There is always this feeling that hits me every time I meet people of African descent. These rather unique feeling of mine wells-up, each time that I meet Africans, other than, continental Africans. I think it is an indescribable feeling of loss and nostalgia. And yet it is a feeling that I cannot quite describe precisely. These are very strong feelings all the same.
When I look into the eyes of people of African descent, when I gaze at the complexions of people who are clearly Africans, but for the brutal history of slave trade and slavery, I feel a mixture of reacquainting and loss.
I often cry quiet, painful tears when I meet African Americans. I sob equally when I traveled through Jamaica’s different Parishes. What I saw in Kingston was not different from what I had seen in Negril, Ocho Rios and Montego Bay etc.
When I visit the West Indies or the Island Nations of the Caribbean, I meet people who are clearly my long-lost cousins, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts and all other members of my extended African family of yesteryears. Africans inside and outside of the African continent possess unmistakable gaits about them. There are seen and unseen indelible African-ness about people of African descent wherever they are located on God’s good earth. Despite the forced-dispersal from the continent almost a millennium ago, our African siblings remain authentically and genuinely replicas and representatives our collective forbears.
Here I am in Bahamas and every person I meet gives me the soulful embrace and reminder of the fact that they are the blood of my blood, the bone of my bone and that we are kit and kin. Our collective origins are unmistakable. It is always so obvious!
This was made clear starting from the moment that I arrived at airport in Nassau Bahamas and unto stations of the immigration officials and their customs counterparts, to the taxi operators and the hotel concierge. The lady who delivered Domino Pizza to my Wyndham Hotels lobby with her right-hand-steered car, during one of the afternoons, when I felt an urge for pizza. Different shades of chocolate skins. Africans, all!
Everyone of them had an attribute, a quality and a manner that established them as one of my own. My eyes conducted instant DNA analyses per second and they were all perfect match each and every time.
It is as if a bolt of lightening hits me with joy! Joy, for the opportunity to meet these long lost family members again. My family members long-lost lost to the twin-evils, of slavery and colonialism. Then almost simultaneously, I am hit with a ferocious sadness, in the realization that the presence of people of African descent outside of Africa had not been of their own free-will. African descendants’ presence outside of Africa were the outcome of man’s inhumanity to man of the worst type. Africans in the West Indies or Caribbean (which the Bahamas is part), did not emigrate here! They were bundled here, they were herded here, literarily, kicking and screaming! The forced migrations of Africans during slavery were without the benefits of Chaucer like pilgrims’ tale or the Mayflower Pilgrims in the Americas. African slaves were before the Mayflower and before all others
The evils, the brutalities and the gores of slavery and the colonialism, that followed in all of Africa are not spoken of or written of enough. And equally, our African descendants that were dispersed to all the continents and corners of the world through the same process are not spoken of or written of enough. There is a common thread, a common causal connection between the plights and predicaments of peoples of African descent.
Revisionists are quick to minimize the effects and after effects, of the evils, horrors, brutalities and gores of slavery. We must never forget! How can we forget the far reaching consequences and ramifications of slavery? Slavery as a phenomenon had a process that entailed unimaginable and unfathomable horrors, so many unknowns and unknowable. Including the sudden shocks of uprooting Africans from their families and friends and all familiar of their lives before the snatchings, kidnappings, branding and sale in manners reserved for animals with less dignity compared with farm animals. Africans were hauled to strange-lands and to strangers of the unknowns.
Africa is certainly not under-peopled. The current challenges on the African continent, therefore does not have depopulation as a factor. But we must remember or restate and emphasize that humans are a part of the resources of any society. The snatchings, kidnappings and mass exportations of Africa’s human resources were gross deprivations.
Additionally, there were other profound adverse effects on peoples of African descent which were and still remain consequences of slavery. Africans were on the continent and off, deprived of languages, culture, religion, foods, songs and dance and lives and loves.
Peoples of African descent are found in Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Dominica, Jamaica, Haiti, St Kitts & Nieves, Panama, Puerto Rico, New Guinea, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Australia’s Aborigines etc. Even now, the economies are similarly plagued by the lopsidedness of globalization, pretentious free-trade and all tenets of capitalism.
I saw a movie titled “Life & Debt” a tale about the economic ravages of Jamaica caused primarily by the preachments of free market, which in effect is a one way benefits in favor of America and Europe who are too willing to subsidize their farmers and industrial producers, who are then able to dump their products in developing nations, at the expense of local aspiring entrepreneurs and their enterprises or business endeavors. Depressed markets now abound in Africa and the Caribbean. Devalued currencies are now our lot.
While here at the Wyndham Hotels Resorts, the Prime Minister of Bahamas and the Governor General attended an event which I attended as well, the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarian Association. The Prime of Bahamas touched on the dramatic effects of economic decisions by Europeans. In particular, he referred to how the mainstay of St. Kitts and Dominica, Sugar Cane, were sent tumbling down as Europeans continue to subsidize their farmers.
He described what happened to these Caribbean economies, as a drop into the abyss. He recounted how only Trinidad & Tobago which relies on petroleum oil production as major income earner, and some other Island nations with heavy traffic of tourist, earned enough to retain and maintain good quality of life. African peoples in the continent and in the Diaspora continue to be affected immensely by external factors and actions by Americans and Europe.
A delegate from Guyana made the point succinctly. African peoples are connected in every way and we essentially face the same challenges. She made that point as she presented a pendant to a South African delegate. She made reference to struggles by peoples of African descent and the recent struggles by South Africans against apartheid. We are all connected in good times and in not so good times.
There were, there are, for the Africans therefore, a multifaceted series of losses. Tangible and intangible losses; Physical and psychological injuries and wounds that remains.
Here in Bahamas, as I look into every eye of every person of African descent that I meet, I see myself, my family that are 500 years plus removed and all, and I ask myself repeatedly, how can any human do this to another human, for profit or whatever excuse?
Our peoples were snatched, kidnapped and dispersed. Our peoples were yanked and taken thousands of miles across the earth and now, we are part of the gorgeous mosaic of the earth, pervasive economic travails and all, in all the seven continents of the earth!
My one week of business, politics and recreation in the Bahamas is almost at an end, and I rededicate my passion and love for all Nigerians, all Africans and all peoples of African descent, wherever th
ey are located on earth! We are one people eternally linked.
As my one week stay here in the Bahamas Islands comes to an end, I sob silently, I bleed quietly. I am in a sense, crying a millennium of tears for the hardships and sufferings that peoples of African descent have endured our lot on earth. I am elated that I have met all these long-lost family members from our continent and I wonder what they feel when they see me. In their eyes, I see me.
And now, as I set to leave this gorgeous Island nation, I am ambivalently joyous and saddened.