On the 25th of May 2016 my school held their annual Africa Day Assembly. This was the second year in which they allowed us to dress up in African attire. However, in this particular year, they decided to add some countries that are not a part of Africa for example – Scotland, Germany, China, Great Britain, France, Italy, Spain, Mexico and India.
Now anybody who knows the history of Africa knows that some of these countries colonised most of Africa. Citizens from these countries killed and enslaved numerous Africans.
Slavery is, in the strictest sense of the term, any system in which principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals, as a form of property. A slave is unable to withdraw unilaterally from such an arrangement and works without remuneration. (source: Wikipedia)
The British in particular were the ring leaders of this cruelty. Strong African men and women were kidnapped from their villages and forced to travel in shackles for days without much food or water to weaken them so that they were unable to fight or try to escape before they reached the coasts of Africa. Once there, my people were whipped and branded and stuffed onto ships like sardines while chained to the boat unable to move freely until they reached their destination. During this journey, they were occasionally allowed to walk to keep their muscles strong. When they were not walking, they remained chained with no bathroom breaks and very little food. During the journey they basically lived in their own urine, faeces and vomit from sea sickness. If any of the slaves appeared too weak, they would be thrown overboard.
Many women on board would be raped repeatedly throughout the journey. This sense of entitlement over black women’s bodies continued throughout the slavery days as slave owners were free to exercise their sexual liberties at any time.
Once they arrived on the shores of North America which was the most famous hub for slave trade, they would be taken to a town centre and auctioned to the highest bidder. The slave owner would then sign documents to indicate that they have ownership of the person whom they would have already given an English name. Their owners would take them to their plantation where they would be forced to learn English and adapt to responding to their new name. Any defiance would results in a severe beating in front of all the plantation slaves or if it were a serious offence, the offender would be lynched for all to see. This was supposed to be a warning to anyone who had previously considered stepping out of line.
The slaves were prohibited to read or write. If found reading or writing, the crime was punishable by death…
Slave masters created a stark division amongst African Americans. They separated the house slaves from the manual labour workers who remained in the yard, making it difficult for the slaves to work together to break the system. Any families formed within the slave community were usually broken up. The slave owners would sell members of the family to different people so that there were no chances of defiance.
By the end of the 18th century, slavery was abolished. The blacks were finally “free”. I could go on and on about all the horrific, heartless and heartbreaking history of slavery but I thought I should just give you a brief idea of what happened during the slave trade.
Let me now bring it back to Africa and colonisation. The “Scramble for Africa” was the invasion, occupation, division, colonisation and annexation of African territory by European powers between 1881 and 1914 (Source: Wikipedia). Colonisation by definition is the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. The colonisers partitioned among themselves and took control of the natural resources and stripped the natives of their sovereignty which was only gained back through independence. Africa Day as such is a celebration of this independence.
Now that you know a little bit about the colonisation and enslavement of Africans, I hope that you can understand where I am coming from. Africa Day formerly known as African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day; not Africa and Former Colonisers Day. This day is meant to be a celebration of liberation shared between African countries. It is when we celebrate our emancipation and the end of foreign domination and exploitation – not a time to celebrate the oppressors. It shows solidarity between African countries so it baffles me when the day has to be shared with non African countries simply to show that Africa is ”the melting point of all cultures”. I totally agree that Africa is the melting point of all cultures. However, I think this should be celebrated on a different day and preferably in a separate month. I am all for a culture day celebration! I would love to learn about cultures around the world and hopefully have a taste of their national cuisines. I am all about celebrating diversity but I just think there is a time and a place for everything and the 25th of May is just not the day.
If you would never run through a Cancer march shouting “there are other diseases too”, do not try to celebrate non African cultures on Africa Day.
Prelude to 2017’s Africa Day Assembly captured in the image below: