THE LOCUSTS

STANDING all alone in the middle of a great plain is Mount Elgon. Long ago Mount Elgon was a volcano, and there is a crater on the top which is eight miles across.

Once upon a time a mischievous young wizard lived on Mount Elgon, and he stirred up the fire in the crater until the flames blazed up to the sky, and when the people who lived in the plains below were frightened and ran away the wizard threw great rocks after them; some of the rocks were as big as houses. You can see them lying about on the plains to this day.

But as the wizard grew older he grew kinder, and left off throwing stones and let the fire die down in the crater till there was just a little left which puffed like a steam engine sometimes, but did no harm; and the people returned to the mountain and climbed up its beautiful green slopes and built houses and planted gardens and were quite happy, and the wizard sat on the top and was happy too.

One day the people in Uganda heard a queer sound like a storm in the distance, and a great black cloud was moving swiftly along, but it did not seem like the usual storms.

They ran out of their houses to look, and the old men said: “This is no storm; it is a flight of locusts.”

Then the locusts settled down on the land and ate up everything. From province to province they went till there was nothing green left in the country.

When the wizard on Mount Elgon looked out over the land and saw how the locusts had spoiled it he was very angry, and he sent a hornet with a message to the wizard of the Sesse Islands telling him about it and said:

“If you will persuade the locusts to fly over the Great Lake I will raise a hurricane and blow them into the water.”

When the wizard of the Sesse Islands heard about the locusts he was very angry, too, and he sent the hornet back with a message telling the wizard to get his hurricane ready for the next morning.

Then he called all the fireflies together and said: “Go over to the mainland and sing to the locusts all night while they are resting on the ground and persuade them to cross the Lake.”

So the fireflies flew over at sunset, and all night they sang this song as they danced in and out of the shadows:

Over the water of sparkling blue,
Dancing in golden light,
Lie beautiful islands of every hue,
The Country of Heart’s Delight.

Deep, cool forests and crystal streams,
Fruit trees and fields of gold,
These are the islands of boyhood’s dreams,
Where no one ever grows old.

The locusts have no King to teach them wisdom, and they did not know how big the Lake was (for you could put Scotland into it), and they thought because they saw islands near the shore there would be more beautiful oneslying far out, so when they heard the fireflies’ song they decided to go to the Country of Heart’s Delight, and in the morning they rose up from the ground in bands and began to fly over the Lake.

Then the wizard from Mount Elgon hurled his hurricane upon them, and they were swept into the water and drowned, and millions and millions and millions of dead locusts were floating on the waters for days afterwards.

That is why the old people in Uganda still call the Lake the Locust-Killer, but the children learn to call it Lake Victoria, for that is its name on the map..

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo, Uongo njoo, Utamu kolea…

[there’s another story I know (reposted from http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/baskerville/king/king.html), that’s been collected from elders en fire circles in de country side of East Afrika, calling to be shared not only all ova our continent but maybe even more so in de diaspora. Fafanua….]

Hadithi ya WALUKAGA THE BLACKSMITH

Hapo zamani za kale there was a King in Uganda who was very cruel to his people, and they feared him very much. Every day he thought of new things to do which would distress and trouble them, until no man’s life was safe, and no one was happy, and all through the beautiful country, although the Sun shone every day and the birds sang, sorrow and misery were in every village.

One day, the King sent for Walukaga, the chief of the blacksmiths, and said to him: “I want you to do a piece of work for me as you are such a clever man. I want you to make a man at your forge, not an iron man, but a real one with flesh and blood, one that can walk and talk and do everything that a real man does.”
Walukaga bowed himself to the ground and went away very sad, for he saw that the King meant to kill him, for who but God can make a real man, and what blacksmith can make one at a forge? As he was going home, thinking sadly of these things, he met a madman, who greeted him with great joy.
Now this man had been a very great friend of Walukaga’s before he went mad, and the blacksmith had always been kind to him, so when he asked: “Why are you looking so sad?” Walukaga thought in his heart: “I have very few days to live; let me do a kindness while I can.” So he took the madman aside and told him all the King had said.The madman gave him some advice, and both of them went home. Walukaga thought over the madman’s words and then he went back to the King and asked for an audience. When the King saw him he laughed and said: “Have you made the man yet at your forge?”

Then Walukaga said bravely: “Sir, I have thought about it, and I have come to ask your help because this is a very difficult task, and I cannot do it alone; a special kind of charcoal is needed, it is made of human hair, and I want three large sacks of it!”

Then the King gave the order, and messengers went through all the country ordering the people to shave their heads and send their hair to Walukaga. But when it was burnt there was not enough charcoal to fill one sack.

Then Walukaga went again to the King and said: “Sir, before I can forge a man I must have water. But ordinary water will not do. I must have tears of men and women, for it takes many tears to make one human life. I want three water-pots full.”

Then the King sent messengers all through the country ordering the men and women to keep their tears, and send them to Walukaga the blacksmith, but though the land was full of sorrow and the people wept every day, there were only enough tears to fill one water-pot. Then Walukaga went to the King and bowed very low, and knelt before him and fell on his face and said: “Sir, you set me a hard task to do, and I asked you to help me in an easy way. If a great King cannot do a small thing, how shall a poor blacksmith do the work of the Creator?”

Then the King said: “Walukaga is right. The thing I gave him to do was impossible,” and he gave him a present and sent him away, and now in Uganda when a man is perplexed and does not know what to do in a great difficulty, his friends say: “Find a madman and ask his advice,” because this has become a proverb since the days of Walukaga the blacksmith.

give thanks for your continued guidance and protection.

nashukuru your rebel(ling) with a cause to preserve the traditions of our ancestors.

forward evah!

 

hadithi? hadithi? hadithi njoo……hii ni hadithi ya

THE GUARDIANS OF THE SNAKES

THERE are still old people living in Uganda who remember the time when there were no white men in the country.

The first white men who came had to walk 800 miles from the coast, and the journey was very dangerous. They passed through many countries full of wild warlike tribes, over great plains and high mountains and swamps and rivers, and, finally, they had to cross the Great Lake in canoes; but when they arrived in Uganda they often lived there for many years without returning to England, and they learnt the customs of the Baganda and their language in a way which is impossible now that there are steamers and trains (and planes) and so many white people that some of them never speak to the natives at all.

In 1895 two Englishmen were going home from Uganda. They had been six years in the country, and already they had seen many changes.

They crossed the Great Lake in canoes, and began the long march to Mombasa.

Day after day they marched with a long caravan of porters each with a load carried on his head, camping every night 

where there was fresh water, and sometimes doing double marches because the water was not good, and often

watching the camp in turns by night when they were passing through the country of a warlike tribe or the big game countries where lions roared round the camp all night.

One day when the men were pitching the tents on the slope of an escarpment overlooking a vast plain the headman of  

the caravan said: “Near here lives an old prophet; he is very wise, and foretells the future, and everything that he says comes true.”

The Englishmen were so interested that they decided to visit the old prophet, so when the heat of the day was over they set out, with the headman as their guide, to the prophet’s hut on the hill-side. As they approached they saw the  

old man standing on a ledge of rock overlooking the plain, shading his eyes with his hands, and straining them to see something in the far distance.

When he saw the two Englishmen he uttered a great cry, and, trembling in every limb, he fell at their feet, gasping out:

“My dream! My dream! The Guardians of the Snakes!”

The white men spoke to him kindly. “Fear not,” they said. “Tell us your dream.”

Still trembling with excitement the old man began:

“My lords, I dreamt that I stood on that rock and looked out over the plain, and I saw a great encampment of people,  and as I gazed I saw that they were guarding two great snakes that stretched away to the horizon, their scales glittering in the sunlight.

“When night fell I crept down the hill-side. Stealthily I threaded my way among the campfires and tents until I stood beside the two great snakes; then I stooped and touched them, and I was amazed, for they had no heads, they were hard and cold and made of iron.

“While I still wondered a man came and spoke to me. He was like you, my lords, his white skin was tanned with the Sun, and he spoke kindly to me.         

“‘Fear not,’ he said. ‘What are you doing here?’

“‘My lord,’ I answered, ‘I am a poor man and have no wisdom; from my hut on the hill-top I saw this encampment and these two great snakes, and I came seeking to understand.’

“The man answered: ‘I am the Guardian of the Snakes; they are the slaves of the white man; wherever he goes he takes them with him; they carry his women and children, his cattle and his goods, and wherever they arr

ive the old days fade away and new days come.

“‘These slaves have come from the Great Sea, and they go to the Great Lake. They will change your country, and the old days will never return.’

“Then I woke up from my dream, but, my lords, it is ever present with me, and I spend my days restlessly looking towards the east, for I know that some day I shall see those two great snakes creeping through my country.”

The two Englishmen looked out over the vast plain, and saw the native villages dotted here and there among their fields of grain–great herds of game grazing unmolested on the green slopes, vast untouched forests on the mountain-sides, and the long shadows thrown by the setting Sun lying on miles and miles of country where the foot of man had never trod, and they, too, wondered at the prophet’s dream.

But some years afterwards one of them again stood on the ledge of rock and looked over the same plain, and saw

farmsteads and fields and gardens, and the monotonous sound of sawmills rose from the forests and great herds of cattle grazed on the green slopes where once he had seen only antelope and zebra, and far in the distance two railway 

lines stretched away to the horizon, 

glittering like snakes’ scales in the sunlight, and he remembered the old prophet and his dream.

Then he understood that the Guardian of the Snakes had spoken truly, for those snakes are the slaves of the white man–they carry his women and children, his cattle and his goods, and where they arrive the old days fade away and new days come. The old times never return, for the country is changed for ever.

[reposted from http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/baskerville/king/king.html]

The concept of SANKOFA is derived from King Adinkera of the Akan people of West Afrika.

SANKOFA is expressed in the Akan language as “se wo were fi na wosan kofa a yenki.”

Literally translated it means “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot”.

“Sankofa” teaches us that we must go back to our roots in order to move forward. That is, we should reach back and gather the best of what our past has to teach us, so that we can achieve our full potential as we move forward. Whatever we have lost, forgotten, forgone or been stripped of, can be reclaimed, revived, preserved and perpetuated.

Visually and symbolically “Sankofa” is expressed as a mythic bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth.

[reposted from http://www.duboislc.net/] ase….

So like we’ve blogged  en said before, dis’ documentary/series is a work in progress: like we have a summer’s worth of footage,  yet we’re still developing the storyboard, still deciding (the rest of) our core characters from the 32 (and then some) stories we collected, still trying to get another camera, laptop and editing software, funding, jus’ to start….the bigger point is we hustling to manifest our dreams of a video project and (going) back-to afrika movement/s

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ke67lHxPf8A&feature=related]

So far we’ve got our ABCDE/Fn’G’s (H! ….to P will debut in November )

a is for afrika [is for anitafrika dub theatre! is for amai kuda is for audrey mbugua…..]

is the crux of dis’ here doc

En b is for black august [is for blockorama en blockobana is for bredrin en dadas in solidarity]

Are (some of) the visions of our quest

C is for colour spill productions  [is for cee swagger is for cea walker is for chan mubanga]

Some of the real/live legends of this doc

D is for Dini Ya Msambwa: our ancestral memories

En E is for (the spaces between) Elijah Masinde and Elijah Wilson

That’s wussup.

Hadithi? Hadithi? Hadithi njoo…..Sahani? ya……Giza? ya……

Kesho (kutwa) on the Q/t werd, F n’ G en people we’re learning from, who’re educating others in the practice of freedom and reclaiming indigenous afrikan knowledge systems.

Notes On creativity, compassion and courage:

  1. Creativity: recently, many mo friends have been questioning and sharing with us, [the storytellers behind The Q/t werd and Nekkyd,] what they think our art is about; we have heard en documented many ideas on the ways to build solidarity among QPOC communities, from a pan-afrikan perspective, yet we haven’t ‘officially’ fleshed out where we coming from and headed yet with this epic of a feature length documentary and series.

reality is, our visions (in dis here epic of a quest) have undergone deep transformashun: in the last 3 year(s) we have crossed different worlds and not only survived, crashed en burned, revived en thrived, but metamorphosed into the kipepeo of our wild dreams. our experiences of rebuilding villages are not what we expected them to be, they have surpassed our wildest fantasies en remind us of heaven on earth; now, alhamdulilah(t) we are grateful for the growing, loving communities, for all the healing and prayers in sacred spaces

in dis’ place here, in the diaspora, we found the source of Mama Afrika again, in her people.  In our ancestral legacies en mestizoed religions,  speaking black into (our +ve) blood.memories, breaking ugali with bredrin en dadas in prayer en solidarity.

the q_t werd is personal, political en religious:

personal like what you get when a documentary filmmaker/storyteller gets married to other artist/dadas, en where dem and their village produce a (dark) comedy series on lesbian, queer & trans (pan/afrikan) communities & a feature documentary on their ‘personal’ efforts to mobilise resources for queer/trans communities in East Afrika by designing the curriculum and fundraising for a queer/trans youth arts collective (QTYAC) in Kenya & Uganda. [that’s wassup]

the political is, we are far from where we started: individually and collectively, even though we’re back to the storyboard stages again, we’re still in the spaces between (post) production en grant writing.

Our hadithi remains the same, we are still on this (vision) quest to continue (coming into) fulfilling our (right) destinies, still creatively funding our activism, art and village building through strategically chosen jobs and “fly-by-night” ventures.

The bigger point is that, the religious piece is the big(ga) hadithi, our nekkyd truth is the crux of our salvation and healing wise is,  us dreaming of (going) back home with all our first world privileges, friends and families.

2. Compassion: Over a moon ago, we received the best advice we ever got from a wise afrikan womban’s reading of our quest/ion/s. We were reminded that love and truthfulness would have to determine our way of expressing ourselves and that we jus HAD (no choice but) to lovingly and sincerely communicate our thoughts to those around us.

the truth is, we don’t have any ‘official’ funding for our (art) work, and yet we have still been audacious (and over ambitious) enough to work on submitting, not only, a documentary to the Inside Out & Mpenzi before the end of this year, but designing the curriculum and mobilising (people)  resources for QTYAC, to be run in Kenya & Uganda from May – August 2011.

Technically, the ‘boring’ or exciting stuff (depending on where you look at it from), that there are nuff people interested in getting move involved with/in our communities back at home, we’re trying because we CAN and if we don’t then folks who don’t know betta than us will prolly try to help us OUT  for themselves, we’re doing all a dis’ organising  because there’s sayings that go like we have mo to work with, in dis place here in the FIRST  world,  to serve our communities betta;

3. Courage: a love story

Skeleton woman

– A Tale of the Inuit –

She had done something of which her father disapproved, although no one any longer remembered what it was. But her father had dragged her to the cliffs and thrown her over and into the sea. There, the fish ate her flesh away and plucked out her eyes. As she lay under the sea, her skeleton turned over and over in the currents.

One day a fisherman came fishing, well, in truth many came to this bay once. But this fisherman had drifted far from his home place and did not know that the local fisherman stayed away, saying this inlet was haunted.

The fisherman’s hook drifted down through the water, and caught of all places, in the bones of Skeleton Woman’s rib cage. The fisherman thought, “Oh, now I’ve really got a big one! Now I really have one!” In his mind he was thinking of how many people this great fish would feed, how long it would last, how long he might be free from the chore of hunting. And as he struggled with this great weight on the end of the hook, the sea was stirred to a thrashing froth, and his kayak bucked and shook, for she who was beneath struggled to disentangle herself. And the more she struggled, the more she tangled in the line. No matter what she did, she was inexorably dragged upward, tugged up by the bones of her own ribs.

The hunter had turned to scoop up his net, so he did not see her bald head rise above the waves, he did not see the little coral creatures glinting in the orbs of her skull, he did not see the crustaceans on her old ivory teeth. When he turned back with his net, her entire body, such as it was, had come to the surface and was hanging from the tip of his kayak by her long front teeth.

Agh!” cried the man, and his heart fell into his knees, his eyes hid in terror on the back of his head, and his ears blazed bright red. “Agh!” he screamed, and knocked her off the prow with his oar and began paddling like a demon toward shoreline. And not realizing she was tangled in his line, he was frightened all the more for she appeared to stand upon her toes while chasing him all the way to shore. No matter which way he zigged his kayak, she stayed right behind, and her breath rolled over the water in clouds of steam, and her arms flailed out as though to snatch him down into the depths.

Agh!” he wailed as he ran aground. In one leap he was out of his kayak, clutching his fishing stick and running, and the coral white corpse of skeleton woman, still snagged in the fishing line, bumpety-bumped behind right after him. Over the rocks he ran, and she followed. Over the frozen tundra he ran, and she kept right up. Over the meat laid out to dry he ran, cracking it to pieces as his mukluks bore down.

Throughout it all she kept right up, in fact, she grabbed some of the frozen fish as she was dragged behind. This she began to eat, for she had not gorged in a long, long time. Finally, the man reached his snowhouse and dove right into the tunnel and on hands and knees scrabbled his way into the interior. Panting and sobbing he lay there in the dark, his heart a drum, a mighty drum. Safe at last, oh so safe, yes, safe thank the Gods, Raven, yes, thank Raven, yes, and all bountiful Sedna, safe… at…last.

Imagine when he lit his whale oil lamp, there she – it – lay in a tumble upon his snow floor, one heel over her shoulder, one knee inside her rib cage, one foot over her elbow. He could not say later what it was, perhaps the firelight softened her features, or the fact that he was a lonely man… but a feeling of some kindness came into his breathing, and slowly he reached out his grimy hands and using words softly like a mother to child, began to untangle her from the fishing line.

Oh, na, na, na.” First he untangled the toes, then the ankles. “Oh, na, na, na.” On and on he worked into the night, until dressing her in furs to keep her warm, Skeleton Woman’s bones were all in the order a human’s should be.

He felt into his leather cuffs for his flint and used some of his hair to light a little more fire. He gazed at her from time to time as he oiled the precious wood of his fishing stick and rewound the gut line. And she in the furs uttered not a word – she did not dare – lest this hunter take her out and throw her down to the rocks and break her bones to pieces utterly.

The man became drowsy, slid under his sleeping skins, and soon was dreaming. And sometimes as humans sleep, you know, a tear escapes from the dreamer’s eye; we never know what sort of dream causes this, but we know it is either a dream of sadness or longing. And this is what happened to the man.

Skeleton Woman saw the tear glisten in the firelight and she became suddenly soooo thirsty. She tinkled and clanked and crawled over to the sleeping man and put her mouth to his tear. The single tear was like a river and she drank and drank and drank until her many-years-long thirst was slaked.

While lying beside him, she reached inside the sleeping man and took out his heart, the mighty drum. She sat up and banged on both sides of it: Bom Bomm!…..Bom Bomm!

As she drummed, she began to sing out “Flesh, flesh, flesh! Flesh, Flesh, Flesh!” And the more she sang, the more her body filled out with flesh. She sang for hair and good eyes and nice fat hands. She sang the divide between her legs, and breasts long enough to wrap for warmth, and all the things a woman needs.

And when she was all done, she also sang the sleeping man’s clothes off and crept into his bed with him, skin against skin. She returned the great drum, his heart, to his body, and that is how they awakened, wrapped one around the other, tangled from their night, in another way now, a good and lasting way.

The people who cannot remember how she came to her first ill fortune say she and the fisherman went away and were consistently well fed by the creatures she had known in her life under water. The people say that it is true and that is all they know.

[from women who run with the wolves: myths and stories of the wild woman archetype]

http://www.blacklooks.org/2010/08/james-baldwin-precious-lord-take-my-hand/

Wahenga walisema, it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.

So the series starts before the turn of this century, not so long ago that many would have forgotten the major events in their lives, back in our youth’, when we analysed, questioned and instinctively rebelled, all the way to our growing (up) present selves, and our (collective) visions of the future.

Season one features 31 (+3) biomyth monodrama hadithi.

It only makes sense that we re-introduce ourselves, share the truth about our stories;

So we’ll start somewhere in the middle with these hadithi. In this place here, now…..

There are 4 afrikans (A,D,M en T) behind not only the q/t werd but, principally, the series that inspired dis’ quest for unity (with)in our diversity, Nekkyd.

There are also the growing villages, and the energies of many more who are weaving indigenUS & pan-afrikan narratives of ancestral memories and legacies; this tapestry includes those who are rebuilding healthy, loving, sustaining and sustainable communities.

