SLAVERY can be defined as involuntary servitude to a dominating influence. When one therefore describes the present state of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora as being in mental slavery, the phrase has no meaning. It is a poor choice of words that has caused more destruction to our people. Marcus Garvey was wrong, Bob Marley was more wrong and all those who have repeated these unfortunate words have done more destruction to the advancement of our people.
I refuse to accept that as we are approaching two centuries since Emancipation, as a people with a rich history of resistance and perseverance towards the most hideous crime ever committed by one race over another, that I am left in any form of mental slavery. Those who wish to embrace these words must read the history of the Brigands Wars. Mental slavery is a myth that has been perpetuated for far too long.
One writer has concluded that there are five aspects of confirmation of mental slavery as follows:
1.What Language does one speak?
2.What is your name?
3.What foods you eat?
4.Who is your God?
5.What clothes you wear?
So I have subjected myself to the test to confirm the extent of my involuntary servitude to a dominating influence.
I speak the English Language by choice, as although I have been exposed to French, Spanish, Latin and a bit of Hebrew, yet I choose to speak and write in English. I have no desire to learn any new language. It is not a dominating influence on me.
Next is my name, it may sound European. At university I flirted with the idea of changing my name to Lesedi Jabari, and even went as far as writing that on one of the projects I submitted. I got a rude awakening when the Professor advised that there was no one enrolled as Lesedi Jabari and I did not submit the coursework. I quickly realized that sticking with John Peters was in my interest.
On the foods that I eat, I love my doubles and roti, my pelau, my breadfruit. I do agree that the foods of slaves are still dominant in our menu, but the culinary ingenuity must be also considered. The pigtail and the other salted pig meat were the rejected parts of the pig when slaughtered in the UK, which were shipped to the Caribbean. The saltfish also was the rejected cod fish that was salted and also sent to the Caribbean. I would say that the Folk Research Centre has done an injustice to us by perpetuating that eating these foods should be celebrated. I think it must be discouraged and that the true celebration of our past should relate to the healthy non-organic food, not these salted food that destroys our health.
Who is your God? Those who suggest that Christianity is a white man’s European religion, are those that have never read the Bible. Christianity was in Africa before it reached Rome. Zipporah, the wife of Moses was African. The first major leaders after the death of Jesus were Africans. Christianity belongs to all peoples, and my choice to serve Jesus Christ has nothing to do with mental slavery.
Lastly, what clothes you wear? I wear a shirt and a pants to any function. I refuse to put on a tie as a normal form of dress. By choice I wore a jacket and bowtie to a function in Germany, by choice I wore a jacket to a funeral.
The only time I was forced to wear a jacket and tie was to attend a meeting in Washington with the Kuwait Fund. In 1994, then Prime Minister John Compton wanted me to attend a meeting with the Kuwait Fund in Washington, to present the Millennium Highway project. I believe by then he had become aware of my aversion to this clothing. A few days before I got a call from John Bristol informing me that he got instructions from the Prime Minster to ensure that I came to the meeting with a jacket and tie. I hurriedly went to the J Q Charles store which is now Blue Coral and purchased my jacket for the journey.
We are not mental slaves in the Caribbean, we are a strong resilient people with a rich history. We may have been influenced in part by our experiences, but there is no dominating influence that has us in involuntary servitude. These words have been floated for far too long and it is time we arise into a rightful position of who we are. Sing the Bob Marley song, but reject the words as not reflective of who you aware.