Observances of a 1st time witness to The Sun People Collective

Gebre Peddie, his aunt Vinette K Pryce, Sonia Chin and Yolande Leger.
Photo courtesy Vinette K. Pryce

Morehouse College graduate, Gebre Peddie seemed overwhelmed by the proceedings held at Coney Island in tribute to ancestors by the People of the Sun Middle Passage Collective.
Overwhelmed by the cultural calendar of June 8, 2024, Peddie witnessed for the first time, an annual that for 35 years provides ritualistic, spiritually, enlightening beachfront escape.
On his first outing, the 23 year-old seemed composed as he intently listened to poets recite verses from their consciousness.
However, at second glance, during historic references to the Transatlantic slave trade he discreetly shed a tear or more about the indiscretions perpetrated against Africans by heinous captors.
His demeanor offered clues to an inner understanding of orisha mores, Yoruba practices and African traditions.
But his primary concern was to bolster support for his grieving aunt who recently lost her mother.
Throughout an afternoon marked by pageantry Peddie struggled to conceal the emotions he felt for the grief- strickened elder.
He seemed content yet cautiously curious about the mysticism that could envelop if he submitted to the pounding drumbeats.
At one juncture the inquisitive senior stared to notice a red-eyed relative grappling with emotions.
“I could hardly restrain myself from bawling,” she admitted.
Born in Ocala, Florida, her dreadlocked, fashion-forward, savvy Harlem transplanted nephew seemed entranced by the dress, the nuances, spoken word performances, dances and cultural expressions.
Some might discern that the graduate from the institution Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. scored passing grades in an earlier era might dictate his own destiny.
An avowed veteran witness to ceremonial drumming sessions, Peddie previously resided in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia before moving to Atlanta, Georgia and New York City.
Also parented by two Rastafarians — Desta and Abraham Peddie — it is evident the Gen Z benefactor maintained his own identity.
Following the spirited ceremony he said he was privileged to experience the enlightening culturally enriching annual.
One of a pair of identical twins, Mykel, who now resides in Atlanta, Georgia, is his equally passionate double.
A poignant observation was the uniqueness of the Brooklyn heritage gathering.
Soul stirring, nostalgic, emotional, reflective, are some of the adjectives that could be applied.
“Breathe aunty, you will get thru this” he intermittently injected with earnest.
The fact after leaving his Harlem apartment, he stopped into a flower shop; purchased a bouquet intended for tossing into the sea in remembrance of Africans lost during the Transatlantic slave trade, he was compelled to absorb every detail.
A loose itinerary evolved when he arrived in the borough of Kings; met up with his relative, joined her on a ride on the Q train and when it ended assessed an ideal outing.
Passing the many adventure rides, taking stock of the multiplicity of inviting restaurants the borough’s best-known summer attraction provided nourishing eye-candy to sweeten the scent from a weather-perfect day.
Following glares along his path, Nyabinghi drums called him front and center to a rollercoaster Thunderbolt contraption.
Peddie ignored the distraction to find a sunny spot on the sand in front of an altar on the boardwalk.
The drums were infectious.
Soon he became transfixed by the words of Osagyefo, the positioning of elders, the poetry of the gathering, the pageantry of the proceedings, the breezy sun-drenched atmosphere, burning incence, clueless children dancing to beats and rhymes, the sea behind him and mostly, nostalgic references to his own experiences.
“In Ethiopia, women would have to cover their shoulders,” he commented.
Following a procession to the waters, he reverently walked backwards in order to honor a tradition that dictates never turning ones back on the ancestors.
Simultaneous to retreat, he shouldered the weight of his grieving companion while occasionally whispering “breathe aunty, breathe.”
On arriving to the boardwalk, a sole individual stacked rented chairs.
Without exchanging verbal niceties, Peddie ditched his belonging to join Akeem, the founder of the reputed annual.
Together they organized the seats.
Hosted on the second Saturday of every June the event is presented in association with Medgar Evers College. Along with learning that Brooklyn is surrounded by 50 miles of water — from Greenpoint to Canarsie — it is also home to a multiplicity of immigrants.
The first timer also realized Coney Island is more than a beach.
“I have never seen so many women drummers,” Peddie observed.

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