Tag Archives: history

CREATIVE SPACE #13 OF 2020 – SAY THEIR NAME: IN MEMORIAM

“To understand Antigua and Barbuda is to know these names and to know there are many more names unknown.”

Read: https://jhohadli.wordpress.com/creative-space/creative-space-2020/creative-space-13-of-2020-say-their-name-in-memoriam

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Antigua Conference Call for Papers: AFTER THE ECOLOGICAL AND POLITICAL STORMS: WHITHER BARBUDA’S DEVELOPMENT?

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(Barbuda image – JCH)

The annual Antigua and Barbuda Conference 14th in the series, has been set for August 15–16, 2019, and they have issued their call for papers.

Here It Is:

This year, our focus will be on Barbuda and its recovery after the devastating impact of hurricane Irma. To do this topic justice, we will have to break the usual patterns of putting Antigua first and Barbuda second. In spite of being constitutionally joined since 1860, the history of relations between Barbuda and Antigua has been a rather intense and explosive one. Consequently, between the two territories there have been deep and abiding levels of distrust and misunderstanding.

One indicator of the explosive nature of the relations between these territories of our twin-island state is the 1858 four-day explosion of violence in St. Johns between migrant Barbudans and resident Antiguans. A second indicator of the depth of this divide was the secessionist position taken by the Barbuda delegation to the 1980 Lancaster House conference at which the independence constitution of the soon-to-be nation of Antigua and Barbuda was being drafted. The Barbudan delegation made it clear that they wanted a separation from the union with Antigua. The third indicator of the depth of this divide that I will mention here is the one we are living through—the differences between Barbudans and Antiguans over how best to reconstruct and develop Barbuda after hurricane Irma.

In other words, in spite of 38 years of political independence as the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, we have not been able to forge a collective identity that includes Barbudans and Antiguans on equal terms. There remains a deep fissure in the “We” or the collective identity of our nation that continues to erupt every so often, with threats to dissolve our union. Thus it is important that we seek a better understanding of this long and well-established divide by exploring its distinct nature and history.

Let us refer to this divide between Barbuda and Antigua as a form of insular inequality. This is a form of social inequality that emerged out of the peculiar relationship that colonial rule established between a colony and its dependency. Consequently, in the period after colonial rule, the people and leaders of some postcolonial nations have found themselves confronted with not only forms of imperial, class, race and gender inequality, but also insular inequality. Just as these other forms of domination and related inequalities required well-developed discourses of analysis and organized action to counter them, so too does insular inequality. To fight it, we will need carefully developed discourses of insularism that should be comparable to those of classism, imperialism, racism and sexism. Among the new postcolonial nations that inherited all of these forms of social inequality, we can think of Trinidad and Tobago, St. Kitts, Nevis and Anguilla, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and of course Antigua and Barbuda.

Between a colony and its dependency, there exist definite feelings of insular difference produced by the maritime separation between the two islands or territories making up the union. These are basic self/other, or we/they differences that often develop on both sides around observable differences such as race, gender, geography or ethnicity. However, upon feelings of insular and other forms of difference, structures and processes of domination, exploitation and neglect were established during the colonial period. These practices greatly exaggerated these feelings of difference, transforming them into toxic forms of insularism. These exaggerated feelings in turn, became the foundations of the insular inequality that currently exists in cases like Antigua and Barbuda or Trinidad and Tobago.

We have not named and theorized insular inequality to the same degree that we have the other major forms of social domination. We have been able to name and theorize sexism, racism, imperialism and classism because there have been extensive developments of these discourses abroad on which we have been able to draw. This has not been the case with insularism, which has left us with the challenge of taking the lead in developing such a discourse that could guide the struggle for insular equality within postcolonial nations with inheritances of dependencies. We would not think of fighting racism or sexism without carefully naming and theorizing them. Yet this is precisely what we have been attempting to do in the case of insularism.

Between Barbuda and Antigua, there developed a particularly toxic form of insularism, even by Caribbean standard. Before gaining the constitutional status of a dependency, Barbuda was simply real estate owned by the Codringtons, and used to support their sugar plantations in Antigua. William Codrington called Barbuda a private governmency, a “constitutional” status that was clearly below that of a dependency. As a private governmency, there were no requirements that legislatures and other institutions of government be set up. All that was required was a manager and a lawyer, who had to report to the Codringtons. This was the low point from which Barbuda became a dependency of Antigua, with the developmental gap between the two only growing wider. As this gap widened, the insular differences turned toxic as they were equated with moral, intellectual and performative differences between Barbudans and Antiguans.

