PEP COLUMN: Al Gilkes has got it all wrong!
Al Gilkes perpetrated a sickening assault on Barbadian historical truth when he used his January 9 Sunday Sun newspaper column to state as follows:
“By the end of slavery in the mid-1800s and onwards, Bajans, as we now proudly called ourselves, bluntly and vociferously refused to admit to any association with Africa”; and “In the 1960s, we stood in solidarity as our brother and sisters in the United States fought for their freedom . . . . But there was one thing we stubbornly refused to imitate . . . . . They reshaped their minds and renamed themselves African Americans . . . .
We also reshaped our minds but retained ourselves as Bajans . . . . No African in we.”
Mr Gilkes is totally and inexcusably wrong!
Let us begin by examining some of the most prominent black or coloured post-Emancipation 19th century Barbadians known to us today: London Bourne, Samuel Jackman Prescod, Anthony Barclay and Sir Conrad Reeves.
Of these four personalities, no fewer than three of them were practising “Pan-Africanists”, who not only identified with Africa, but actively engaged in organizing a famous Barbadian “Back To Africa” movement.
Indeed, one of them – Anthony Barclay – actually led a contingent of 346 black Barbadians back to their African ancestral homeland in 1865.
Both London Bourne and Samuel Jackman Prescod (a National Hero) invested much of their time, energy and resources in helping black Barbadians realize their dreams of repatriating to Africa. This multi-pronged effort achieved its most potent institutional structure with the establishment of the Barbadian-based African Colonisation Society.
The society spelt out its goals in February 1850, and used language that evidenced the profound connection which many black Barbadians felt with Africa. For example, after referring to Africa as “the land of their fathers” the society declared that “in striving to place themselves in a position to minister to the temporal and spiritual wants of their African brothers, the descendants of Africans in this island . . . reasonably expect that His (God’s) blessing will go with them”.
Our 19th century black Barbadian ancestors were much more successful than our Commission For Pan-African Affairs in expressing African consciousness in Barbados. Indeed they were so successful that hundreds, if not thousands, made the arduous oceanic journey back to Africa, and the black Barbadian society of the day supported the Barbadian town of Crozierville in Liberia, West Africa for many decades.
Furthermore, somebody needs to inform Mr Gilkes that the crucial scholar and activist who led the 1960s campaign in the United States to convince black Americans to reject terms such as Negro, Coloured and Black, and instead embrace the term Afro-American was a black Barbadian by the name of Richard B. Moore.
In 1960 Moore published the book The Name ‘Negro’ – Its Origin And Evil Uses, and proceeded to launch an eventually successful effort to secure widespread acceptance of “Afro-American” or “African American”.
• The PEP column represents the views of the People’s Empowerment Party. Email [email protected]