Barbudans Will Write Their Own History

23

By Alvette ‘Ellorton’ Jeffers/NWU

Our ancestors were conquered people. We, the descendants of those who were conquered, enslaved, dehumanized and exploited, celebrate our ancestors’ struggles to regain control over their lives. We continue to learn from them the important lesson that laws which justify the conquest and control of economic resources and the domination and organization of people and labor for the benefit of Empire, foreign capital or State, are not immutable.

We best honor our ancestors by confronting and eliminating all hierarchical structures that reinforce forms of socioeconomic domination that hinder us from creating the condition that allows for our total mastery over our spaces and existence.

Our ancestors were up against a formidable enemy. It has been estimated that by 1913, according to Wikipedia, the British Empire had sway over 458 million people, 25% of the world population…and by 1920 it covered 13,700,000 square miles.

Wherever they went, the British colonizers compelled the colonized to submit to their authority at the point of a bayonet. Violence, death and forced displacement were the results of conquest. Despite its formidability, there was always resistance to British colonial rule, for it constructed a socioeconomic system which delayed and undermined the social and economic development of the colonized people while, manufacturing at the same time, the white myth of African inferiority.

Colonialism represented a real threat to the development of Africans everywhere. Urged by a compelling desire to end their continuing debasement, Africans had to resist because it was in the process of resistance that they continually affirmed their own humanity. It is in the process of revolutionary struggle that human beings discover both their capabilities and limitations.

Every 9th December, Antigua celebrates heroes’ day. Antigua’s heroes get noticed because they refused to accept the social limitations that British colonialism imposed on the African Antiguan working class and estate workers. Those leaders that we now venerate, were up against a legal system that codified oppression and repression. All this was occurring when Africans in Antigua and Barbuda were
being denied political representation.

It seems to me though, that in our celebration of the past, we totally ignore or downplay working class struggles against colonial rule that preceded the arrival of VC Bird et al, in 1939. It is my humble

opinion that these struggles are not made significant on heroes’ day because they were led by ordinary working class leaders whose emergence undermine the idea that everyday people are incapable of self-mobilization and organization.

An important, historical uprising which took place in 1918 is of great significance for us. It had the capacity to undo the colonial system and it was more incendiary than any single event that took place in the 30s and 40s. Those who are interested in the story of this insurrection are advised to read Professor Glen Richards’ “Race, Class and ‘Moral Economy’ In The 1918 Antigua Labour Riots.

These insurgents were sugar cane workers who initiated a general strike to control how sugar cane was weighed. They brought their protest to the streets where they faced the armed might of the colonial State. Two persons were killed by the armed forces of the State, one was John Furlong and the other was James Brown. Fifteen were wounded and twenty-two were indicted for participating in the 1918 insurrection, according to Professor Richards. They challenged the plantocracy and colonial State that supported it. They caused the ruling classes to shudder, to the point where colonial rulers sought military help outside of Antigua to prop up their rule.

The attempted slave rebellion in 1736, the insurrection of 1918 and the labor struggles between 1939 to the 1950s, are all significant moments which influenced political developments in Antigua and Barbuda. Though not the most important conclusion, what we can draw from those past struggles is that they all contested the authority of the political and economic classes who wrapped around themselves a fragile, legal shield to ward off any complaint about the illegality of their domination over land and people.

I do not know any African existing today who, in looking back at the past, would assert that the laws the slave masters and colonizers made to legalize ownership of captured black bodies and land, were laws that the enslaved, dispossessed and displaced had to honor. I certainly would be flabbergasted if I were told that was the case. Why? Not even the European countries that competed with each other for possessions in the Caribbean accepted each other’s claim to land as a fait accompli. Those matters were settled on the battlefield and on sea. After the battles, treaties were signed and then, occasionally, honored in the breach.

Those who have been uprooted, dispossessed, displaced, exploited, degraded, and disregarded are placed in a position where the only alternative they are offered to end the process of their dehumanization and stultification is to attempt to end the conditions that deny their humanity. Their liberation is the sole justification for their struggle.

