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Celebrating our Cultural Heritage - Confronting our Challenges
Spiritual Healing Ceremonies
The Government of Barbados is being asked to host a week of activities for spiritual healing from the effects and legacies of slavery and colonisation for people of the Caribbean and Americas Territories from 5 - 12 October 2014, with October 12 as an “International Day” for truth and justice. It was on October 12, 1492 that Columbus set foot in the Caribbean. Spiritual leaders from other countries outside of the region that have also experienced slavery and or colonisation are specially invited to participate.
This historic event will follow two monumental feats, the first being a Summit of CARICOM Heads of State with the Prime Minister of Japan in the Caribbean July 2014, the second is in U.S. History: The first U.S. – Africa Leaders’ Summit; the gathering of African Union (AU) Leaders at The White House will take place early August. African Diaspora Civil Society Movement is urging the leaders of Africa to ensure that the ‘Durban Declaration and Programme of Action’ is on the agenda for implementation during the UN’s ‘Decade for People of African Descent’ - 2015-2024, which should include October 12 as an UN’s “International Day for People of African Descent”.
The Assembly of Social Movements of the World Social Forum – Civil Society’s equivalent to the United Nations – has given its backing to the proposal for October 12 to be the “International Day” for truth, justice, peace, healing and reconciliation – “International Day for Reparations” related to Colonization (press release 11 October 2013). It affirmed that “colonization is a global phenomenon: there is hardly a country in the world that has not been colonized, a colonizer, or both, such as the United States. Colonization is one of the phenomena that have most disrupted humanity. It has left a deep and lasting impression on all continents and the consequences are; demographic, political, economic, cultural and ecological”.
Presently the cries for justice, peace and security can be heard coming from all regions of the world, the Middle East and Africa are among those most mention as humanity continues to be affected by unprecedented crimes and violence and the worst economic downturn in modern history. Among these areas affected is the Caribbean region with explosions of crimes and violence that are threatening to destabilise some of the nation states, because the attention of leaders are being diverted from the on-going liberation struggle.
The CARICOM Heads of State at their 35th Meeting held in Antigua and Barbuda from 1-4 July 2014 reached decisions including the formulation of a strategic five year plan for the region. The plan focuses on the empowerment of the region’s youth as a critical aspect of the liberation struggle. The implementation of the decisions is paramount.
Civil Society Organisations urges governments that they be included to play their part in the liberation struggle. The Non State Actors Reparations Commission Inc. (NsARC) of Barbados is a coalition of Human Rights and Social Justice Organisations. Some of its members have been confronting the challenges face by African people for over 35 years and have identified solutions, some of which have been put to CARICOM Governments, the United Nations and the African Union for consideration.
A number of the solutions to challenges of underdevelopment in the Caribbean and Africa are outlined in a draft programme of action for the “International Decade for People of African Descent” from January 2015 – December 2024 prepared by the United Nations (UN) Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. The theme of the Decade is ‘People of African Descent: Recognition, Justice and Development’. In August president Obama welcomed leaders from across the African continent to America for a three-day U.S. Africa Leaders’ Summit - the first such event of its kind. If the objectives of the upcoming historic decade are to be meaningful to the liberation of African people the proposed spiritual healing event scheduled for October is of critical importance as a prelude to the decade.
Barbados is pivotal to the process. One might ask the question why Barbados? The answer lies in its history. This small island was an administration centre, a pillar in the building and expansion of the British Empire in the Caribbean and Americas’ region and across the geographic space now called the Commonwealth of Nations.
To fully appreciate the significance of Barbados its influence in the Commonwealth and Britain's global position it is important to understand its origins from the British Empire, which was born out of the event on 12 October 1492 when Columbus made landfall in the Caribbean. Information Technology and the Internet have been very helpful in this regard. We are informed by ‘google’ that technically there have been three phases of the empire, each phase becoming larger and more sophisticated than the one that predated it. The first phase involved France, lost by 1558; the second in North America, which became the United States of America after 1776; and the third was global, which became the modern Commonwealth of Nations after 1949.
