A self-proclaimed abolitionist is urging the Queen of England to acknowledge the upcoming 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans on English American soil, calling on her to condemn the atrocity that would become Black chattel slavery.
In an open letter to Queen Elizabeth II, Venita Benitez contends the Queen is the only one with the power to acknowledge and denounce the crest of John Hawkins, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I for pioneering the British slave trade.
” … An amazing opportunity to bring healing and reconciliation to all nations around the globe will take place during the month of August, in the year of our Lord 2019, for the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans on English American soil, [at] Fort Comfort, present day Hampton, Virginia,” wrote Benitez, who resides in Dallas. “And I believe Your Majesty will bestow recognition upon the people.”
“Forgiveness, healing and reconciliation have been a focus of many nations in response to hatred and discrimination,” she added. ” … My purpose on this earth is fueled by passion for this very moment for the global healing of all people on our planet.”
Benitez’s letter noted Hawkins’ role in the slave trade, which raked in massive profits for the British Empire. The slave trader is said to have traveled to what’s now Sierra Leone where he participated in native wars, assaulted the people and burned down their villages. For his efforts, he was awarded a coat of arms emblazoned with a “lion passant” and a crest depicting “a demi-Moor in his proper color (naked), bound, and captive with annulets in his arms and ears.”
Benitez, a genealogist, said it was her ancestry that led her to England in 2006, where she witnessed the resigning of the King James charter for America. It wasn’t long after that she learned Hawkins’ crest while researching Britain’s slave past.
“You can have a coat of arms, but when you do something heroic, you get a crest,” she explained in a phone interview. “For his crest, he chose to have an African bound in captivity. And when you look at today, we’re still in captivity … this has followed all the way until the inception of America.”
In her letter, Benitez wrote that “his coat of arms and crest may represent the heraldic achievements and massive material wealth for England, however it symbolizes forms of discrimination and hatred not only going on in America but across the globe.”
The 400th anniversary of the American charter/founding of Jamestown was a big deal for the British, prompting a visit to the U.S. by the Queen herself in 2007. Now that the 400th anniversary of the first Africans’ arrival is upon us, however, Benitez says she feels the historic event is being swept under the rug.
“White people made millions” off the Queen’s visit, Benitez said, noting the festivals that were thrown to celebrate the occasion. “Now, here we are getting ready to do our 400th anniversary and they want it quiet. They don’t want us to go to Hampton, they don’t want us to do events all over the world so we can make money.”
“It’s our reparations,” she added.
Benitez says she hasn’t received a response from the Queen.