Ashes to Ashes | Homegoing for the Unburied
"Ashes to Ashes" are the final words in typical African American funeral services. Many of those who were murdered by the Klan to maintain the reign of white supremacy never received their "Ashes to Ashes". The goal of this project by Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker is to acknowledge and mourn the African Americans who were racially terrorized during the Jim Crow era after the Civil War and until this very day. Some endured lynching and other forms of brutalization and, therefore, they never received a proper burial. This is about to change on April 30, 2016! The Homegoing Celebration of thousands of African Americans is about to happen. Are you ready? As Dr. John Bracey, Chairman of African American Studies at UMASS said, "what took us so long?"
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer/English Burial Service
"Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of his great mercy to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,"
The Awakening for Ashes to Ashes It is the custom for most families to have a service called "A Wake" – the night before the funeral service. It is a time for visitation and commemoration of the dead. Because it will be impossible to remember the million ancestors one by one, the plan is to have a banners competition among area students with lists of some of the dead. We will work with the department of African American studies at UMASS to provide educational information to the schools to strengthen their understanding of the project and to foster more knowledge of the history of slavery in America and its aftermath. The program committee will work with the Director of the Augustus Savage gallery, Terry Jenoure, to have a juried show of national artists to be presented the night before the homegoing service. The Awakening will have a short program to announce the prizewinner for the banners and display the art works. After this service, 50 paper balloons will be released by supporters of A2A to represent the lives of the unburied.
Ashes to Ashes | Homegoing for the Unburied This service will be similar to a real funeral. It will consist of a wooden pine casket made by local students at Putnam High School Academy under the guidance of Mr. J. Stephen. His plan is to use tools from the turn of the century. History teachers will stress the educational components of the project and photography classes will document the making of the casket. There will be a funeral procession from STCC in Springfield to the St. John Legacy Church where the service will be held. The casket will be in a glass hearse pulled by two black draft horses. The hearse will be followed by the soldiers from the Massachusetts 54th regiment. Along the path of the procession, people will hold signs of the names of those that have been victims of racial terrorism in America. This is in keeping with the saying that "if you speak my name, I will live forever. Once the casket enters the church, there will be a 25 member choir singing the Negro spiritual 'I've been bulked and I've been scorned". There will be a eulogy presented by a minister a list of songs. One musical piece has been composed by Mr. Avery Sharpe, an international Jazz Bassist, in remembrance of his uncle who was placed on a railroad tract by the KKK, because he was dating a white woman. Because there is little chance of an obituary for over 3 million people, there will be 4 short vignettes to represent a cross section of the many unburied. The exit of the casket from the church will be accompanied by a Louisiana funeral band made available by Dr. Willie Hills, Director of the UMASS Fine Art Department.
"If you speak my name, I will live forever."
Video Documentary Ashes to Ashes, Dr. Joan Braderman, Film Professor, Hampshire College, has started documenting the making of Ashes to Ashes with a video of Mr. Avery Sharpe and Dr. Shirley Jackson-Whitaker. It is the opinion of Dr. Braderman that the documentation of this historical event is imperative. The plan is to film the funeral procession and service the day of the event, followed by editing of the film for a future documentation. Because of the immediate historical impact of this event, there will be viral streaming of the event throughout the country.
The Ashes to Ashes | Homegoing for the Unburied Program will establish a real memorial (funeral) service for the over 2 million lost during the Middle Passes, and the 3,999 documented lynching s that took place in America from 1877 – 1950.