“The British Empire was the largest Empire in history. At its zenith, it held sway over a population of nearly 500 million people - roughly a quarter of the world's population then, and covered about 14.3 million square miles (17.4 million including Antarctic claims), almost a third of the world's total land area. During the mid-19th century Britain was the sole developer hyper-power, enjoying unparalleled prosperity”. Britain was "the work-shop of the world," and even by 1870 she still was producing well over 30% of the global industrial output, no other nation coming even close to her production superiority.
In 1834 the Emancipation Act abolished slavery in the British colonies. Some 50 years later the colonization of Africa began. In 1884-5 at the Berlin Conference the Continent of Africa was carved up by Europeans and shared among them and Britain got the lion share. By late 1885 America and Germany can be considered as having become industrialised, but Britain was still the world's most developed nation until around 1913 when she was surpassed by America. Due to the supremacy of the Royal Navy, Britain truly did rule the waves for centuries. With territories scattered across every continent and ocean and in every time-zone, the "Empire under Palm and Pine" was accurately described as "the empire on which the sun never sets." The physical empire no longer exists but each year citizens of former colonies yearn to be awarded titles including: Sir, Dame, MBE, OBE etc, etc, as members of the British Empire.
“A racial group is like a man; until it uses its own talents, takes pride in its own history and loves its own memories, it can never fulfil itself completely”. No adequate healing to reverse or stem the tide of confusion, pain, shame, anger, fear and self-hatred caused by enslavement has ever been undertaken in the region. Therefore the trauma passes from generation to generation, this is most evident when difficult economic periods threaten to corrode the balm of peace with which we have salved our wounds.
The vast British Empire was built and expanded by mass genocide of indigenous peoples, Africans’ slave labour and the exploitation of other ethnic groups using both the Bible and the gun as major instruments of control. The present crimes and violence being experienced by people of the Caribbean and Americas’ region is underpinned by the psychological effects of centuries of enslavement, and colonization.
Barbados, with its peculiar history - being a key administrative centre of that British Empire, manifests many of these less desirable impacts. Barbados is considered the most racially segregated country in the Caribbean, if not the commonwealth. Over the years the island has impacted on the international community due to some important events that took place during some epoch periods: 1627, 1639, 1652, 1661, 1816, 1937, 1966, 1998, 2002 and 2012. Should the Spiritual Healing Ceremonies now being proposed for 2014 be given appropriate support by government the impact on the international community could be equally significant.
Birth of the Nation Barbados
British records inform us that in 1627 a British ship arrived on the island known today as Barbados. On the ship were 70 sailors and 10 Africans that were captured from a rival ship after a battle at sea. The British first came across the island by chance in 1625 when their ship was blown off course during a storm. The records state that the island was uninhabited when it was claimed as a British colony in 1627.
Much evidence exists to prove that people lived on the island prior to the arrival of the British, but it is claimed that none were found on their arrival. Should this history be accurate Barbados is then the only colony whereby the colonizers and the colonised arrived together and no blood was shed on the altar; the only colony in the Caribbean that did not begin with appropriation from indigenous populations and the infliction of genocide.
The early development of Barbados was by indentured servitude mainly from Ireland and Scotland with some of England’s poor. The records further inform us that in 1639 the British elite settlers established a parliament of nominated representatives, which means that the island has a parliamentary system of 375 years old, making is the third oldest in the Commonwealth of Nations after Britain and Bermuda, and it stands as a bastion of independence and democracy in the current era. In 1652 the system was tested when a civil unrest broke out between supporters of King Charles 11 and those of the “Roundheads” (parliament). It is said “the history of Barbados is by no means barren of events which have materially affected the British Empire. If the navigation laws led to England's supremacy on the seas, that small island was the cause which led to the navigation laws”.
