WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin hosted a roundtable discussion Wednesday at Chesapeake College with several individuals featured in the Maryland Public Television documentary, “Water’s Edge: Black Watermen of the Chesapeake” and their families.
Attendees included Dr. Cliff Coppersmith, Marc Castelli, Vera Meredith, Captain Tyrone Meredith, Kat De Shields-Moon, Dennis De Shields, Captain Marcus Wooley, Clayton Mitchell, Clayton Washington, Vincent Leggett and Edzel Turner. This was an opportunity to better understand the plight of the black waterman, their history on the Shore and determine what, if any role, the U.S. Government can play to help.
“From Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, there are efforts across the state to preserve Black culture in Maryland. Each of these projects is important, but we need a coordinated effort to connect the dots to follow the history Black Marylanders including Black watermen. This is a story that needs to be more visibly told,” said Senator Cardin.
Part of the discussion included ways to publicly memorialize Maryland’s Black Watermen. The Eastern Shore’s Black watermen went from a couple hundred decades ago to less than 20. The discussion also included designating more towns like Oxford as heritage sites and ports of memory for the transatlantic slave trade and connecting the sites across Maryland.
“The Kennard African American Cultural Heritage Center in Centerville, a place that’s benefitting from the work Senator Cardin has done to restore and create that center, now heralds the history of Black watermen on the Eastern Shore,” said Clayton Washington, President of Kennard Alumni Association. “We love telling these stories, and it’s really important that we have the means to do it.”
The meeting was part of Senator Cardin’s broader effort to highlight important industries like agriculture and aquaculture and discuss environmental and economic development opportunities on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In addition to meeting with the watermen, Senator Cardin participated in tours of Teddy Bear Fresh and TechOps and a roundtable discussion with representatives from the Shore’s agriculture, aquaculture and environmental conservation communities.