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This Month in History: South African Freedom Day

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

April 27 is Freedom Day in South Africa. It represents the first non-racial democratic election of 1994; it also marks the end of over 300 years of colonialism. The new government was led by Nelson Mandela (may he rest well) under a new constitution representing a new statehood. With this came the release of political prisoners, the return of exiles, and many victories that liberated oppressed peoples in South Africa.

Of South Africa’s 22.7 million eligible voters, 19.7 million people voted that year. Nelson Mandela won with an overwhelming 62.65% of the of the five political parties competing for the vote. This was a victory in itself showing that the people of South Africa were ready for change and ready to take an active role in making that change.

I’d like to highlight president Mandela’s speech he made on the one years anniversary of the elections, it speaks volumes to how a people can take hold of their destiny to make lasting change; he said the following, “As dawn ushered in this day, the 27th of April 1995, few of us could suppress the welling of emotion, as we were reminded of the terrible past from which we come as a nation; the great possibilities that we now have; and the bright future that beckons us. Wherever South Africans are across the globe, our hearts beat as one, as we renew our common loyalty to our country and our commitment to its future. The birth of our South African nation has, like any other, passed through a long and often painful process. The ultimate goal of a better life has yet to be realised. On this day, you, the people, took your destiny into your own hands. You decided that nothing would prevent you from exercising your hard-won right to elect a government of your choice. Your patience, your discipline, your single-minded purposefulness have become a legend throughout the world…“ (sahistory.org.za)

On this upcoming freedom day, which is in two days, we should remember the sacrifices of those who came before us and build on those contributions, regardless of where we are from in the world. South Africa’s story is a lesson learned for all people of African descent, and Nelson Mandela will always be remembered for the example he set in this world.

To find out more about South Africa’s Freedom Day check out: http://www.gov.za/speeches/freedom-day-2016

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This Month In History: Bussa’s Rebellion

THIS MONTH IN HISTORY

Barbados, a country in the Caribbean, saw the biggest slave revolt in History. Led by African born Slave, Bussa, it was the first of three large scale slave revolts in the British West Indies that caused people to doubt the effectiveness of slavery. This revolt is famously known as “Bussa’s Rebellion”. *I dislike the use of the word rebellion, because is implies that they were rebelling against something good. When I think of rebel, I think of a child who doesn’t listen, not slaves that want to be free, but that’s just me.*

Bussa is believed to be from Nigeria and of Igbo descent. He was captured and transported to Barbados in the late eighteenth century. Bussa began planning the revolt after realizing that the British parliament had no intention of freeing the slaves after slavery had already been abolished. After much planning and coordination for about a year, Bussa, along with a few other slaves that were tired of mistreatment, led the slaves into battle at Baileys Plantation on April 14, 1816. He commanded about 400 freedom fighters, both men and women whom were born in the islands. By his side were a few people worthy of being mentioned Washington Franklin, John and Nanny Grigg, a senior domestic slave, and Jackey. Nanny Griggs was a domestic or “house slave” who could read and told her followers that “the only way to obtain freedom was to fight for it.” By April 15, martial law had been declared on the entire island and was not lifted for three months. Martial law is an extreme and rare measure used to control society during war or periods of civil unrest or chaos (legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com).

Bussa’s rebellion did not succeed in freeing the Afro-Bajans, but, as mentioned before, it was the first of three slave revolts named the “Late Slave Rebellions”. The second revolt took place in Demerara (now Guyana) in 1823, and lastly, in Jamaica in 1831-32. The British government finally abolished slaveholding in 1834.

We can learn a lot from Bussa, his success did not happen overnight. He planned for one year along with like-minded people to carry out a task that would set the foundation for Carribbean slaves in the future who would use the same model. His legacy still lives on because of his tenacity to see his people be free and hold the British Parliament accountable.

According to Wikipedia:

• Bussa remains a popular figure in Barbados.
• In 1985, 169 years after his rebellion, the Emancipation Statue, created by Karl Broodhagen, was unveiled in Haggatt Hall, in the parish of St Michael.
• 1998, the Parliament named Bussa as one of the ten National Heroes of Barbados.

We should take a few notes from him and plan accordingly in all that we do! We never know who we’re laying the foundation for, victory shall be seen in this generation!

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Event Feature Friday: DC Emancipation Day

EVENT FEATURE FRIDAY

~Emancipation Day Parade, April 16, 2016; Washington DC~

I had a chance to attend this event last year and I must say it is encouraging to be a part of and celebrate the freeing of slaves in Washington, DC. There is marching, a free music concert, education, food, and fun! Many school bands and dance groups come to perform and showcase the strength of our ancestors.

