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Water's Edge Museum celebrates installation of middle passage sign marker showing slave trade routes

OXFORD — The Water’s Edge Museum celebrated the installation of a middle passage marker in Oxford, showing the town and Eastern Shore’s historical place as part of major slave trade routes in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

Several officials and scholars attended the July ceremony, including from the Maryland General Assembly; the governor’s office; Salisbury University; a local Native American tribe; and the embassy of South Africa.

Dozens watched as the grounds of Oxford were blessed during the ceremony to honor enslaved persons brought to the Eastern Shore centuries ago, as well as those who died during the long Atlantic Ocean route.

The museum installed the Middle Passage Port Marker on its own property, but Water’s Edge founder Barbara Paca hopes to eventually move the sign closer to the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry off the Tred Avon, where slaves were brought in and distributed across the colonies.

Ann Cobb, the executive director of the Middle Passage Ceremonies and Port Markers Project, an organization working to install signs marking slave routes worldwide, said the Oxford marker teaches the legacy of slavery — and memorializes the lives lost on the way from Africa to the U.S.

“The Port Marker Project is to honor captive Africans who were part of the transatlantic journey called the Middle Passage,” Cobb said, “to remember the 2 million children and men who died during that ocean crossing and the 12 million who survived.

“It is time, or should I say it is long overdue, that we acknowledge these sacrifices and commemorate their lives,” she added. “They are with us always. They walk with us, they talk with us, they hold our hands, they whisper in our ears, they come to us in our dreams. With this ceremony and marker dedication, we open the door and ask them to join us today.”

The Water’s Edge Museum opened in February, the culmination of a nearly 20-year project for Paca — an art historian, landscape architect and author who has been recognized by the Queen of England for her work.

Paca wished to honor the founding Black families of Maryland on the Eastern Shore, and by opening the Water’s Edge with nearly 200 pieces of portraits, paintings, photographs, artifacts, books and more, she achieved one of her lifelong ambitions.

Paca had also set her sights on the history of the town as a slave route destination. Oxford was a major tobacco port, with four transatlantic ships and 25 intra-American ships delivering slaves until the last known ship docked in 1772.

The Middle Passage Port Marker on the museum grounds displays a 1736 map from Herman Moll, who cartographed the route along the Chesapeake Bay and finally to Oxford. Written information on the route from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which approved an application for the sign, is available for reading next to the historic map.

The nearly two-hour long event was also attended by dozens of town residents and Eastern Shore locals, who came to pay respects to the Middle Passage Port Marker — and to hear the numerous guest speakers from across the nation.

Guests carved out time to visit the museum on the Fourth of July, one of the biggest holidays of the year. The ceremony was timed to celebrate the country’s Black founders on Independence Day.

Professor John Wesley Wright of Salisbury University, accompanied by two drummers, led guests through two historic slave songs, “Dennadon Kanin” and “Hammer Ring,” at the beginning and end of the ceremony. He said he chose the songs carefully in respect and reverence for the event.

First Lady of Maryland Yumi Hogan and Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith awarded a citation in honor of the marker and the founding Black families of Maryland, the centerpiece narrative of the Water’s Edge Museum.

“There would be no America as we know it today without their essential role as the builders and sustainers of our country,” Wobensmith said. “It was not just the resilience but the ingenuity and the adaptability of the people of African descent who brought their unique culture and skills to these shores.”

The Moaney-Henrys, who have numerous portraits hung up inside the Water’s Edge, and who also hold leadership positions at the museum, received the citation along with Paca.

Brenda Moaney-Henry teared up after receiving a surprise gift: a portrait of her father as a baby from the late Ruth Starr Rose. Rose painted many of the African-American artwork at the Water’s Edge.

The Middle Passage Port Marker speaks to her ancestors’ ability to overcome great difficulties, Moaney-Henry said in a speech.

“The slave is resilient,” she added. “And that resiliency helped build the Black families of America. And I am very proud and very honored to be here today, to be able to share the Middle Passage Marker.”

The grounds of the museum were blessed by Chief Wolf Mother of the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians, a tribe of about 300 Native American descendants of the Nanticoke, Choptank and Pocomoke.

Mpho Oliphant, the first secretary of the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, also attended the Oxford event.

Sen. Adelaide Eckardt, R-Mid-Shore, spoke to the remarkability of Paca in being the first to recognize Oxford as a slave destination and to honor the Black founding families of Maryland.

“I need to say this because God gives each one of us special gifts,” she said. “I think one of Dr. Paca’s gifts is the ability to see in folks, and to be able to research what she needs to — to celebrate where we’ve been and then to know where we’re going.”

Nominations open for 2021 Best of the Best Chesapeake

EASTON — Nominations are now open for the 2021 Best of the Best Chesapeake community and readers’ choice program recognizing top local businesses on the Mid-Shore.

The nomination portal for this year’s Best of the Best is now open at BestChesapeake.com. Nominations will be accepted between July 9 and July 30 as the first part of the local competition.

The community program allows readers to nominate and vote for their favorite businesses on the Shore. There are dozens of categories where our readers can recognize and support their favorite local businesses, shops and eateries.

Categories include favorite restaurants, art galleries, golf courses, yoga studios, hardware stores, clothing boutiques, fitness centers, museums and bars as well as top employers, wedding and events venues and many more.

Readers who nominate local companies and organizations in more than 25 categories will be automatically entered for a chance to win a $250 gift card.

The top local companies that get the most nominations in each category will advance to a top five voting round in September. Winners will be recognized in a special print and online section after the voting round has ended.

The 2021 Best of the Best Chesapeake is the official community and readers’ choice awards for the Mid-Shore. The program is organized by APG Chesapeake, the parent company of The Star Democrat.

“Placing in Best of the Best Chesapeake will help businesses immeasurably and develop their sustainable position in our market. We are really excited for the effort and especially the Oscar-like event in December to honor our area businesses.” said Betsy Griffin, advertising sales director for APG Media of Chesapeake.

For more information: BestChesapeake.com

3 things

1On this day in history, in 1937, a fire at 20th Century Fox’s film storage facility in Little Ferry, New Jersey, destroyed most of the studio’s silent films. In 1943, during World War II, the Allies launched Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily. In 1947, the engagement of Britain’s Princess Elizabeth to Lt. Philip Mountbatten was announced. Football Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson is 74. Actor Jimmy Smits is 66. Actor Tom Hanks is 65. Actor Kelly McGillis is 64. Actor Tom Hanks is 65. Actor-rock singer Courtney Love (pictured) is 57. Musician/producer Jack White is 46 (More history on A4)

2 University of Maryland Shore Medical Center in Easton has unveiled a renovated and modernized cafeteria. The traditional cafeteria has been replaced by Easton Marketplace featuring more grab-and-go options as well as new displays, a lemonade stand and “coffee destination.” The marketplace renovations were done in conjunction with Morrison Healthcare. The Marketplace at UM Shore Medical Center at Easton is located on the first floor of the hospital. (Story on A3)

3 Former President Donald Trump has filed a class action federal lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter and Google over the social media giants banning him and other conservatives from their powerful platforms. Trump’s lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Florida, also names Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai. Twitter and Facebook banned Trump after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol. Google and its YouTube platform along with Facebook and Twitter have also been banning or restricting accounts and channels that question President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory as well as those opposed to COVID vaccines and others advocating right-wing and QAnon views. (Story on A6)

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Tropical storm warnings, tornado and flood watches across region as Elsa heads to East Coast

ST. MICHAELS — Tropical storm warnings and tornado watches have been issued for the Shore as Tropical Storm Elsa cuts a path towards the Delmarva Peninsula and the Atlantic coast

Parts of the Eastern Shore and region — including Talbot, Caroline and Queen Anne’s counties, as well as parts of Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey — have been under a tropical storm warning as Elsa moved through the Carolinas and Virginia.

“Talbot County is under a tropical storm warning until further notice,” the county’s emergency services department said in a statement on Thursday.

The local agency said the storm could bring power outages, heavy rain and wind as well as the potential for more severe weather such as tidal surges, flooding and tornadoes. Most of Elsa’s impact is expected overnight starting late Thursday and into early Friday morning.

A tornado watch was issued by the National Weather Service until 11 p.m. Thursday for Dorchester, Wicomico, Worchester, Somerset, Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

The storm track is taking Else through the bottom portion of the Chesapeake Bay and then across parts of the Delmarva Peninsula and into the Atlantic Ocean. The storm could eventually bring strong winds to the New York City area.

Elsa brought rains and some flooding to North Carolina on Thursday. Elsa’s winds strengthened Thursday to 50 mph as the storm dropped heavy rains on parts of North Carolina and Virginia, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said in its latest update, according to the Associated Press.

Locally, Easton, St. Michaels and other areas of the Shore could see between 1 and 2 inches of rain from the storm, according to the National Weather Service. The weather service said Elsa could potentially bring even more rain to the region along with high winds and potential flooding.

Small craft advisories have been issued with rough waters and storms projected for the region starting Thursday evening and early Friday. Atlantic beaches could see high winds. The weather service reported Thursday that Elsa’s highest sustained winds are 50 miles per hour though the current forecast for Easton projects winds of 10 to 20 miles per hour with 30 mph gusts.

Much of the Eastern Shore as well as Delaware are also under flash flood watches.

Coastal towns such as Oxford and St. Michaels are also under the tropical storm warning, and will be preparing for potential flooding, tidal and storm surges. Both towns are encouraging residents to stay informed during the emergency via posted information on the respective town websites via the county emergency services department.

Kimberly Weller, communications manager for St. Michaels, said she and St. Michaels Police Department Chief Anthony Smith coordinate as a team to handle potential emergency situations during storm warnings. They will also be following the Talbot County Department of Emergency Operations Department.

Cheryl Lewis, the town clerk for Oxford, said she also is “kept abreast” of information via the county’s emergency department.

“The town also distributes information annually to the citizens regarding hurricane preparation,” she wrote in an email. “In advance of any major storm, town administration, public works and police Departments follow a protocol that includes coordinating department schedules, verifying supplies, checking ditches and outlets for drainage purposes, and staging of markers for high water, along with the posting of relevant notices to the public.”

The looming storm also prompted the cancelation of the Baltimore Orioles game with the Toronto Blue Jays in Baltimore as well as the Delmarva Shorebirds game with the Salem Red Sox in Salisbury.

Easton High School’s Heather Andrews is the 2021 Maryland TESOL Association’s Teacher of the Year for K-12. (Story on A3)

State honors