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This is a way to reconnect what has been divided. 

Robert Sember

Artist and Activist




A Call to Observe

Our typical understanding of a call is a kind of vocal summons: I called her. It can imply the use of technology, a phone call—an outcry for justice.


In 1619, the first ships delivering Africans to be sold into bondage arrived in Jamestown, an inciting event in America’s ongoing battle with inequality. 2019 would mark this monumental 400th anniversary, and Dr. Mindy Fullilove, social psychiatrist and community organizer, felt the call to observe it. The call wasn’t audible. It came from her ancestors, her human connection to land, people, and justice. An urgency of heart compelling the body to action.


Anniversaries, she says, live in bodies.


Dr. Mindy Fullilove gives a TED Talk in 2015. Link to full TED talk here.

Fullilove’s response was action. She called together pretty much everyone she knows, folks dedicated to unearthing history and solemnly observing 1619 as a way of addressing America’s ecology of inequality. These activists, scholars, artists, and students formed a moral fusion coalition—all linked in arms for radical equity. 

Known as 400 Years of Inequality, the new coalition then issued their own call to the nation: observe the 2019 anniversary by telling stories of oppression and resistance, and organizing for a more just and equal future. An observance is seeing by ceremony. A requisite step to healing. The coalition asked communities to commemorate their local histories and values with place-based observances.


When we move in ways that are forbidden by the ecology of inequality, we start to create new possibilities. This is how we rupture what we’re stuck in.

Dr. Mindy Fullilove
Social Psychiatrist

The Call to Observance

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400 Years of Inequality coalition members Ricky Tucker, Octavia Driscoll, and Tim Nottage read The Call to Observance

An observance is final

acknowledgment and testimony.


It’s a grieving process.


An awakening, a seeing.


What do you do
when your eyes are open?


Dr. Angel Acosta
Healing-Centered Educator  

In 2019, thousands of people held over 150 place-based observances not only in states across America, but also countries around the globe.


Beyond the 400 Years of Inequality project, other organizations answered the call, including the New York Times 1619 project, the National Parks Association, Voices of a People’s History, and more. But the most extraordinary examples of these observances were local, organized by neighbors, colleagues, friends and family.

These are five of their stories. 
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