[ between the lines: in The Q-t Werd is a vision of fundraising for yet another grassroots collective, bredrin en dadas in solidarity whose mission is to work on our own unity first by mobilising & sharing (capacity building) resources with grassroots groups working with queer/trans communities and sex workers in East & South Afrika.  Our inaugural project is the Queer/Trans Youth Arts Collective set to run in Kenya & Uganda from May 2011]

hapo zamani za kale, kulikuwa na (m)wana wa Obatala, Ogun, Olokun na Yemoja…….

hadithi no. 14 is for (the spaces between) nneka en nneke in

neKKyd: Each episode is a different journey inside Nneke’s (Tsholo Khalema) world as her wry observations take us into the mind of a screwed up, loved up, lustful queer world.

Being a lesbian is tough, Being a black immigrant Afrikan lesbian trying to fit in…

well lets just say, to survive you gotta know the RULEZ TA BEIN’ A STUD!

NEKKyD explores the world of Nneke Dumela and her earth-shattering lust for the gorgeous and sassy women

Hadithi no.13 is for Medusa en Molisa

bio(myth)drama: on using a pseudonym

molisa nyakale is a name that comes from my family. It is the name of my great-great-great-grandmother on my father’s side, and a mark-er of my true true home….claiming this name was a way to link my voice to an ancestral legacy of womban speaking

Molisa is originally from the Shona, maybe even the Ndorobo. Partially re/constructed from mawu-lisa. I first read about her in the stories of sista outsiders.

Nyakale was given to me in a marriage vow; I chose to keep the name but rejected the suitor’s proposal.

10 years ago: I was in my last year of high school, full of possibilities and already getting used to rebelling with (self)righteous causes….I was excited to go to the next level, pursue freedom where I thought I was surely bound to get it, in uni.

9 years ago: I was in my first year of university @ the United States International University – Africa,

I had fantasised about this land of (queer) dates, milk en honey/when I got out of ‘here’, dreamed of growing up and getting a loft of my own, like the one that Alex had in Flashdance, where I would grow passion fruit in the backyard and be surrounded by big city scapes; I (en)visioned driving a car like the one that Vanessa Williams drove in Dance with Me, but all that dramatically changed when I finally realised one of my big dreams.

8 years ago: I landed in Tdot –  Canada.

Bio/facts: Timelines that point not only to geographic locations, but also vastly different worlds betwixt en between ideologies, traditions and wealth

7 years ago: I was in my ‘first’ year of university at University of Toronto – Mississauga

Fiction/myths: lie in the names we’ve chosen, and (un)mask(ing)s discarded en nurtured in our quest to wholeness.

Facts: The village is necessary in re/locating our afrikan stories, the baba en mama of this biomyth-drama inspired and trans/formed by bredrin en dadas channelling the truth of their own stories in the practice of arts for revolushunary change en healing.

Bio/drama: My name/s have been rebellions, running to visions of betta lives. I first experimented with sounding alternate realities with word! when I was about 10 years old, from Henrialovna en Henrievna to Nyakale

4 years ago: the seeds of the Q/t werd were planted at the Inside Out festival with hadithi yetu!, and in Vancouver with 31 stories

2 years ago: the Q/t werd travelled to great rivers and re/discovered their source

Over a year ago: the Q/t was reborn in the Ngong Forest Sanctuary.

This year: we launched Nekkyd & The Q/t werd in ‘foreign’ lands, aka. these spaces that are our homes (for) now, documenting our individual and collective quests to continue fulfilling our destinies with bredrin en dadas in solidarity & colour spill productions…..

Hadithi no.3 is for cee as the crux, in swagger; en cea walker in “i”

These are (some of) the legends of the q/t werd…..

August 1 is Emancipation Day in Canada and other countries that were once British colonies. Africans who had been enslaved in Antigua, Canada and South Africa were freed on August 1, 1834.

Africans who had been enslaved by the British in several Caribbean islands including Barbados, Dominica, Trinidad and Jamaica, in British Guiana (Britain’s sole South American colony) and in British Honduras (Britain’s sole colony in Central America) were subjected to a system of “apprenticeship” which lasted from 1834 to August 1, 1838.

