–A look at the slave trade and how our Jamaican fore-parents fought for our freedom as Britain now celebrates bi-centennial anniversary of the abolition of slavery-
On a plantation just outside the Jamaican capital, Kingston, we watched workers with long machetes slice down towering stalks of sugar cane with industrial precision. The crop is only harvested by hand on modern plantations when it rains and today there is a steady drizzle. Usually machines do the graft. But for more than 300 years until the early 19th century the machines were African slaves.
Dat is why wi skin so tuff and coarse cause dem had wi grandparents a cut sugacane inna de blazing sun hot. Jamaicans dese days nuh need no sun tan lotion like de tourist dem because wi ave a natural brand dat wi use. It name ‘Darker Skin SPF300 years of slavery’. It has a lovely fragrance reminiscent of sweat and blood. It was made from a revolutionary formula dat elp to maximize UV burning rays and develop a deep, gorgeous natural tan.
Men, women and children were overworked and brutalised. Cruelty and torture meant as many as a third of all slaves died within three years of arriving here. In the fields, the tears of the living often mixed with the blood of the dead.
It seem as if nothing has changed in JA since slavery wid a daily murda rate dat is currently threatening to surpass di rate of daily American visa denials. It seem as if wi so accustom to our people a dead dat wi haffi finish de work of our slave masters even after more dan a hundred years afta slavery don.
In all one and half million Africans sailed here. It is their descendants who make up modern Jamaica.
Dat is why as a Jamaican living abroad mi refuse fi follow people and tek Caribbean cruise because de last time my people tek a boat to de islands it was not for cocktails on deck and poolside entertainment.
Kingston is the capital of a proud nation, a proud people, but there are painful memories of slavery and racism here. There is also a defiance of spirit that came with the first Africans and today sets this nation apart. It’s a defiance that saw slaves endure the worst indignities at the hands of British slave masters.
Why yuh tink dat a likkle island like Jamaica produce sum a de fastest sprinters in de world? Cause our fore parents ave been running away from plantations and dere slavemasters for 300 years of slavery. Dey were not running fi a medal but fi freedom to live as a human being and not like animals.
There is unease here that British commemorations marking the end of the slave trade are too focused on white abolitionists like William Wilberforce and they do not acknowledge the effect on the morale of the British of numerous slave rebellions.
Wi mus rememba our heros like Nanny of de maroon who ‘bit de bullet’ and drove fear inna de hearts of de British inna the Blue Mountains like a croaking lizard wey a get chase by a puss; cause nobady going memba dem fi wi least of all de British. Yuh tink dat dese Brits are going to celebrate and commemorate all de times Kojo and im man dem ambush dem and shot dem in dem batty in de Cockpit Country. No sah dat is our culture and wi haffi memba people like Paul Bogle and de res a dem in Morant Bay who stood up to dere oppressors and gi dem some big lick till dem change dem mind. So de Brits cyan celebrate what dere ownna people do fi end slavery but wi as Jamaicans haffi memba our heros dat fought fi our rights fi drink likkle Redstripe and play dominos in peace.
The Jamaican parliament is discussing whether or not a formal claim for reparations should be made to the British government. Any final decision is a long way off and a vote for reparations is likely to be greeted with a firm rejection from No 10.
De ongly ting dat de British are and will continue to send us is a bag of deportees. Of course dem not going to giv us any money fi slavery because de point of slavery was to tek from us. While our foreparents were broking dem back inna de cane fields the British were cashing in and drinking tea wid dere pinky finga raised. Dat is why they cyan afford a castle fi de Queen in every parish because dey raped and pillaged de Caribbean and de res a de colonies fi 300 years.
Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in a rare interview, told me that in this bicentenary year, there is no statute of limitations on genocide and that Jamaicans will never forget the cruelty done to their ancestors.
“They were packed into ships like sardines in a sardine can. We will never forget what was done to our foreparents. It was a crime against humanity.”
Dat is why de bus conducta dem know ow fi pack up de mini bus dem so much until people all a heng out de door. If yuh dey a de back a de bus and want fi come off is easier fi yuh jump thru de winda dan get pass all de passengas in de bus and mus likely get pickpocket.
Perhaps that’s the price Britain must pay, that it will never be allowed to forget what it did. It is a heavy price, the burden of history. Fitting perhaps for a monumental crime.
And as Jamaicans we mus neva feget dat our foreparents died fi our freedom and endured sum a de hardest conditions known to man so dat wi cyan have de right to live, eat, sing, dance and work widout a slavemaster standing behind us holding a big stick.
About the Author
Ray Damdar is a Jamaican living abroad in Hartford, CT amongst the third largest Jamaican population in the USA. He is constantly amused by his culture having no odda choice but to comment.
Favorite Caribbean proverb “ Nuh call Alligita long mout till yuh pass im.”
Article Excerpts in non-bold taken from BBC ‘Jamaicans angry over slave trade’ written by Clive Myrie.
-Photos & Commentry in bold courtesy of Ray Damdar & Guinep Tree Productions-