New Yorkers have gathered in Co-op City yesterday to mark the inauguration of the annual observance of Ota Benga Day. The detailed report was included in a press release issued on Thursday, September 28, 2023.
The history behind this day stretches back to the 15th century when Europeans first set foot in Africa for economic purposes. Regrettably, their interactions with native Africans have been marred by some of the darkest chapters in human history.
From the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources to the international trade of Africans as chattel slaves, these events have left a lasting scar.
When the abhorrent institution of slavery was finally abolished, instead of acknowledging their sins, some chose to colonize the entire continent. This ill-fated episode, known as the ‘Scramble for Africa’ in 1885, resulted in the slaughter of millions of Africans and continued exploitation of the continent’s resources.
To justify their actions, European colonists employed racist pseudo-science, promoting the concept of white supremacy. This dehumanizing mindset led to the creation of human zoos, where individuals were put on display as if they were animals.
The pinnacle of this disturbing practice was the 1904 World Fair in the United States, which showcased individuals with attributes deemed akin to animals.
Among those brought to the United States for this exhibition was Ota Benga, a Congolese Pygmie man. Tragically, he ended up confined in the Bronx Zoo, locked in cages alongside wild animals, for the amusement of zoo-goers.
The outrage sparked by this racist spectacle in September 1906 was substantial, particularly among African American clergy, who felt deeply offended by the degrading treatment of their fellow human beings. However, despite the heinous nature of these acts, they have not received the widespread condemnation and atonement they rightfully deserve until now.
“Ota Benga Day represents a crucial turning point in our history. It’s a call for acknowledgment, healing, and unity,” remarked Sheikh Musa Drammeh, Founder of Daylight Africa.
“In commemorating Ota Benga Day, we honor the memory of those wronged and work towards a world that embraces diversity and equality,” expressed Reverend Rosario, a prominent interfaith leader in The Bronx.
The historic inauguration of Ota Benga Day aims to rectify this historical injustice. The founders of this observance have outlined several objectives and these objectives were unanimously ratified during the inauguration, and the founders are committed to launching a campaign for their official implementation. To them, Ota Benga represents every victim of injustice around the world. Their campaign, aptly named ‘Acknowledge, Atone, and Advance,’ is a call for addressing injustice and promoting the idea of one human family with beautiful diversity, moving beyond the shadows of racism.
As Ota Benga Day takes root in the hearts of New Yorkers and beyond, it serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of acknowledging the past, atoning for past wrongs, and advancing toward a more just and equitable future for all.