Tag Archives: Black History Month

Black History Month Stickers

So far since the start of COVID-19, the Antigua and Barbuda creative community has lost  (though don’t quote me on the official cause of death) a pioneering pannist, an award winning calypsonian, and a well known writer. Respectively, they are founding member of Harmonites pan orchestra George ‘Macko, Nuni’ Weekes and 2-time calypso monarch and former road march winner (1994 with Vision Band) Edimelo (both of whom I wrote about in Carib Lit Plus Mid April 2020) – a man described by one social media commentator as “a true journeyman of our cultural stage…(and) Antigua’s Bunny Rugs [Third World]”, and this past week Timothy Payne. ABS Television/Radio, in a facebook posting headlined ‘Outstanding Antiguan Writer and Photographer dies’ said, “Antigua and Barbuda and the community of Barnes Hill has lost one of their treasured sons. Journalist, author, teacher and photographer, Timothy Payne has died. ‘Tim’, as he was fondly called, was the owner of the Reflexion Photo Studio and a former teacher at the St. Joseph’s Academy. Payne is also the former editor at the now defunct Antigua Sun Newspaper and its Sun St. Kitts edition. Many of his photographic work was captured in a Museum of Fine Arts which was mounted at the Multi-Purpose Cultural and Exhibition Centre at Perry Bay some years ago. He was passionate about the Barnes Hill community and was the main driver in the restoration of a reservoir and the establishment of a community park in the area. More in the evening newscast.”

ABS journalist Andy Liburd in a post on his facebook page said, “The best way to celebrate Timothy Anderson Payne is to continue his work. Don’t let it die simply because he never paused his efforts to add to the cultural life of Antigua and Barbuda despite overwhelming challenges. The projects were numerous and they all sort to capture the spirit of who we are. We worked side by side at the Antigua Sun but I knew him well before when Reflexion Photo Studio was the rave. Photography was his passion and he was enthusiastic in not only sharing his work but the skill as well. He started the Antigua Newspages, an ambitious project to fill a void that was left by the Sun, a stunning tribute to his commitment to the field of journalism. He has authored several books, some of which exposes his keen sense of observation, his amazing wit and his love, respect and caring for the Antiguan way of life. Village Life immediately comes to mind. The Barnes Hill community will miss him for the sacrifice and work he has put in to create a lasting cultural space at the Reservoir and Park. At the Multipurpose centre some years ago he almost single handedly mounted the Museum of Fine Arts that showcased his work in photography and storytelling which kept alive many of the memorable events and people that colour our beautiful past. He was to launch a biography on the Monarch, King Short Shirt in April, but then came Covid 19. I’m amazed at his collection of photography, which includes many that were taken by Gerald Price, whom he revered. I hope some good will be put to them especially at a time when we are quickly losing all around us by way of cultural erosion and mere loss of life. He was a teacher at the St. Joseph’s Academy and I benefited from his innate ability to share and am richer because of it. May his tribute be lasting in the way he would want it so generations to come may be reminded of life in this little village called home. Sleep on in peace bro.”

Dead Beat

You can find Payne’s books 2019’s fictions Dead Beat and Dawn Disturbed, and 2003’s Village Life in non-fiction in our bibliography of Antiguan and Barbudan Writings.

These recent passings draw me back to the Black History Month stickers the Daily Observer newspaper ran on their front page all through February, and the fact that I instinctively clipped many of them, not sure for what purpose. Though I suppose the purpose solidified in the first edition of my CREATIVE SPACE column I (and the Observer) published after Black History Month – Centering Us, Year Round. Consistent with what I have tried to do on this blog – with the obits I have written, the bibliographies I have researched and compiled, the documentation I have tried to do, of Antigua and Barbuda’s media history for instance, the arts-themed news bulletins I put out, and with posts like this – create a record of us. I would do a lot more of it than I do if I didn’t have to make a living (this work doesn’t pay me, time consuming though it is). Because I believe facts matter, the record matters, we must know our history, we must recognize the people who have and continue to shape us beyond personal likes and dislikes – I try to look past that always and just do the work. And today’s work finds me wanting to share those OMG stickers. For the record.


There you have it. Tidbits on the first school room built to educate Blacks free and enslaved in our then British West Indies, on the 1736 insurrection that would have been led by King Court, on Bethesda born folk historian Joy Lawrence whose books can also be found listed in the bibliography mentioned and who is an Independence national awardee for her her contribution to arts and culture,on the world class cricketer Viv Richards who is a holder of many firsts and onlys, and hails from Ovals, Antigua, on school founder and social disrupter and national hero Nellie Robinson – the last two national heroes, and on others – scroll through. And, after that, if you’re still interested in reading up on our notables even as death thins their numbers, view our post on most influential Antiguans and Barbudans.

That’s it. That’s the post. Let’s continue the work. The record matters.

RIP to Tim, Edimelo, and Macko.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure/Perdida! Una Aventura en el Mar Caribe, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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Mailbox – What are You Reading for Black History Month?

I haven’t shared a (from the) Mailbox standalone post in a while (especially since I’ve been doing the round-up posts) but, though this is technically a promo post, I felt compelled to share it because of the question it poses.

The poser is the great African-American writer Marita Golden whom I had the opportunity to hear read live at the first Antigua and Barbuda International Literary Festival (then called the Caribbean International Literary Festival in 2006).


