Freedom walk –– a stroll of colour
In 1816 Barbadians turned north in flight for short-lived freedom from Haggatt Hall and surrounding plantations, but over the weekend they walked south-west, from the monument depicting that 17th century uprising’s leader, to Bridgetown Market.
This was the Walk Of Emancipation that moved off from the monument so named and depicting Bussa, a commemorative event observing the August, 1838 first tangible legal freedom for some 70,000 Barbadians and former slaves, turned apprentices, spread across the Caribbean.
“This is as good a place as ever to start. None better. Particularly because Bussa’s Emancipation Monument tells us that this is the point at which people fled the brutalization of slavery and went to the north,” announced historian Trevor Marshall who, along with colleague Maurice Greenidge, led the Emancipation walkers through the hot Saturday afternoon sun indentifying historical landmarks on a route from the J.T.C. Ramsay Roundabout, proceeding along Government Hill, Tweedside Road, around the James Tudor Roundabout to Roebuck Street, into Country Road, Passage Road, Westbury Road, President Kennedy Drive, Holborn Circle, ending at the Emancipation Village at Bridgetown Market on Spring Garden Highway.
Marshall, a fierce guardian of Barbadian history, took the opportunity at the walk’s outset to correct published information claiming that the Emancipation anniversary observations began in 1985, the year the monument was erected.
“Ever since the 1830s and 1840s the other people of the English-speaking Caribbean have been celebrating it [Emancipation]. We Barbadians have been laggard. All we knew is that it was August bank holiday. Only 20 years ago we learned it was for emancipation of the enslaved people.”
Greenidge chipped in: “Emancipation is not a finished product. It is still a work in train, and we have a lot more work to do until we can become completely emancipated.”
With divine guidance, invoked through prayer by Ethiopian Orthodox Church priest Kes Amha Selassie Yaicob, a small group of Barbadians trekked the three miles as Marshall and Greenidge interrupted the tuk band to point out signposts of the island’s history.
Marshall informed the walkers that the Haggatt Hall starting point was the site of “a number of sugar estates. Over to your right are Hurley’s. Behind you this is the beginning of the little estate which was called Sherbourne, over to your left St Barnabas and plantations of The Pine”.
Greenidge told walkers that to their right immediately after leaving the roundabout was the home of J.T.C. Ramsay, the first member of the Barbadian working class to win a seat the House of Assembly where he joined middle-class attorneys, educators and other professionals in 1940.
The historian said Ramsay’s unlikely achievement electoral victory had come “against all odds, all the moneys”.
The walk leaders proudly spoke of Sherbourne, now Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, being the first home of the Barbados Community College.
They sauntered past Ilaro Court, first used as the Prime Minister’s official residence by J.M.G.M. Tom Adams in 1976, on to the obliquely opposite building with the blue guardwall, once the home of true African royalty.
“In March 9, 1891, King Jaja of Opobo was exiled to Barbados and was made to live here,” said Marshall pointing the building.
“He was not a figment of imagination,” Marshall added, explaining how this Nigerian king was captured by the British and exiled to St Vincent, then Barbados, “the safest British colony”.
“Wherever he went in Barbados black people congregated in numbers to see a real king.”
And so it was that these two orators of the Barbadian past spent some two hours adding special meaning to select streets of St Michael.
The disappointment was the small number of people who turned up for the walk; but Commission for Pan-African Affairs director Dr Deryck Murray explained that this commemorative activity found itself sandwiched between other cultural events and splintered march times.
He pointed out to Barbados TODAY that traditionally pan-Africanists would walk in the morning along with the NGO groups.
“What has happened over the years is that a broader cross-section of Barbadians would have come out for the Government’s afternoon event.
“This year, the events came after Foreday Morning, during Bridgetown Market, and before Crop Over finals Pic-O-De-Crop.
“The people who would normally come here, who are not traditional pan-Africanists, would have been fragmented between those other activities.
“Many would have gone to Foreday Morning, and I’m certain they are recovering for the finals tonight.”