Ruling classes never sanction liberatory actions that are aimed at their demise. Every obsolete, ruling class tries to hold on to power until the moment that it is left with no other alternative but to give up and adjust to the new order or perish. Any student of the French, American, Haitian, Russian and Cuban revolutions would quickly recognize this fact. In opposition to a ruling class and in the process of struggle, the revolution establishes its own rules as it overturns all hitherto existing political and economic relations while building its own. The revolution justifies itself.

The 1804 Haitian revolution ended French rule in Haiti, and it established itself as the only successful slave uprising in history. Africans all over, look admiringly at what the Haitians achieved in 1804 in much the same way we look back at our own efforts to end the colonial legal, political and economic arrangements that impeded our forward movement.

I write all that to bring me to Barbuda, some may say, in a very circuitous way. Barbudans say that the land on which they were enslaved and have continued to live from the 17th century up to the present moment belongs to them. That is more than three hundred years in the same place. A respected Antiguan who occasionally advertises his opposition to all things colonial, has written that Barbuda’s claim to the land is invalid because their enslavers and the colonizers whom he claims to despise, did not pass title to them.

His position converges with those of the Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party (A&BLP). Others have pointed out that the Barbudans lost command over their lives the moment Barbuda was linked to Antigua in 1860. They say, metaphorically, that this one hundred and sixty years old, long, iron chain with each of its rusty links stained with the dried blood of our ancestors eternally binds Barbuda to Antigua, even if Barbudans’ lives remain an ignoble one.

Britain and the island’s white administrators made a decision about the future of two people on two separate islands and never asked either what they thought about the decision. At that time, blacks were unable to vote and trade unions were illegal. Those who oppose Barbuda’s land claim and their efforts to be self-determined have summoned the ghost of the colonizers to their side. Their pronouncements on Barbuda, express and endorse colonial notions and practices of property rights; the same rights and practices that Antiguan sugar workers contested and lost their lives or were imprisoned for doing so.

Yet they celebrate Antigua’s anti-colonial struggles, while overlooking or devaluing Barbudans’ effort to redirect their lives which cannot succeed if they are not free to organize their resources to support and manage their own development. They also support black self-determination and self-reliance in Africa but encourage foreign control of Barbuda. When, in the 19th century, an Overseer observed that Barbudans “acknowledge no Master and believe the island belongs to them,” it was a confirmation that Barbudans had a vision of living that was in opposition to the life the colonialists had designed for them in 1860. It is a life of self-determining, which this Overseer, like Gaston Brown today, would have been hostile to. (See Justin Simon, Observer Newspaper, September 01, 2020)

This is the starting point of all great revolutions. It is where the Haitian and American revolutions began. The rejection of “masters” puts on the agenda, the overthrow of the old order. Scholars who have written to defend the authenticity of the 1736 planned rebellion against Antigua’s slave masters to make themselves “masters” of the land, do not admit to a similar value in Barbudans’ expression to be “master” of their land. They equivocate about it or fight it, either out of prejudice or in deference to the wishes of the government that they represent and willingly serve. Barbudans will, nevertheless, write their own history and the Antiguan working class and everyday people will help them when they too fulfil the dream

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Another crackpot preaching separation. Boss their ancestors were my ancestors. Any genealogy tests will show we are all mixed up, you all not unique. The Barbudan concept (see the 2007 land act) is a fraud. We all came on the same ship. Some enslaved Africans who were placed in Barbuda were at times transferred to ANU and vice versa. If you took the time to examine some of the debates in the UK when dealing with our independence you will note many of the parliamentarians there recognizing the fact that we are actually one. Emphasizing the need for unity was the overwhelming thought. Now watch the writer showing that he drank the Willie lynch poison hence preaching separation. This is a unitary state, we will all decide our futures. The separation available to those who wish one, is via the now opened airport. Let me quote Lord Pitt of Hampstead (relevant portions)

