Sunday, November 26, 2006

Caribbean Thinkers Part 2

Further to the previous blog, another thinker we were introduced to on this course was Dr. Robert Love.

Born in the Bahamas, Love moved to Jamaica in the 1890s and founded a newspaper, the Jamaica Advocate, in 1894. In it, Love published many articles which Dr. Scholes sent him from Africa, in which he described the sophisitcation of African civilisations. These articles would have been seen as works of sedition, designed to agitate the masses.

Love argued that Black people in the Caribbean were capable of running their own affairs, and that they derived dignity and identity from identifying with their African roots.

Jamaican people probably more Akan-speaking (Ashanti and Fanti) people than any other island in the Caribbean, and a lot of their African traditions survived. This led to their having a rebellious spirit and a sense of superiority.

Traditionally, in some African societies, the griot, or storyteller, told stories that were meant both to instruct and to entertain. They used humour and a lightness of touch. The folk tradition was brought to bear in the Caribbean, where educated people in the villages would read the paper aloud to locals who could not read and write. In this way, the message was communicated to people in the rural areas.

However, the local education system in the Caribbean was based on what was dictated by the colonial authorities, and often on the education that was available in Britain. It did not reflect the culture and concerns of local people.

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See also: Caribbean Thinkers

Keywords: Black history, African history, Caribbean, identity, education, Dr. Love, Dr. Scholes

Caribbean Thinkers

Last week, I attended a course entitled Black Thinkers in the Caribbean at the City Lit. It was brilliant.

The tutor, Clem Seecharan, from London Metropolitan University, spoke about Caribbean thinkers and academics dating back to the mid-19th century. I was very inspired by the fact that so many of them related their African heritage and antecedents to a sense of dignity and identity. Some of them travelled in Africa, and wrote about the societies they found there and how advanced and sophisticated those societies were. This was in stark contrast to the thinking of the time, which was that African people were backwards and had been ‘civilised’ by enslavement and colonisation. Many people in the Caribbean had been brainwashed by the educational system there to have a negative view of our African traditions, and we can still see remnants of these negative attitudes today.

I was particularly interested in Dr. Scholes, who wrote three books including Glimpses of the Ages, which was published in 1904. Unfortunately, all of his books are now out of print.

Scholes was born in St. Ann in Jamaica. He studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh and also did a Doctorate of Divinity in Brussels. He then became a medical missionary and travelled in the Kongo.

Although trained as a Christian, Dr. Scholes had great respect for African traditional spirituality. He said that the traditional beliefs and spiritual practices were an expression of the reverence and respect that African peoples had for their environment.

Scholes wrote that African societies had great traditions in art and learning. Travelling in the area now known as Senegamia, he celebrated the people there including the Mandingos/Mandingas and the Fulani, and celebrated their physical attributes as well as their work with iron, gold, wood carving, ceramics and textiles, and their architecture. He also celebrated the crafts and skills of other African peoples.

In my book, Black Success Stories, RenĂ© Carayol MBE states that he witnessed first-hand the effect that Roots, by Alex Haley, had on people of the African Diaspora, i.e. the Caribbean and the United States, in giving them a sense of their history and culture. Carayol, who was born in Gambia, also states that Roots was taken directly from his family’s documents, and he has copies of a great deal of correspondence on the subject between his father and Alex Haley. To read more, order Black Success Stories today.

Keywords: Black history, African history, Caribbean, Roots, Black success, Rene Carayol, Alex Haley