This is the persistent heritage of toxic insularism that continues to divide us. It has produced attitudes of Antigua-first and Antigua-centric forms of politics, which Barbudans have instinctively resisted. This resistance has been a major obstacle in the way of the central government’s attempts to develop Barbuda and to close the gap between these territories of our twin-island nation. The current tensions over the post-Irma reconstruction of Barbuda are the latest in a long series.

Given this long history of insular inequality, it is clear what we must do at this 14th annual country conference. First, we must listen to the anti- Antigua-centric voices of Barbudans and grasp more fully the depths of the fight for insular equality from which they speak. Second, we will have to put these Antigua-centric discourses and practices on the table for close examination. Third, we will have to get into the historical roots of this now toxic relationship so that we can understand it better. And fourth, we will have come up with suggestions for ending this practice of Antiguan superiority, as we have in the cases of white or male superiority.

Thus some of the topics that you may consider writing and speaking about are:

How is insular inequality different from class or racial inequality?
Is Antiguan insularism a form of micro imperialism?
What has been the history of the Barbudan economy and the attempts to develop it?
What have been the policies of the ABLP, PLM, UPP administrations on Barbuda?
What was the ACLM’s position on the development of Barbuda?
How do we deal with the vexed issue of land ownership on Barbuda?
How does Antigua and Barbuda today compare with Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines or St. Kitts-Nevis?
How do we heal and close the deep fissure between Barbuda and Antigua?

If you are interested in making a presentation at this 2019 conference, please send us a brief abstract that includes your name, your title and a brief description of the theme of your presentation. We must receive your abstract by May 20th, 2019. It will help us to put you on the right panel. Your abstract, in the form of a word document, should be emailed to paget_henry@brown.edu or to janetlofgren@gmail.com

Signatories:

Paget Henry, president, Antigua Barbuda Studies Association
Zane Peters, head, UWI (Antigua)
Schuyler Esprit, program officer, UWI (Antigua)
Janet Lofgren, editorial assistant, Antigua and Barbuda Review of Books

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (founder and coordinator of Wadadli Pen, and author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Musical Youth, With Grace, Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure, and Oh Gad!). All Rights Reserved. Subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. 

There’s still time to vote in the #readAntiguaBarbuda #voteAntiguaBarbuda Readers Choice Book of the Year initiative.

 

 

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Senior, History, Challenge

When I came across an article about the honorary doctorate presented by the University of the West Indies to Olive Senior (my alma mater and first fiction workshop leader, respectively),

Senior on social media

From Olive Senior’s social media.

I wanted share it. Just to big her up. But what she says gives me an even better reason.

‘Reasoning that cultivating curiosity — a writing tool — will enrich lives, making better citizens, workers, parents, future leaders and future influencers, Senior urged graduates to be more conscious in employing the tool to know more about themselves as Jamaicans, the country and its heritage.

…“Knowing about our country and ourselves is what enables us to feel rooted no matter how far we grow, for that is something that cannot be taken from us.”’

Apart from the obvious nod to one of the reasons we write, there is the specific reference to knowing and embracing your culture, not to the exclusion of others but as a way of understanding yourself when engaging with others. This naturally intersects with Wadadli Pen and especially with the 2018 Wadadli Pen Challenge. Wadadli Pen’s annual Challenge gives Antiguans and Barbudans the opportunity to write their world, and though we don’t normally do themed Challenges, this year’s is specific to historical fiction – not fiction necessarily set in a realistic point in our historical timeline (in fact we encourage writers to be experimental) but which, whatever the genre or sub-genre, engages with our history in some way. This was in part inspired by recent discussion about the waning interest in Caribbean history and our belief that we need to make Caribbean history cool again.

So, here’s the launch flyer Wadadli Pen 2018 Flyer

Here’s the link to the article on Olive Senior’s well-deserved honour

And here’s that history article

Looking forward to being wow’d by the submissions to this year’s Challenge

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Antiguan and Barbudan writer Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings, With Grace, and Lost! A Caribbean Sea Adventure; also a freelance writer, editor, writing coach and workshop facilitator). All Rights Reserved. If you like the content here follow or recommend the blog, also, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. Thank you.

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Nelson’s Dockyard: On Becoming a World Heritage Site

World Heritage status is conferred on “a landmark which has been officially recognized by the United Nations, specifically by UNESCO. Sites are selected on the basis of having cultural, historical, scientific or some other form of significance, and they are legally protected by international treaties. UNESCO regards these sites as being important to the collective interests of humanity.” (Wikipedia)

Nelson’s Dockyard is a Georgian era Naval facility located in English Harbour, Antigua. It is still a working Dockyard and popular tourism site. It became a World Heritage Site in 2016. This document made the case–> It’s our Nomination Document (2014) and I’m happy to see it archived online for research purposes.

world-heritage

cover photo.

 

My eyes glaze over some of the more technical stuff, but I found it quite interesting reading overall – lots of interesting insights in to the whys and wherefores, but it’s the human stories (in particular the often erased stories of the enslaved Africans living in colonial Antigua and Barbuda, and the complexities of their lives, the individuality of their lives, beyond the designation of ‘slave’) that grab me every time:

‘The records at the Dockyard Museum note that on 17th October 1823, the black sail-maker Tom Spanker died after 14 days illness. Another account found in the diary of seaman Aaron Thomas, who visited the Dockyard in 1798 as a gunner on board the HMS Lapwing, describes his attempts to observe the “negroes dance at Freeman’s Bay,” and his discussions with a Negro woman who was born in Makoko near Lake Zambra East Africa. Thomas also writes of the visit of MacCane, a fellow gunner, to see a healer named Grace, a black girl he had employed to heal his leg. Before leaving the island he wrote of a visit to the Swamp Market in English Harbour where he purchased a 42lb pumpkin. Plantation
slaves, who at this time were permitted to grow and sell their provisions to better
themselves, sold their produce on Sundays at small public markets. Fruit and provisions
were also sold/delivered to the ships and sailors on board by slave women who swam out to the ships with their products secured in baskets that the pushed ahead of them as they swam (Nicholson 2002).

‘…enslaved Africans worked and served in all capacities within the British Naval establishment on Antigua and elsewhere in the Caribbean. They also served on the ships of the Navy and saw action, even at Trafalgar, and were pensioners at Greenwich. However, they are invisible in the historical summaries and publications unless one looks below the surface and follows the obscure threads of history.’

This doc broadens and deepens our outstanding of our role (the role of our African-and-Africa-descended ancestors) in the building and work of the Dockyard (the country really but the Dockyard is a good example of that). And how crucial was that to England. our then colonizer?

“With the loss of its American colony, defending these islands became crucial as the sugar
revenues were vital for the continuing growth of Great Britain’s Industrial Revolution. In this light, the naval facility at the Antigua Dockyard contributed to the survival and future expansion of the British Empire at a significant stage in human history.”

The case has been made.

As with all content on Wadadli Pen, except otherwise noted, this is written by Wadadli Pen founder and coordinator Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Musical Youth, Fish Outta Water, and With Grace). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out http://jhohadli.wordpress.com Please note that, except otherwise noted, the images also belong to us and ask first if you wish to use them for any purpose. Thanks.

 

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“The full has never been told”

Some dates chosen at random from Africans to Antiguans: the Slavery Experience A Historical Index collected by Desmond Nicholson with Overview and Postscript by Edward T. Henry. Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, 2003:

1674-Planters began importing their new slave labour force from Africa. Henry 1983:288.
slave-trade-map
1684-Governor Johnson’s slave, Philip, had his leg cut off, as he had entertained runaways. Gaspar 1985: 175

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Gaspar’s book.

1701

christopher-codrington

Codrington

Codrington reported that Coromantees were faithful slaves and born heroes. Oliver lxxii. Coromantees passed through the Dutch Fort of Kormantin on the Gold Coast. They spoke Akan. Laz. 1990:55
1706-30 slave holders owned 1,150 slaves. This was a 346% growth from 1688. Gaspar1985:96

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An artist impression of a sugar plantation during slavery.