Exif JPEGAh, the ABILF…remember that? One of many arts-related things we’ve started and stopped because of failure to realize their potential and support their growth.


Anyway, Marita is the co-founder of the seminal Washington-based programme Hurston-Wright Foundation, which is still very important to Black America and the diaspora (as organizers of the Hurston-Wright Writers Week, the Legacy Awards, and the College writers award, all of which we promote on our Opportunities and Opportunities Too pages). It has in some ways been a model for some of what I’ve been trying, since it launched in 2004, to do with the Wadadli Youth Pen Prizewhich is self-mandated to nurture and showcase the literary arts in Antigua and Barbuda. And her Antigua-Barbuda connection includes offering a spot in the Writers week to a winner of the Independence lit prize back when former Wadadli Pen Challenge judge Brenda Lee Browne had reignited it (you know, before it fizzled again, in spite of the judge who succeeded Browne, Barbara Arrindell urging government in an open letter to appoint an officer to see to lit arts development year round) – you already know that I think a writers residency or laureate programme would be an indicator that the powers that be are serious about lit arts, but deaf ears and all that. I also believe some young writers – perhaps also through BLB’s intervention including past Wadadli Pen finalist Rilys Adams had the opportunity to participate in the Hurston-Wright youth programme as well. Maybe Marita will consider making a contribution of one of her books or a mentorship  session or manuscript critique to a future Wadadli Pen Challenge winner. Just putting that out there but that’s not the point of this post. The last of my preamble, I love that this programme is named for one of my favourite writers Zora Neale Hurston – so to the question of BHM recs, I would definitely have Their Eyes were Watching God on the list and the collected works I love Myself When I’m Laughing; also books about her like Valerie Boyd’s Wrapped in Rainbows and Alice Walker’s In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens.

Okay, here now is Marita’s message from my Mailbox.


“Welcome to the first Black History Month of this new decade. Like many of you I feel mixed emotions about this month. I am proud of its roots in the work of the groundbreaking historian Carter G. Woodson. Yet I long for the day when the full range of what African Americans have borne and contributed is seen as the legacy of all Americans and woven truthfully into the historical fabric of this nation.

I am enormously proud of my contributions to Black History Month in the 17 books I have written, and as co-founder of the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation.

My parents were my first writing mentors because they encouraged me to write, to think critically, to ask questions and to feel that I had the right to live fully in and impact the world. Their spirits inform everything I write.

I write to tell stories I want to read.
I write to enlarge and enhance the canon of narratives about Black life and experience.
I write to build a bridge from my heart to yours.

If you are looking for a book to read this Black History Month, I have written 17 books and somewhere in that mix I am sure there is a book for you.

I also recommend these three great reads for Black History Month:

Africaville by Jeffrey Colvin
A Particular Kind of Black Man by Tope Folarin
Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn”


The Mailing is punctuated by images of Golden’s books of which I’ve read and blogged two in the Blogger on Books series right here on the blog: After (which is still quite topical as it deals with the fallout of a police involved shooting) and Gumbo (which is amazing as it collects so many different voices and is co-edited by the late great E. Lynn Harris – check out one of his books as well).


Check her out.

I, of course, hope you’ll check out my books as well… which from colourism to development/land use issues to putting a dark skinned black girl at the centre of her own fairytale…touch on being Black in my Caribbean.


There are numerous other book rec lists on this site plus the reading room and gallery and our listings of Antiguan and Barbudan and Caribbean books via our bibliographies – use the search to the right to find them.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, unless otherwise indicated, this is written by author and Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse. All rights reserved.

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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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Next, Cushion Club hosts Wadadli Pen Kids Writing Workshop


Reading should be as much fun as it is educational. That’s one of the points Stage One’s Kanika Simpson-Davis demonstrated to the 30 something youngsters gathered for the Cushion Club Black History Month special presentation on Saturday 2nd February. The youth theatre director’s show-and-tell was a mix of personal and collective history, with a healthy dollop of literary imagination. Through various tales, including Anansi and Mario Picayo’s A Caribbean Journey from A to Y, Simpson-Davis explored how stories can expand your world and your vocabulary while simultaneously reinforce culture and identity. Beyond that though, she showed the attentive and engaged members of the kids reading club how books and storytelling can spark creativity and inspire imagination.


With use of books for all ages and even puppets, dramatization and music, Simpson-Davis challenged them  to explore beyond the classroom, beyond the page, and to take the initiative in doing so.

The Wadadli Youth Pen Prize picks up on this next Saturday 9th February with a kids writing workshop. Author Joanne C. Hillhouse is a long time volunteer with both programmes and will conduct the workshop. In keeping with Kanika Simpson-Davis’ sentiments about reading, Hillhouse sees writing as a natural extension of literary exploration. It’s an opportunity for young people to share what they’re discovering of themselves and the world and to have fun with words, and to begin to do the kind of storytelling that may one day yield books created by them and, even if it doesn’t, will enrich their ability to communicate their ideas with others.

The Wadadli Pen Challenge has a special set of prizes for children 12 and younger and 13 to 17, as well as prizes for the schools with the most submissions. The submission deadline is February 15th. Hillhouse is hoping that through Saturday’s kids writing workshop, those who’ve already started will get ideas that will help them polish up their submissions and those who are yet to begin will find the impetus they need to get going.

Young writers are therefore encouraged to come out at the usual Cushion Club time 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon, at the usual place, the University Centre, and to bring writing material – pencil or crayons and notebook or paper when coming.



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