    “What I should like to see—I am sorry to have to disagree with my noble friend on the Front Bench and other speakers—is something quite opposite from what is being demanded. I want to see an attempt by Her Majesty’s Government to try to bring about a union of these little islands so that together they can become a state. If an island of 1,200 people can brief an eminent Queen’s Counsel to put its case, one has to ask where the finance is coming from. I have lived in the Caribbean: it was my home until I came here and I am still in touch. There are elements that are anxious to have a base somewhere in the Caribbean, and those elements are encouraging every little territory to try to become independent on its own so that they can control it. It is for Her Majesty’s Government to recognise that fact and to stop fragmenting the Caribbean. We have suffered much too long from this fragmentation….What I should like to see—I am sorry to have to disagree with my noble friend on the Front Bench and other speakers—is something quite opposite from what is being demanded. I want to see an attempt by Her Majesty’s Government to try to bring about a union of these little islands so that together they can become a state. If an island of 1,200 people can brief an eminent Queen’s Counsel to put its case, one has to ask where the finance is coming from. I have lived in the Caribbean: it was my home until I came here and I am still in touch. There are elements that are anxious to have a base somewhere in the Caribbean, and those elements are encouraging every little territory to try to become independent on its own so that they can control it. It is for Her Majesty’s Government to recognise that fact and to stop fragmenting the Caribbean. We have suffered much too long from this fragmentation.”

    hmm where was the finance coming from then and now to keep pushing the divide.

    • TENMAN Hughes if you are in an abusive relationship where your wife beats you all the time (invariably it is the reverse, but let us assume that your wife abuses you), would you continue in that relationship from month to month taking abuse? Well Tenman for your information that is the type of relationship that currently exist between Antigua and Barbuda, especially under the Gaston Browne government. Just like, I am sure you would leave your abusive wife if you are a sensible person, put yourself in Barbuda’s position and tell me if secession could be any worse than the present abuse. Unless Gaston Browne has a serious rethink of his present position to Barbuda, I say secession is the only damn answer. And please don’t fool yourself, Barbuda will survive and could become a beacon to the rest of the world with a unique type of development.

  2. Absolutely brilliant article Jeffers. Great to see that you are one of the few ACLM members left who still advocate a progressive, ideological perspective and support for those who struggle for genuine independence and self-determination. Barbuda will ultimately prevail. Your positive contribution to their effort is most commendable.

  3. Barbudans will NOT write their own history. They gave that power to TREVOR WALKER. He and he alone has the master plan for Codrington. He and he alone has done more for Barbuda (especially 2004-2014) than any other human being. He alone is worthy of their “worship”.

  4. The problem with Barbuda is a few rich Barbudans want to keep the majority of Barbudans poor and ignorant so the can continue to enrich themselves. Trevor Walker during his time as minster of public works only look to enrich himself, which he did. He did nothing for the people of Barbuda. He ate and ate off the back of Antiguans and now he wants to do the same with the Barbudans! Ask the Syrians who he also helped to enrich! It is time people open their eyes and see what is going on in Barbuda…….unless you pay the piper you can’t progress

  5. Great article, really enjoyed reading it. Totally agree Barbudans will write their own history.Trevor Walker don’t speak for me and my family.Some ppl thing Barbudan don’t contribute nothing to the treasury, we backward, squatters, we don’t want not good, we land flat,we don’t own no land in Barbuda.we don’t pay taxes, we just want to live off Antigua. All lies .we are fed up.The last time the people of Barbuda had a seat down with Gaston Browne Was September 2017 when we have to evacuate Barbuda after hurricane Irma.He never once made the attempt To have a town hall meeting with us, about the PLH projects and new airport. all you hear he’s in Barbuda with the PLH investor. We the people comes first. I don’t think Gaston Browne represent the people of Barbuda Fairly. We need to just end the married, and go our separate way.