1715-(On Barbuda) Slaves were allowed to own horses, cows and sheep and grow their peas, maize, squash, potatoes and ground nuts in their small gardens N/Yorker 6Feb89:79
1726-4,633 slaves had been imported in 32 shipments since 1721. That’s an average of 1,148 a year. Gaspar 1985:74
1730-great numbers of runaway slaves hiding near Boggy Peak

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Boggy Peak, now Mount Obama.

committed crimes. Gaspar 1985: 201
1739-May 24th. Cuffey and Robin were awarded their freedom and rewarded for discovering the (King Court led 1736) insurrection. BessieH.

klaas-on-the-wheel-480x500

King Court being broken on the wheel after their betrayal.

1750-Newly arrived slaves were liable to die during the 3 year seasoning. Tweedy:209
1764-There were over 300 estates of average value 10,000 pounds of average 200 acres with 100 slaves each. Sheridan:S20:343
1787-“Dog-drivers” were black men with whips to maximize labour in the fields. Luffman : L14 #23
1793-(On Barbuda) 178 acres were planted to corn for the Antiguan estate slaves. Beans and oats were also grown. Low & Clark: 514
1799-February. Bat’s Cave was being used by runaway slaves. “You must be armed if you visit it.” Thomas Journal: 232

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Read about the taking of Warner’s wife in The Legend of Bat’s Cave.

1809-A Moravian missionary, Mr. Newby, came to Antigua, but he was not allowed to pursue the EDUCATION of the slaves. After a while he kept an evening school “in a secret way”. (T & K: 18)
1827-Elizabeth Thwaites was at the Court House answering charges reference the relief of destitute slaves. Fergusen 1993: 134

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Read about Elizabeth and her sister in this book.

1831-March. Martial Law was imposed due to the slaves unrest over the abolition of the Sunday Market. The 86th Regiment was called out form Shirley Heights. Gasp2000: 121.
1832-From 1817 to 1832, 34 young Barbudans and 7 young women were transferred to the Antigua estates for plantation labour. Overseers of slave gangs were young Scotsmen…  Low & Clark 523
1834-Planters regarded the negroes as an inferior race fit only for slaves. They considered them as their rightful property, and that they could never be made to work without the whip. Those persons who favoured emancipation were considered “enemies of their country” and were persecuted. Anti-slavery people in England were considered fanatics, incendiaries, knaves and religious enthusiasts. There was no anti-slavery party in Antigua before emancipation. There were some individuals in St. John’s, and a very few planters, who favoured the anti-slavery views, but they dared not open their mouths, because of the bitter hostility which prevailed.
1835-Emancipation gave the negroes a desire to possess a portion of the soil in perpetuity, thus many VILLAGES were formed over different parts of Antigua. (eg. Liberta, Freetown). (AAI: 267).

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Read about the rise of free villages post-emancipation in this book.

 

To read Africans to Antiguans, and other books by Desmond Nicholson, visit the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda located in the old courthouse building (built circa 1750) located in Long Street, St. John’s City, Antigua, W.I.4463_107936128031_3414431_nClick here for other books by Antiguan and Barbudan writers.

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A & B Arts Round up (March 15th 2016 – )

April 25th 2016 – deadline to register for the new Directorate of Gender Affairs (Antigua and Barbuda) book club – first book Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Email gender.antigua@gmail.com with the subject line ‘book club’ to register.

***

March 26th 2016 – An evening of theatre to raise funds to help offset the medical expenses of burn victim Shaveesa Gaspar. This is a project of the students and director from the Antigua Girls High School with whom Gaspar, as a member, won best actress at the national secondary schools drama festival late last year.

***

Sunday 20th March 2016 – 4 p.m. – This one’s for New York folks. It’s another activity from the Caribbean Cultural Theatre: Let me tell you about WOMAN TINGS! – A Caribbean Literary (and Art) Lime featuring seven talented women (Victoria Brown, Nandi Keyi, Jacqueline Bishop, Michele Voltaire Marcelin, Opal Palmer-Adisa, Mercy L. Tullis-Bukhari, Laura James, an artist of Antiguan heritage… and one man, Antiguan and Barbudan artist IYABA IBO MANDINGO) in a celebration of the multi-layered experiences of immigrants, artists and the indomitable Caribbean Woman. Venue: St. Francis College, 182 Remsen Street, (bet. Clinton & Court Sts), Brooklyn, NY 11201

woman tings

***

Saturday 19th March 2016 – Dr. Allen Sanderman, former head of undergraduate history and senior lecturer at University of Westminister will be presenting an exciting and interesting  multimedia lecture on ” A brief History of Antigua, what is history? history is not what happened, but what people chose to write about it” at the Museum. $20 donation. Cocktails at 7.