Ships were sent from England to the island to put down the rebellion. This was the beginning of the modern Royal Navy. To avert disastrous bloodshed the two sides in the dispute reached a compromise and a ‘Peace Charter’ was signed on 11 January 1652. The situation led to a slackening of metropolitan control and greater autonomy for the island, which the islanders and the planter class in particular, greatly welcomed. This manifested itself in areas such as law-making, the right to appoint local officials, free trade and close relationships with the Dutch. The ‘Barbados Charter’ a very important document subsequently influenced the drafting of the document which became known as the American Constitution 122 years later.
As a free law-making parliament in 1661 an act known as the ‘Barbados Slave Code’ was introduced, which classified all enslaved Africans as Chattel – non-human. The ideology of white supremacy (Racism) from this ‘Slave Code’ introduced the belief that Africans were “heathenish, brutish and an uncertaine dangerous kinde of people”, who were not fit to be governed under English law. This view of Africans was to influence many colonialists throughout the British Caribbean and Americas. The island never changed colonial hands and the impact of British culture was so great that it was nicknamed “Little England”. The island was a “total” slave society and due to its mastery of the skills in breaking a man and making a slave it was considered the most valuable piece of ‘real estate’ in the world. The island was also a transhipment point for enslaved persons to other colonies. The ideology of chattel enslavement also influenced other European colonizers including the colonies of the Americas that classified black people as 3/5 human.
Throughout its colonization there were social uprisings and planned rebellions on the island including a major planned rebellion in 1675 to overthrow the slave system and install an Akan Elder as King; but the plans were betrayed. The punishments for those identified were very severe. Therefore, it was understandable why it took more than 100 years of relatively quiet coexistence before Barbados experienced its most major surprised rebellion of 1816, which is documented as the “Bussa” Rebellion that affected half the island. It is believed that this rebellion was motivated by two events; Haiti’s successful Black Republic of 1804 and reaction to the erection of the statue of Lord Horatio Nelson in 1813, which is Barbados’ most notable public symbol of white supremacy, second only to the white image of Jesus Christ. The Bussa Rebellion hastened the emancipation proclamation of 1834.
The contentment of former enslaved persons while under undue hardship was endured for approximately 100 years after slavery until 1937 when Barbados was to experience another surprised rebellion. This social uprising usually refers to as the 1937 “Riots” significantly contributed to other uprisings and changes in the Caribbean. The imperial government sent a Royal Commission to investigate and report on the situation while also offering possible solutions. The Report of West India Royal Commission, also known as the Moyne Report, published fully in 1945, exposed the horrendous living conditions in Britain's Caribbean colonies. It was from the report’s finding that non-white politicians in Barbados gained ascendancy to parliament in 1944.
The Moyne report helped to expedite the development of trade unions and political parties. In 1946 the Barbados Labour Party won an election making it among the oldest political parties in the Caribbean. Universal adult suffrage was adopted in 1950 and the leader of the party Sir Grantley Adams became premiere of the short lived ‘West Indies Federation’ - January 1958 to May 1962 – the independence movement within the British Empire was born. The island’s full internal self-government was achieved with political independence in 1966. The Caribbean Community took effect in 1973 and Barbados was given lead responsibility within the movement. The Caribbean Community subsequently became the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CARICOM).
In 1998 a quiet revolution took place when the Government established a ‘Commission for Pan-African Affairs’ (CPAA) with a mandate to raise the level of consciousness of African Barbadians and to make connections with African brothers and sisters globally. This agency was and is still the only such department of any government in the independence Caribbean. In 1999 a national consultation on Racism (white supremacy) was carried out in Barbados. The island’s population of over ninety percentages (90%) African Barbadians is yet to become conscious of being African. The CPAA was very influential in this process; the first such undertaking of any country. Two outstanding recommendations, among others, from the consultation included: that Lord Horatio Nelson’s statue be relocation from its present position, and, a demand for Reparations from Britain. It is not clear as the why the statue has not been relocated yet.