Africans were forced to continue living on the plantations of the people who had enslaved them and worked 40 hours a week without pay (paid a pittance for work over 40 hours) as “apprentices.” They were forced to pay taxes and rent for the dreadful hovels in which they dwelled on the plantations. In 1838 two British men Thomas Harvey and Joseph Sturge documented the brutality of the “apprenticeship” system when they published The West Indies in 1837: Being the Journal of a Visit to Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica, Undertaken for the Purpose of Ascertaining the Actual Conditions of the Negro Population of Those Islands. Harvey and Sturge wrote;

“A new kind of slavery under the name Apprenticeship; an anomalous condition, in which the negroes were continued, under a system of coerced and unrequited labour.” They also observed that “the planters have since succeeded in moulding the Apprenticeship into an almost perfect likeness of the system they so unwillingly relinquished.

An equal, if not greater amount, of uncompensated labor, is now extorted from the negros; while, as their owners have no longer the same interest in their health and lives, their condition, and particularly that of mothers and young children, is in many respects worse than during slavery.”

While the Africans were suffering in slave like conditions under the apprenticeship system, white people in Britain were in self congratulatory mode. The Guardian, a British newspaper, published the following piece dated Saturday August 2, 1834:

“Throughout the British dominions the sun no longer rises on a slave. Yesterday was the day from which the emancipation of all our slave population commences; and we trust the great change by which they are elevated to the rank of freemen will be found to have passed into effect in the manner most accordant with the benevolent spirit in which it was decreed, most consistent with the interests of those for whose benefit it was primarily intended, and most calculated to put an end to the apprehensions under which it was hardly to be expected that the planters could fail to labour as the moment of its consummation approaches. We shall await anxiously the arrivals from the West Indies that will bring advices to a date subsequent to the present time.”
Meanwhile on Saturday August 2, 1834, a group of Africans were on their second day of demonstrations in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad because they were furious that complete freedom was still 6 years away. Africans in the Caribbean had learned that those who worked in the fields would be apprenticed until 1840 and those who worked in the homes of the slave holders or were skilled tradesmen would be apprenticed until 1938. It is hardly surprising that on August 1, 1834 a group of angry Africans had gathered at Government House in Port of Spain. Governor George Fitzgerald Hill sent the militia out to intimidate the group but the furious Africans stood their ground recognizing that the “apprenticeship” system was a scam used by the white plantation owners and the government representatives in the Caribbean to use free African labour for a further 6 years. In spite of the presence of the militia, the protest continued until nightfall when the protesters strategically withdrew because they were not allowed to be in the town during the night.

On Saturday August 2nd, when the group of protesters returned to Government House, Hill gave the order to arrest them. There were scuffles with the militia and some of the protesting Africans were arrested, tried, sentenced to hard labour and flogging and taken to the Royal Jail. Their incensed compatriots were forced to flee but returned on the Monday to continue the protest. The numbers had swollen by Monday and there were more clashes with the militia. Some of those who were arrested on the Monday were publicly flogged in Marine Square. The protests continued the entire week before it was quelled, but several of the Africans refused to return to the plantations and instead “squatted” in districts known today as Belmont and East Dry River.

On July 25th, 1838, Governor Hill called an emergency session of the Council of Government to seek approval of a special proclamation he had drafted which ended the apprenticeship period for Africans in Trinidad on August 1, 1838 whether they worked in the fields, homes or were skilled workers. Africans throughout the region protested their continued enslavement under the Apprenticeship system and on August 1, 1838 slavery was abolished in all the British colonies.

Since the abolition of slavery Africans have celebrated August 1st as Emancipation Day or August Monday. British author J.R. Kerr-Ritchie in his 2007 published Rites of August First: Emancipation Day in the Black Atlantic World: Antislavery, Abolition, and the Atlantic World has written about the global impact of August 1.

In her 2010 published Emancipation Day: Celebrating Freedom in Canada, African Canadian author Natasha Henry has researched and written about the history of August 1 celebrations throughout Canada including the connection of Caribana (modeled on Trinidad’s carnival) to Emancipation Day.

The government of Trinidad and Tobago was the first of the former British Caribbean countries to declare August 1 a National holiday in 1985.

In 1997 the Caribbean Historical Society (CHS) of Trinidad and Tobago, supported by the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) advocated for global recognition of August 1st as Emancipation Day.

The OBHS has been successful in gaining recognition of August 1st as Emancipation Day at the Municipal and Provincial level and close to gaining recognition at the Federal level.

On August 1st the OBHS will host an Emancipation Day event at Nathan Philips Square.