Monday, Apr 23, 2018
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Amistad keeps ideals afloat, skipper says

The ship will be docked near International Park for a four-day stay filled with tours, lectures, and events starting this morning with the opening ceremonies at 8:15.

The replica pays tribute to the Spanish cargo ship that was caught up in an international tug of war beginning in 1839 when Africans, who were sold illegally into slavery, staged a mutiny off America's eastern seaboard.

The story, which ended when the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841 granted the Africans their freedom after former President John Quincy Adams argued for their release, was made into the movie Amistad by Steven Spielberg.

“It's more than just a pretty boat,” said Captain Pinkney, a Navy veteran and Chicago native with a long love of the sea. “This is meant to bring people together and talk.”

Captain Pinkney said he first heard the story of the Amistad in 1976 in New York. The person who told him the story later recruited him to take part in Amistad America, located in New Haven, Conn.

In 1992, Captain Pinkney became the first person of color to circumnavigate the globe solo, using his 47-foot boat Commitment. He said the Amistad case was an issue more of human rights than slave rights.

He pointed to his multi-racial crew made up of males and females to drive home the point that freedom is a basic right of everyone. Captain Pinkney said he hopes many of the conversations started in Toledo because of the Amistad's presence will begin there.

Dwayne Clark, vice president of equal opportunity and community affairs for Owens-Illinois, Inc., one of the sponsors, said the Amistad represents more than the Amistad incident and trial, but one of the first successful stands in this country for human rights on behalf of Africans.

“I'm excited about this visit,” Mr. Clark said. “Slavery is something that the United States has been hiding and hoping it would just go away, but it's part of our history that still affects us. I think this is a chance for us in Toledo and northwest Ohio to see and touch history and understand a part of history.”

Johnny Mickler, president of the Greater Toledo Urban League, another sponsor, said he felt the timing of the Amistad's visit to Toledo, on the Fourth of July weekend, was particularly poignant.

“The Amistad represents the fight for freedom,” Mr. Mickler said. “I think it's highly appropriate to have the ship here during our Independence Day celebration. It's a demonstration of the price some people had to pay for freedom.”

Captain Pinkney said he doesn't expect people to think alike on their interpretation of the Amistad and race relations over the next few days but said the conversation can bring understanding.

“We don't have to agree, but we need to talk to each other openly and honestly,” he said.

“If we do that and do it long enough, we will find out that we have more in common than we don't have in common. We will find out that many of us have the same goals, dreams, and hopes. We will probably find out that we are similar in many ways,” he said.

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