 

 

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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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HAS highlights

Just catching up on the HAS newsletter, and thought this might be interesting to some of you:

art installation

Read the entire issue here HAS Newsletter 2014-3 15 8 14zb and read more about this artist and his installation on Page 12 and read all the way through to find out how you can support the very important work of the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda.

From the artist’s website:

Dion Fitzgerald is a Canadian visual artist & musician. Oral history, cultural traditions and personal experience highly influence his abstracted concepts, realized in both acrylic and mixed media. Since his 2008 exhibits in Toronto, he has gone on to showcase his work internationally, including gallery shows in London, UK and Barcelona. Fitzgerald refers to his new work as “conceptual expressionism” and has several shows planned for 2014.

“I create paintings that occur in the past, present and future. The works are about Black male identity in North America during each of these periods. There is a beauty in the highly textured backdrops that provide a platform for an evolving dance of tone, chiaroscuro, colour, movement and markings. My work has evolved into an abstracted conversation of my own history and family heritage, the absence of African based high art, assumed power, emotion & romance. This collection of works represent the new man, the son of the diaspora, reborn and as beautiful as he has ever been.”

– DF 

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FORBIDDEN

By Vega Armstrong

Vega Armstrong

“This is a well-thought out story with an interesting plot and good use of vocabulary.” – JUDGE

 

In 1669 there was a slave plantation in Antigua called Betty’s Hope.

My name is Amelia and I’m nine years old. My father is a slave master named Christopher on a small Caribbean island called Antigua. My mother is named Elizabeth and I also have a seven year old little brother named William.

Father started the plantation a year ago but has only just brought us from England now that everything is running smoothly. Now that we are here he probably feels complete. He has a satisfied look on his face.

Father helps us out of the donkey cart and has three of the slaves bring our baggage inside the house while he shows us around. After he finishes the tour William and I are left to wander outside as father is taking mother inside the house . Some of the slaves, waist deep in the sugar cane, are staring at me.

I keep looking around but not at the fields anymore but at the sugar mill. It is magnificent! It is a tall stone building in a cylindrical shape but it narrows at the top. There are also four wooden arms on one side and the center of them is almost at the top of the mill. Close to the first mill there is another one that is in use now. I cautiously walk towards it, curious about how it works. I grab William’s hand in mine, squeeze it tightly and he squeezes mine twice in reply. William and I are really close. We went exploring a lot when we were back in England and also on the boat.

We approach the mill him walking ahead slightly. As we get there I realize what a bad idea it is but it’s too late. William is swept up in the blades and within seconds there is no trace of him. I scream at the top of my lungs. A scream so loud I am not sure it actually belongs to me. I fall to the ground weeping not able to breathe because I am choking on my sobs and to be honest I want to be with William wherever he is so I don’t mind if I die right there and then.

My parents come running to me and my mother crouches down next to me and my father is standing next to me surveying the surroundings for anything that could have upset me. He crouches down on the other side of me asking what happened.

“William,” I croaked. “He, he got swept up in the blades and he, he hasn’t come down.” I was sobbing so hard at this point barely able to say those words.

At that moment I see him fly from the blades and his limp body fell to the ground near my mother and I scream again and start soaking my clothes with even more tears. My mother tries to pick me up but I wriggle out of her arms and run to William’s body I grab his hand which is now covered with blood. My mother picks me up and carries me away. I notice some of the slaves have on smug smiles and some were whispering to each other but one young boy is staring at William in horror with tears running down his cheeks. We locked eyes and for a brief moment I feel some comfort.

1675

I wake up and grasp in my thin sheets for William to be there but he isn’t. I step out of my room and tiptoe downstairs afraid to wake my parents.

There is some bread on the table and I rip off a chunk as I walk outside. I see the same boy who cried over William cutting cane in the fields. He is fifteen now just like me and I run up to him calling his name.

He drops the blade he is using to cut the cane and opens his arms to hug me. I squeeze him with all my might which doesn’t faze him and in return I feel his strong hands squeezing back, full of passion.

We stay like this for a few seconds before we let go. I draw back and he slips his hands into mine. I look at his fingers as they intertwine with mine and then I meet his eyes.

“Are your parents awake?” he asks as a concerned look crosses his face.

“Not as yet” I reply. His facial expression seems to relax but his grip around my hands hasn’t.

