Tag Archives: antiguan history

Do we know our full history or only his-story?

If you’ve studied Caribbean history, are you familiar with Nanny, Dutty Boukman, King Court, Hercules, Tomboy, Mary Prince, Baby and Limerick?… I am with all but Baby and Limerick (so, homework for me) but those are just a handful of names dropped in an article I read recently, an article which, within the discourse on Black History Month (and the unspoken why it’s necessary to observe it in a majority black part of the world) made the point that we often learn very little of the story of us even in classes that purport to be about the story of us. Unfortunately true, to this day; one of the stains of colonialism.
I couldn’t find a link to the entire article to share, so I decided to type up a section of it and excerpt it (excerpt only, for copyright reasons), because I think it’s an important part of the narrative of us – and certainly for me a reframing of a word (niggeritis) that, in retrospect, we use entirely too casually to this day. The article’s writer is Paul Quinn, writing in his column Eden’s Compass in the March 2nd 2016 edition of the Daily Observer.

I hope he wouldn’t mind me sharing for all the reasons stated. Also, as it references additional reading material, it is consistent with what we do here – nurturing and showcasing the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda:


“Where do you think the pejorative word ‘niggeritis’ came from? It was coined by white folks from the South who claimed that every time black folks ate, we became sluggish and sleepy. Never mind that sluggishness after a meal is a biological fact not limited black folks. What actually happens is that blood rushes from the brain to the stomach to aid in the digestion process, hence the drowsiness. The same thing happens to us during sex where blood rushes from the brain to the, er ‘male appendage’ to facilitate an erection. After ’doing the do’, we become quite drowsy and resistant to ‘lovey dovey’ pillow talk and cuddling in favour of zzzzs!

The point is that we have been the victims of ‘the single narrative’. The true story of who we are as a people and our resistance to slavery has never fully been told. At least, not in the European telling! We have allowed others to define us. Consider John Locke who described us as beasts with weird body features. Or consider Rudyard Kipling who spoke of us as ‘half-devil and half-child’.

These stereotypes of Africans shaped the way that Europeans thought of black people for centuries. And for a while, even shaped the way we thought of ourselves; that we were somehow inferior; that ‘cuss ‘pon black people!’ Thank God for literary works like To Shoot Hard Labour: the Life and Times of Samuel Smith by Keithlyn Smith; The Struggle and the Conquest by Novelle Richards; Bethesda and Christian Hill: Our History and Culture by Joy Lawrence;  Sugar: A Bittersweet History by Elizabeth Abbott (related to our Antiguan Abbott family); The History of Mary Prince by Susanna Strickland and Sara Salih; Icon and Myth in a Caribbean Polity: V. C. Bird and Antiguan Political Culture by Douglas Midgett; and the recently published, Troubling Freedom by Natasha Lightfoot. These masterpieces should all be required reading because they fill huge gaps in the story of ‘us’.”

The article goes on to talk about things like Sparrow’s “facetious” treatment of nursery rhymes – a point on which I disagree slightly. Because the author says, explaining his descriptor of Sparrow’s Dan is the Man as facetious, “After all, nursery rhymes and phonics are an integral part of the learning process”. But I think the point we can extrapolate from Sparrow’s references to the fairytales and nursery rhymes we grew up on, at least in part, is why not our nursery rhymes, why not our fairytales. Having written won of the latter recently, it hit me that they are almost uniformly European, so that the foundation of our imagining is already outside of ourselves. I think that’s the larger point. – All portions in italics, except direct quotes, written by JCH All else written by Paul Quinn and  excerpted here for informational/educational purposes; with neither I nor Wadadli Pen profiting from it.

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Invitation to Serve as a Resource and Research Person

From my friend and colleague Marcella A. Andre-Georges, founder and director of NIA COMMS and Emerge Caribbean Women:

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Dear Colleague, Friend, Historian, Artist, Researcher, Antiguan/African History Enthusiast

I am writing in conjunction with Antigua’s African Slavery Memorial Society (ASMS) and the TOSTEMS (Tourism Programme Centered on the Sites of the Slave Trade, Slavery and their Memories) Project.

The TOSTEMS Programme is a project that has been undertaken within the framework of the ACP-EU Support Programme for the ACP Cultural Sector. The Coordinator of the project is Edith Oladele.

o     Coordination of the creation of a touristic offer “History and Memory”

o     Coordination of the conception, technical preparation and circulation of the travelling exhibition, and organization of the Scientific Committee meeting in Antigua & Barbuda

o     Creation of the initial exhibition of the future slave trade and slavery museum in Antigua & Barbuda and corresponding catalogue

–       Study and validation of the research work and provide research support with the help of the Shackles of Memory network when necessary

–       Study and validation of the exhibition and catalogue texts

–       Study and validation of the inventory of objects, documents and other materials that make up the exhibition

–       Reflect on the exhibition’s scenography in tandem with the ASMS

o     Creation of Postcards and derivatives

–       Participation in the reflection regarding their design and creation

–       Selection of the appropriate photos, study and validation of all derivatives’ contents

–       Study and validation of all quotes related to printing postcards and producing derivatives

o     Training sessions: study and validation of the different elements necessary in order to prepare the training programmes: needs assessment questionnaire, preselected guides lists, training programme

In order to achieve these objectives it is necessary to engage members of the public who are not only interested in preserving our history but passionate. This letter serves as your invitation to consider adding your expertise, knowledge and know how to ensuring that this project is successful through collaboration with other individuals knowledgeable and passionate about this aspect of our history. Ultimately the fulfilment of the project’s remit will redound to the long term benefit of Antigua and Barbuda for generations.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these projects. Please also find attached to this mail a copy of the aims and objectives of the African Slavery Memorial Society.   In anticipation of your favourable response we propose a general assembly on Monday December 8th [7 p.m.] at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, Long Street to further discuss and orient you to the ASMS/TOSTEMS project. We look forward to hearing from you.

For further information on the ASMS please see the attached document: ASMS 2012 Aims Objectives Abbrev.

Kind Regards,

Marcella A. Andre-Georges                                               Edith Oladele

Communication and Public Outreach Manager                 Local Coordinator

ASMS/TOSTEMS Project                                                  ASMS/TOSTEMS Project

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Reading History

Just sharing HAS Newsletter 2013-3 (1)… and this photo archive referenced in it. You know, for you history buffs.

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