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Time to stop the drama


David ‘joey’ Harper

Time to stop the drama

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I KNOW THAT my comments may go against the established thought processes that are associated with the well documented, one-sided tales that surround the movement of slaves from Africa to the Caribbean.

Forgive me if I choose to single out Barbados, as it appears to me that this country seeks to keep our period of enslavement foremost in the eyes, mind and hearts of the current generations and the malleable future.

Last Monday morning as I saw the Front Page of the newspaper with a splendidly dressed caricature of a “slave master” leading four black children, supposed to be in bondage in simulated chains, dressed in Crop Over-type clothing along Cavan’s Lane with the presence of highly visible police cars, I felt a deep-seated feeling of sadness, for both the current and the past well established slaves, and today’s children of slaves. My mind drifted back to my life in the Back Ivy, stimulated by another picture in the same newspaper showing children of my old village being taken to church.

The two messages reminded me in vivid reality of me as a little boy, maybe 60 years ago, sitting on the back step of my caretaker Amy Cumberbatch’s home and listening to her mother, old Batchy, telling me a story, one that her grandfather shared with her.

“Joe, Joe,” she said, “my grandfather used to sit with me and while crying would say, ‘I would love to see the river again’. He used to say it almost daily until he died.” I was at a loss as to what she was talking about and asked her: “Batchy, why you din carry he down by de river?” In my naivety, I thought she meant our Constitution River. It was only about four years later that I came to understand that the old man was pining for the African river from which he was brutally plucked.

The consensus of opinion indelibly planted in our minds was, and still is, that these slaves were ignorant men and women without memories, established as beasts of burden useful only for labour and sex by both the male and female barely educated white aristocracy. We were made to believe this, our latent skills reduced to being non-existent or even nothing.

How could our skills have been nothing, when after our arrival, we created the agricultural dynasty that was developed after the true workers of the land instituted an art learned from their origins and exported to these shores creating the environment for progress?

No one seems to remember that the first white settlers were uneducated set-afloat seamen – some pirates – who did not even know where they were.

As I look around, I see the progeny of my black brothers carrying and implanting well cultured genes that were to produce bookkeepers, crop planners, who balanced the plantation’s books; brothers and sisters who through their positive roots were able to produce medical doctors and other builders of this nation.

I see the buildings built by black workers who understood the art of constructing houses for the non-productive plantocracy, whose only legacy is their presence in tombs in churches and church yards built by slaves. I see Mount Gay Rum carried to the peak of refining skills by the offspring of slaves, now trying to be captured by some new idea whose only claim to fame is that it is manufacturing in some white man’s inherited castle Nicholas (Santa Claus) Abbey, not original then or now.

A priest in this newspaper has asked that we be not led back into slavery. The possibility is very real if we allow our national hero from that time to be profiled half-naked standing in the middle of our street in chains, while a caricature of the very thing he was fighting against stands in all his splendour leading our children in chains in 2015.

I will end with three simple quotes:

A. “We must keep real our mirror image.” 

B. “Be not deceived . . . .”

C. “Stop the drama.”

It is not a play but a well planned production, the end of which has already produced an end which can only be reached if we former slaves stop trying to get minor parts in the production, and start to challenge the directors, financiers, cameramen, from the apes on the hill to the new Massas (or however it is spelt in the dictionary), taking over valued and once evolving history.

– David ‘joey’ Harper

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