Making a case for our ancestors
Members of the Pan–African fraternity are appealing for structured representation of African ancestry in Barbados.
Addressing journalists Saturday at a press conference by the Pan–African Coalition of Organisations to commemorate Black History Month, Baba John Tifase Howell suggested that the gravesites of hundreds of slaves were not being recognized by the state or its people.
“We believe that our people are just as important as any other people. I see the work that is being done for the Jewish cemetery here in Bridgetown but when you visit where our ancestors have been laid to rest it is always traumatic to see that nothing is being done to keep the premises in some kind of order, it is like we are still second-class citizens in our own land,” Howell said.
The Pan–Africanist stressed that it was the government’s responsibility to honour the slave burial grounds located in Newton Plantation, Christ Church; Pierhead, Bridgetown; and Browne’s Beach, St Michael.
“This needs to be taken to a state level, the same way how we can gather every year and have Memorial Day for the veterans or war heroes . . . we could do similar to our African ancestors who would have died for our liberation,” he said.
Howell indicated that the recognition of these valuable heritage sites would be a welcome addition to our tourism sector, especially heritage tourism.
“We talk about tourism, but these sites would be tourism as well because you are not only coming for sea and sand, you are coming to be immersed in the culture of the people. We too have a story that needs to be told,” he said.
These sentiments were also shared by Reverend Omkphra Wells, who said that the thoughts of hundreds of skeletal remains underneath the Pierhead car park, gave him chills.
“They dug a mass pit and on arrive in Barbados they were not fit enough to be sold or if they were dying, they just cast these people into this pit and we went and built a parking lot,” said Reverend Wells.
“I am not saying that the parking lot was deliberately built but information has been found since that that was a burial ground, then it is our responsibility to pay reverence to the site,” he added. (KK)