The CPAA also contributed significantly to the 2001 United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Durban, South Africa at which the transatlantic trade in Africans, slavery and colonialism were acknowledged to have been all crimes against humanity, and that Reparations are due to descendants of enslaved Africans. Many hailed this conference as one of the greatest conferences the world has ever known, surpassed only by the Nicea Conference of 325 BC and the Berlin Conference of 1884-5. In October 2002 Barbados hosted the first follow-up to the Durban 2001 conference; the Afrikan and Afrikan Descendants World Conference against Racism at which the case for Reparations was affirmed. This conference would not have been possible without the CPAA.
On 12 October 2012 the Government of Barbados established a ‘Reparations Task Force’. This initiative motivated other Caribbean leaders to take similar action. In July 2013 all the Heads of Governments in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) agreed to the establishment of Reparations Committees to be brought under a ‘CARICOM Reparations Commission’. The Prime Minister of Barbados is Chairman of the Prime Ministers’ Sub-committee on Reparations and Professor Sir Hillary Beckles a Barbadian, is the Chairman of the Commission.
The above is a brief examination of Barbados’ history as it relates to key periods; 1627, 1639, 1652, 1661, 1816, 1937, 1966, 1998, 2002 and 2012 and why the healing ceremony is proposed for Barbados.
Spiritual Healing Ceremonies
The UN uses the strategy of dedicating “a day” “a year” and “a decade” to bring attention to important issues. The UN proclaimed the years 2001 to 2010 as a Decade for a Culture of Peace. It was therefore fitting that the Durban conference against racism took place at the start of the decade - the first world conference of the 21st century. The decade for a Culture of Peace is bearing fruits. In June a culture of peace meeting held in Sarajevo was attended by over 900 delegates of Human Rights and Peace Activists from 32 countries. The delegates broke new ground by addressing subjects on NATO that have been taboo and affirmed that “Peace is Possible”. They called on the UN to take up its mandate to save the world from the scourge of war.
The Decade for a Culture of Peace followed the year 2000 as an “International Year for a Culture of Peace”. The period 1993 – 2003 was the Third Decade to combat Racism and Racial Discrimination started in 1973. The year 2011 as an “International Year for People of African Decent” is now followed by the “Decade for People of African Descent 2015 -2024”. In 2010 it was proposed also that there be an “International Day for People of African Descent”, the 12th October has been recommended as the most appropriate date.
At present the proposal for a week of spiritual healing activities from 5 - 12 October 2014 is before the Government of Barbados. Noting the fact that Barbados was a pillar for the building of the greatest Empire in 2000 years; then Barbados must be the pillar in redressing the impacts of this empire on People of African Descent.
A spiritual foundation for breaking the cycle of crimes and violence that dominates the
Caribbean and Americas territories, especially among the youth, must be laid before the start of the decade. This spiritual event will be the start for a genuine healing process necessary to address the pain, shame, anger, fear and self-hatred that are the legacies of slavery and colonization. This proposal is unique, unlike any other that might have been attempted to address the historic problems faced by African people. The healing ceremony will be an occasion to call on the ancestors for help; to have the enslavers’ spirits acknowledge their crimes against humanity, and repent for those crimes, and to come to an agreement to “Turn-Away” from their practices.
The process within the Caribbean in 1973 that led to the CSME is similar to that on the African Continent with the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) of 1963 and its transformation to the African Union (AU) in 2002. The Diaspora is to become the sixth region of Africa within a United States of Africa.
The Healing Ceremonies proposed will put the Caribbean and its people in a leadership role of influencing the international community toward the way forward; in seeking truth, justice, peace, healing and reconciliation as we implement the United Nations “International Decade for People of African Descent” with all its implications. Annually each CARICOM country can promote a “City of Peace” from 10 – 12 October, with 12 October being designated “Reparations Day” for Recognition, Justice and Development. This idea has the endorsement of the Assembly of the World Social Forum.
We are calling on all people of goodwill to give this proposed week of activities for spiritual healing in October 2014 their full support.
Attachment: 12 October Dramitisation 2014 - 2.docx
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Attachment: 12 October - why Barbados.doc
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