My father emerges through the front door dressed in a white cotton button-down dress shirt and light brown cotton trousers. John drops my hands suddenly and I turn around so abruptly, my long brown braid almost hitting him in the face. I turn back to him and say “I’ll see you tomorrow John, the same place, same time” I turn and run over to my father to give him a hug.

As I am about to embrace him he asks “What were you doing with him?” The question shocks me. Had he seen us holding hands or worse, hugging? These thoughts cross my mind but I decide not to show my fear.

“What do you mean by that father?” I ask very well knowing that he disliked when I answer a question with a question.

“You know perfectly well!” He snaps back.

“What do you think you saw?” I ask  challenging him in an innocent way.

“The two of you hugged and then held hands!’’ He was practically shouting at this point.

“You must be mistaken father I wouldn’t ever disobey your rules”

“Enough! You can’t lie to me Amelia. Not anymore!” He yells at me and in a hushed tone he adds “These slaves have no heart darling, you can’t possibly ‘like’ one of them”

“You know you’re right, I don’t like him” I begin…

“Now you’re making sense sweetheart” He says to me in a voice you would use to praise a dog.

“I love him, and his name is John!” I finish and run back into the house.

Two weeks later

John and I are meeting behind the house to discuss running away together.

“We need to get away and soon too. Your father is making me do twice the amount of work as the other men,” he says. I can hear the desperation in his voice. He can’t even be bothered to conceal it.

“Slaves” I correct and he gives me a glare so I slip my hand into his and kiss him on the cheek. I agree with him but I don’t know where to run to. Antigua is very small and I have never been given the opportunity to explore it.

“We have to leave” he insists.

“I know but where to?” He is silent for a moment.

“Somewhere. I’ll ask around,” he tells me and he seems very sure of himself so I leave the conversation there by kissing him.

I have to tiptoe to reach him. His lips are warm and slightly cracked from the sun. When I pull back he is smiling down at me. I come down from my tiptoes and smile back at him. I walk back around to the front of the house and slip inside.

My mother and father are in the kitchen waiting for me.

“Good afternoon father, mother” I greet them “I’m so sorry that I’m late but I didn’t realize the time” I am actually sorry that I am late because my mother looks concerned and I realize why. My father had a smug look on his face and I now know that he told her.

I sit in a dining chair opposite to them and bury my head in my hands. I hear the careful footsteps of my mother approach me and then stop. I look up and forgetting my manners I snap “Get on with it then!”

My mother looks genuinely confused. I turn to face my father and yell “Why don’t you kill him already father? Instead of torturing him!” Tears are running down my cheeks at this point. “He is the only one who cared when William died!” I am screaming at this point. “He cried over him!  Did you even shed one tear?” I am staring into my father’s eyes challenging him “Well, did you?” I stand and start to walk toward the stairs when my father runs in front of me blocking my path.

“If I kill him the other slaves will have a cause to rebel against me and then we would be nowhere and furthermore”. He pauses for a brief moment and then he continues, “If I ever see you with him again you will be sent back to England.”

I was thinking of how much William had wanted to stay in England. I push past my father and run up to my room. I lock the door behind me and move my dresser in front of the door for extra security. I pack a bag and within ten minutes I am ready to leave but I decide to wait till nightfall.

An hour after all the light had faded out of the sky I climb out of my window and carefully make my way down the side of the building. I run towards the little huts on the far side of the sugar cane fields. I find John wide awake while all the other men are asleep. He’s sitting by an empty fire pit staring into it as if there are flames in it that are mesmerizing him. I touch his shoulder and he jumps out of his trance.

“Let’s go”

“Now?” He asks. He was clearly confused but he was excited nevertheless.

“Yes, of course now. When else?” I giggle. He picks me up and spins me around which results in more giggling and he has to remind me to be quiet.

We hold hands and run into the bushes, letting the darkness swallow us…

Author’s bio: Vega Armstrong is a first form student at St. Anthony’s Secondary School. This is the third consecutive year she has entered the Wadadli Pen Challenge and the third year she has placed (2012, 2013). In 2014, she is, for the first time, the winner of her category, the 12 and younger age category and was a judges’ favourite for the main prize in the 2014 Wadadli Pen Challenge. Vega loves dancing, art, writing, reading and horseback riding.

Copyright belongs to the author; so, no stealing.

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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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