Day to people of African descent
By Wilfred Wood (Sir) | Fri, September 28, 2012 - 12:00 AM()
In the liturgical calendar of the historic church, October 12 is St Wilfred’s Day.
St Wilfred (634-709) was the courageous Bishop of York who took a lonely stand against the nationalistic tendencies of the majority of his colleagues and for his pains was exiled from his diocese.
I cannot pretend my parents had this bishop in mind when they chose one of my Christian names because, truth to tell, I doubt they had ever heard of him. But I have a number of reasons for an association of this name and date.
First, as an ordinand serving with the Reverend Alec Tatnall in the north-west district of what was British Guiana in 1958, I was present when it was decided that a newly founded mission station should be named St Wilfred. It is now a fully established church and parish.
Secondly, it was on St Wilfred’s Day in 1982 that I was installed as Archdeacon of Southwark in Britain.
But the third reason is by far the most important. It was on October 12, 1492, that the Christopher Columbus expedition of European invaders made landfall in the Caribbean.
The sardonic comment has been made that their method of bringing Christianity to the “New World” was “first, to fall on their knees, and then to fall on the Aborigines”. Be that as it may, in parts of Europe and the United States October 12 is observed as Columbus Day, and celebrated as a notable European achievement.
But not everyone sees it that way. For some others the more significant and regrettable fallout from this event is the transalantic slave trade following the forcible removal of Africans from their homes, families and homelands for use as human tools for the amassing of wealth for those who enslaved them.
Obviously what is done is done and cannot be obliterated from history or memory, but the date can be redeemed. In the island of Zanzibar, the main Christian church stands on the site of the erstwhile slave market.
The modern recognition of the part these events have played in the make-up of the psyche of people in our Caribbean and the consequent mental attitudes and social behaviour is becoming more widespread. I understand that the United Nations Commission For Human Rights has designed a Decade For People Of African Descent to begin on January 1, and has invited suggestions for an annual Day For People Of African Descent. At the Eighth African Disapora Heritage Trail Conference held recently in Barbados it was decided that next year’s ninth conference, to take place in Louisiana, United States, should conclude on October 12.
A stalwart Barbadian has been tireless over the years in his efforts to win worldwide recognition of the significance of this date for people of African descent and has dedicated to securing the imprimatur of the United Nations for this date, October 12, as the UN’s International Day For People Of African Descent. His efforts deserve all the support that we can give. His name is Aaron Buddy Larrier.
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