JO - St Elizabeth PC makes new gesture on slavery. Councillors want to help plan abolition celebration.
St Elizabeth PC makes new gesture on slavery
Councillors want to help plan abolition celebration
BY Garfield Myers Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Black River, St Elizabeth - Seven months after rubbishing a proposal for the celebration of next year's 200th anniversary of the abolition of the British Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, the St Elizabeth Parish Council has agreed to be part of a planning committee to mark the event.
In fact, Broderick Wright (JLP - Lacovia Division), who in March led the way as the council agreed without even so much as a formal debate to reject a Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC) resolution urging "meaningful" celebration of the slave trade's commemoration, will be among three parish councillors on the parish committee.
The committee, which will be representative of a range of public and private sector entities and will be replicated in all parishes across Jamaica, will seek to commemorate the "Bicentenary of the Abolition of the Trans Atlantic Trade in African Enslaved Peoples". The parish committees will report to a national committee appointed by former Prime Minister PJ Patterson, headed by Professor Verene Shepherd of the National Heritage Trust.
Wright apart, the other parish councillors on the St Elizabeth committee will be Kern Smalling (PNP - Black River Division) and Donald Simpson (JLP - Malvern Division).The decision to participate in what councillors stressed was a "commemoration" not a "celebration" of the slave trade's abolition came at the tail end of the regular monthly meeting of the parish council recently.
It followed lengthy discussions with two lecturers from the Northern Caribbean University (NCU), Friona Dyer, historian, and Charlene Sharpe-Pryce, social scientist of the university's Department of History, Geography and Social Sciences. The two told the council that they were involved in helping to enlist support for the National Planning Committee's drive to plan events throughout Jamaica as part of next year's 200th anniversary commemoration.
Simpson initiated the council's participation on the planning committee after arguing that seven months ago the council had erred badly in rejecting the KSAC resolution. "It is important and necessary to remember where we are coming from," said Simpson.His comments were endorsed by the PNP's Smalling. Simpson and Smalling then volunteered for the committee.
Wright, who had engaged the two academics in debate about the slave trade and slavery generally as well as the consequences, then announced that "I want to serve on that committee".But before that, both he and Winston Sinclair (PNP - Myersville Division) reaffirmed positions they had taken in March that Jamaicans would be better off were they to downplay and "forget about" slavery.
They claimed that blacks were as guilty as anyone else in the trafficking and enslavement of their fellow blacks, since the Europeans actually bought their human cargo from Africans during the 300 years of the Trans Atlantic Trade.
Councillor Shirley Myers (JLP - Southfield Division) recalled that at the time of the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865, National Hero Paul Bogle was actually captured by the eastern Maroons who turned him over to the British colonisers."It was the Maroons who ketch Paul Bogle and hand 'im over," said Myers.
Though clearly taken aback at the attitude of some members of the council, Dyer and Sharpe-Pryce insisted that the very views being expressed were evidence of the need for an exploration of the whole issue of slavery and the slave trade and indeed of Jamaica's history.
There were serious "misconceptions" and ignorance about slavery and the slave trade which Dyer and Sharpe-Pryce appeared to suggest were negatively affecting the psyche of Jamaicans, rendering necessary a comprehensive education programme.
The great majority of Jamaicans and a significant proportion of people in the Americas are the descendants of slaves transported from West Africa between the 16th and 19th centuries. Historians say that in the case of the British Empire, the slave trade, which ferried millions of Africans across the Atlantic in cramped, unsanitary sailing ships, was abolished in 1807. Many, sometimes as much as half of a ship's load, died on the journey lasting several weeks.
Slavery itself was abolished in British colonies in 1838. The practice - often described as one of the worst examples of man's inhumanity to man - would persist until the latter half of the 19th century in some non-British colonies as well as the United States.