hannah Durkin for our Festival, because I want people to walk away with meaningful information,"
Davis and other Clotilda descendants were recently featured in the Nov. 29th segment of "60 Minutes" with Anderson Cooper (https://www.cbsnews.com/
Joycelyn Davis, Festival Founder and Organizer