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Understanding Africa

It was all about Africa at Graydon Sealy Secondary School recently.

The programme, which was titled Tomorrow’ People bringing the gifts that our Ancestors gave us, and also featured poetry, songs, story telling, a medley of Negro spirituals by the school’s steel pan orchestra, and African drumming and dancing by Pinelands Creative Workshop, was organised by the General Studies Department at school.

Principal Matthew Farley, who gave the opening remarks, told his students that if the school was in Africa, they would “be seated on the ground with their legs crossed and the excitement and eagerness and thirst for knowledge would surprise you”.

“Africa has thousands of different languages, every tribe sometimes has five and six languages. When Kes Yaicob was exposing you to different language you thought it funny because sometimes we live in our little village in St. Philip or Christ Church or St. Joseph and we feel that we are the world. So when you get exposed to things from somewhere else sometimes you find it funny, but Africa has thousands of different languages and … if you are to hear them speaking you would not recognise what they are saying.

“So understand that the world is not your little cocoon. In your little corner up in Parish Land or up in the Pine, that’s not the world. It is connected to a wider world that you have to try to understand and try to comprehend. In your little way of thinking it is not surprising that you think that way but the world is not where you live alone, the world is a much bigger place,” he said.

Farley said that diversity and difference are two attributes that make the world stronger.

And spoken word artist Adrian Green, who gave the feature address, noted that Barbadians were making progress in the area of black consciousness and were in fact on the way “to freeing our minds” but were not there yet.

Having started off his presentation by asking the students how many of them were black, (several raised their hands) he noted that had he asked that question to a classroom 20 years ago, no hands would have been raised. During his interactive session, he told the youngsters that Jamaican dance hall artiste Tommy Lee was one of the most popular, innovative, original singers today with a unique style and then informed them about the origins of a word he used.

Sparta, Green said, was one of the nations of ancient Greece and Spartans were warriors.

“So when Tommy Lee shouts Sparta he is paying homage or respect to ancient Greece and an ancient Greek nation. Now I look at Tommy Lee and despite the fact that he’s bleaching, I can tell that Tommy Lee is not a Greek. Why is Tommy Lee … yelling Sparta? I don’t understand.

“Why are you by looking at you, you are African children why are you yelling Sparta? I don’t get it. So even though many of you raised your hands and said quite proudly that you are African I know we still have a ways to go because we still don’t get it, understanding, fully,” he said.

Green also told them about Roots’ Kunte Kinte and noted that “we were brought here as Africans and transformed into slaves” and part of that transformation was “making us reject anything African” including names.

He told the students that Kunte Kinte’s slave master beat the European name into him and now years later “they don’t have to beat the African out of us any more”. He added that when the languages of the ancestors were heard people laughed because they were “thrown away”. (DS)

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