    • Some people? Here is Trevor Walker according to “Barbuda’s Representative Chides Residents for Dependency: (May 29, 2010, Antigua Daily Observer):

      “Member of Parliament (MP) for Barbuda Trevor Walker yesterday lashed out at Barbudans for their dependence on the Barbuda Council. Walker accused Barbudans of not doing enough for the sister-island while relying too heavily on subsidies from the central government in Antigua.
      “It’s so amazing to me that 1,500 people cannot get together to try and organise themselves in a way that they can help themselves, and I take blame for that too,” he said. “All that we do is to go to this broke Barbuda Council that has no money, borrow everything that we want, and the same Barbuda Council depends on the central government every week every month for transfers. It’s just not sustainable.”
      “At the end of the day, we cannot have it both ways. We cannot want to live the Antigua life and want to have the Barbuda lifestyle … and so let us wake up,” Walker said. “I mean this might cause me some political problems but at the end of the day, I want to be recorded as the person that moved the country forward in a positive way.”

  6. Who’s the minister of land in Antigua? Who’s the minister of finance in Antigua?first cast out the beam out thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly out mote out of thy brother’s eye. Tek your foot from Trevor Walker neck.

  7. Can’t have it both ways. They can come to Antigua and buy lands. We as Antiguans however, can’t buy any lands on Barbuda.

    • Sounds like a LEECH that sucks off another person without contributing anything. TAKE, TAKE, TAKE. There is no giving.

      • At least they are paying for the lands in Antigua. If Chinese and white people can buy lands in Antigua why not the black Barbudans? I don’t see how selling, leasing or whatever you call it to rich people for vacation homes benefits Barbudans except to provide a few jobs for maids and gardeners. Of course this arrangement only benefits the land thieves in Antigua. I would think that a couple of hotels would provide more uplifting jobs. Think of the millions the government is spending to build an airport in Barbuda to accommodate the private jets of wealthy people.

  8. Barbuda’s history is Antigua’s history. When Coddington, a slave plantation owner in Antigua decided to LEASE Barbuda in order to supplement his plantation needs here in Antigua, he RANDOMLY and ARBITRARILY separated families on his estate in Antigua to send them to Barbuda. Separated mothers and fathers from their children, separated lovers, separated friends. They were sent to Barbuda, their servile slave status intact, to provide food and lumber for Codrington’s slave holdings here in Antigua. The fact that those sent to Barbuda did not endure all the harsh conditions associated with plantation slavery, they were nonetheless considered as part of Codrington’s livestock – allowed to ‘roam’ during daylight hours in pursuit of provisions for massa’s slave holdings in Antigua and Barbuda and penned in, literally, for the night. The stone wall/pen erected around Codrington village from which no slave could wander without permission from ‘massa’ was still visible up to a few years ago. This confinement within the stone wall/pen continued for centuries – long after ‘massa’ packed up and returned home. This fact highlights the extent of the mental enslavement of the slaves sent by Codrington to Barbuda. Barbuda’s history is my (Antigua’s) history. To be continued….

  9. Barbudans already write their own history since 2017 with hurricane Irma, want free house, free land , free food and it goes on, never heard of any country in the world give away so many things to people especially these ungrateful , lazy bunch of people, 3 years and still some of them don’t find it important to clean their homes up from the hurricane, it takes a Fool like Tabor to be encouraging these nonsense

  10. The people of Dominica received New homes after hurricane Maria, I wonder if their ungrateful? I don’t understand if we are ungrateful , lazy bunch, and we get free land , that’s more the reasons why you should want the Separation. I don’t understand were this animosity come from!! I work for a living, so no lazy bones in my body.

  11. Antiguans and Barbudans are same people and intrinsically related,same British colonizer, african ancestors came in the same slave ships built in bristol,liverpool etc Africans stolen from the same geographical region and lands in West Africa, sold into slavery on market street from british merchants to british slave planters. ,.Barbuda,the codringtons also exported slaves to Antigua to work in their plantations and vice versa , barbuda history cant be any different from Antigua as a people with the same origins and roots..Ignorance is bliss! To truly know thyself and who you are as a people is the beginning of all knowledge.Only the truth can set you free.

  12. The only thing Antiguans did not do when you guys were up here is to clean you all shit, let Trevor Walker tell you how lazy and bad mind Barbudans are, You didn’t hear him ???

    • Yes Trevor Walker fool dem arf then CUSS DEM ARF right in church. He said dem LAZY, BADMINDED & UNGODLY!!! (to name a few).

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