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Africans killed in Zong Massacre remembered

ON DECEMBER 28, 2007, a monument in memory of the 132 Africans who were killed in the Zong Massacre was unveiled in Black River, St Elizabeth, Jamaica.

The plaque on the monument was mounted by the Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica National Bicentenary Committee.

At the site of the monument, on Tuesday (Dec 22), their deaths were remembered again in a formal process under the theme, '132 reasons to apologise'.

The 132 Africans were killed from November 29 to December 1, 1781.

They were thrown overboard an overcrowded Liverpool slave ship named The Zong.

On December 22, 1781, The Zong arrived at Black River with 208 Africans onboard. They were eventually sold in the Black River slave market for £36 each.

Tuesday was exactly 234 years since the ship arrived at Black River, and people brought flowers to pay tribute to those who survived the journey. The monument "was built in 2007 to honour the memory of those who arrived alive and those who died on The Zong, including the 132 who were deliberately drowned by the crew", the National Commission on Reparations (NCR) told The Gleaner.

Organised by the NCR and concerned citizens, this particular commemoration was held in light of the controversial attitude and remarks by British Prime Minister David Cameron on his September visit to the island.

In the Jamaican Parliament, Cameron refused to apologise for British slavery in the Caribbean and its atrocities, but instead told the Jamaican people to forget it and move on.

TERRIBLE TRAGEDY

The NCR said we should "remember this terrible tragedy" because "slavery was a wicked system, and instead of saying sorry for the Zong Tragedy and other inhumane acts during slavery, the prime minister of the UK came to Jamaica in September 2015 and told us to forget about slavery and move on".

But, the NCR is resolute.

It said: "We must never forget the Zong Tragedy and the entire history of slavery because slavery is still around today, modern-day slavery (human trafficking). We cannot allow history to be repeated in any form. We must keep our history alive, and stop all forms of modern-day slavery. We must insist that the British apologise to us and compensate us for the damage done to our ancestors and their descendants."

The ceremony at Black River, chaired by Amina Blackwood-Meeks, was charged with emotions and replete with defiance. NCR chair, Professor Verene Shepherd; Dr Donna McFarlane, curator at Kingston's Liberty Hall; Myrtha Desulme of the Jamaican Haitian Society, and Member of Parliament Mike Henry, among others, addressed the gathering.

Henry, who was referred to as a reparation "warrior" by Shepherd, said he is taking the fight for reparation to the UK Privy Council.

He talked about the "mis-education" of the people, and called for a "revolution of the mind", for people to be more aware of their history and story, in essence. He poured "shame" on to politicians who do nothing to recognise the monument, pointing out that not even the police know where it is.

A number of people, including NCR member, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels, and UTech's vice-president for community service and development, Rosalea Hamilton, read 132 reasons why Britain and Cameron should say sorry. Drumming was provided by Ras Ivi and the Nyahbinghi House, while Nexus Performing Arts Company, Carolyn Allen and Company, and Sister Charmaine Stobbs of Porus, Manchester reflected with song and dance.

The process ended with the throwing of flowers into the river, singing and drumming. But before that, Mike Henry, Rosalea Hamilton, Professor Shepherd, and Allison Morris, citizen of Black River, laid flowers at the base of the monument.

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