Naperville Honors First Enslaved Africans to Arrive in America

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Bell Ringing

As the bells rang, the community stood hand in hand to honor the first Africans who landed in America 400 years ago.

Around 75 people gathered at the Millennium Carillon to stand in silence for four minutes – one minute for each century.

“As I was looking out at the crowd, I’m like this is what our community is all about. I just see people from different backgrounds, races, religions and we’re all here to commemorate this event and recognize, yes it’s African American history, but it’s American history as well,” said Councilman Benjamin White.

Nationwide Event

Today marked a nationwide bell ringing for the slaves who landed in 1619 at Point Comfort in Hampton, Virginia.

Naperville Neighbors United and the Park District partnered up to host the event in locally.

But before the bell ringing, three speakers talked about the struggles, achievements, and hope for African Americans.

“When I look around at my classmates every single day – unique people who are so impassioned with the things that they’re doing and have so many goals for the future,” said Haley Cush, one of the speakers. “So when you see that kind of energy on a day to day basis, it’s really easy to be optimistic about the future and everything that holds.”

A Better Future

Working together for a better future rang true for everyone involved.

“Unity is always important and I know a lot of people point to today’s political rhetoric as being increasingly divisive and that may be true, but there have been divisions in our community for literally hundreds of years that we’re striving to overcome,” said Will County Board Member Michelle “Mimi” Cowan. “So regardless of the political climate, and maybe especially because of it, we need to continue to work on that.”

Working toward a better future as a united community.

Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.