“The DC Compensated Emancipation Act of 1862 ended slavery in Washington, DC, freed 3,100 individuals, reimbursed those who had legally owned them and offered the newly freed women and men money to emigrate. It is this legislation, and the courage and struggle of those who fought to make it a reality, that we commemorate every April 16, DC Emancipation Day.”

Find out more at: http://emancipation.dc.gov
And
http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/emancipation-day-dc

~Join one of the nations top comfort food chefs on Tuesday, April 19 in NYC!~

At the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, Chef Melba Wilson will be both discussing and signing copies of her book Melba’s American Comfort: 100 Recipes from My Heart to Your Kitchen. Wilson is the owner of renowned restaurant in Harlem, Melba’s, which is a hot spot for celebrities, locals, and tourists from around the world. She began her career at Sylvia’s restaurant and has won numerous accolades and awards.

Find out more at: http://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2016/04/19/between-lines-melba-wilson
And
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/between-the-lines-melba-wilson-tickets-24497964070?aff=eiosprexshremail&ref=eiosprexshremail

~4th Annual African American Children’s Book Fair; Saturday, May 14~

Dive into the world of kids’ literature focused on African Americans and people of other ethnicities. Enjoy author readings, illustration workshops, performances, and craft activities. Purchase hard-to-find titles in the Book Village. Free children’s book for every family, while supplies last. Free admission.

Find out more here: http://lewismuseum.org/event/2015/4th-annual-african-american-childrens-book-fair

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Ethnic & Cultural Groups: Gullah Culture


ETHNIC AND CULTURAL GROUPS

“The Gullah are a distinctive group of African Americans whose origins lie along the coasts of South Carolina and Georgia, as well as the adjacent sea islands. They live in small farming and fishing units, having formed a tightly knit community that has survived slavery, the Civil War, and the emergence of modern American culture.”

“Due to their geographic location and strong sense of community, the Gullah have been able to preserve more of their African cultural heritage than any other group of African Americans: they speak a creole language similar to the Krio of Sierra Leone, are skilled in the creation of African style handicrafts and enjoy a rich cuisine based primarily on rice. The origin and traditions of this group are an important piece of South Carolina’s historical puzzle. By exploring their history and development, one gains a fuller picture of South Carolina’s past.”

“The development and preservation of the Gullah’s distinct African culture was aided by their unique slave conditions. The climate of the Lowcountry, Georgia, and the surrounding sea islands aided not only rice cultivation but also the spread of various tropical diseases. These diseases affected all inhabitants in the Lowcountry, including enslaved Africans. Whites were most vulnerable to them, and as a result, the white planters customarily vacated their farms and moved away from the rice fields during the humid seasons when disease was rampant. Due to their absence, plantations were generally run by a few white managers and trusted, enslaved Africans known as “drivers.” The disease cycle kept the white population of South Carolina low while more and more Africans were imported each year. By 1708, there was a black majority in the colony. The great influx of new Africans and the lack of English cultural influence upon their lives directly assisted the creation and preservation of a distinctly African set of traditions. These enslaved Africans, therefore, continued to share many parts of the languages, rituals and customs drawn from their ancestral communities in Africa. Many Gullah arts and crafts are indistinguishable from those found in West Africa. For example, Gullah artisans skillfully create wooden mortars and pestles, rice “fanners,” clay pots, and other pieces closely connected to Sierra Leone. Most importantly, tourists in South Carolina and Georgia can still bear witness to women continuing the tradition of basket making in local markets and roadsides. These beautiful pieces, known as sweetgrass baskets, are closely connected to the Sierra Leonean shukublay.“

“Gullah religious systems and beliefs, while derived from the Christianity practiced by their former white masters, are also evidence of a distinctly African tradition. While adhering to Christian doctrine, the Gullah practice a faith immersed in communal prayer, song, and dance. Many also continue to hold traditional African beliefs. There are also special individuals known as “Root Doctors” that serve to protect individuals from curses and witchcraft.“

“Today, the Gullah people still live and practice their lifestyle in the areas that were once home to their ancestors. Despite encroachment of modern American traditions and increased expansion into their homeland, these special people continue to provide an important glimpse into South Carolina’s past. When visiting our great city, visit our local museums and research centers and learn more about the traditions of the Gullah. By increasing awareness and education about the Gullah, we aid in the preservation of their unique heritage.”

Main context taken from: http://www.africanamericancharleston.com/gullah.html