When he was but a lad, all of 10 years old, Kwaku Takyi, also known as Prince Klaas or King Court, was taken from his homeland, the Gold Coast (now Ghana), and sold into slavery. His owner, a wealthy Antiguan planter named Thomas Kerby, immediately recognised Takyi’s keen intellect, and gave him prominent positions on his many estates. He was even given the moniker, King Court, which he despised. But he went along to get along, even as he yearned to breathe free.
We all know the story of how he plotted, for some 8 years, at a place called Stone Hill Gully (just east of the Midway gas station, off the Freemans Village main road) with a number of other slaves to blow up the slave owners as they wined and dined at a ball in 1736, to mark King George II’s coronation. Unfortunately, the ball was postponed after at least one slave, for some pathetic misguided reason, squealed, and the rest is history . . . .
Prince Klaas and his co-conspirators were rounded up and put to slow horrible deaths in the Michael’s Mount/Ovals/Greenbay areas over a period of about 6 months. Takyi was broken at the wheel on today’s date of that very year, and the other 83 martyrs were either hung over a period of days, or burned to death. Their martyrdom is a moment that will long live in infamy.
The question is: will we allow Takyi, Hercules, Scipio, Tomboy et al, “. . .to die in vain, while we go back to slavery once again?” [King Short Shirt, ILLUSION]. We submit that it is incumbent on us to remind ourselves by way of that great song by the Monarch, that the struggle is not over, the battle is not done. Our ancestors and the freedom fighters paid the ultimate price, they sacrificed their lives to make us free. We ought not to blithely fritter that sacrifice away. According to him, “You told the youths that they are free, and that slavery has lost its sting / But they’re not foolish and they can see your lying deep within / Slavery has not left our doors; not yet I’m sure / We have got to fight the battle some more / The time has come for every man in the Caribbean / To forge one common destiny / Designed to make our people free / We have got to stand up for the right to lead the life we choose / To change, enhance, or to refuse . . .” We’re talking about self-determination. We’re talking about full and complete independence. Not an anthem and a flag and much pomp and circumstance, signifying nothing.
In numerous and varied ways, we are still emotionally and psychologically tethered to our former colonial masters. Exhibit A: our rejection of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) in favour of the Privy Council at the 2018 referendum. For shame. A great opportunity was lost to complete the circle of our independence. A great opportunity went a-begging to fulfill the dream of our ancestors – Takyi, Tomboy, Scipio and so on and so forth. Our piteous self-loathing and embrace of other cultures as somehow superior; our constant bickering and in-fighting, like crabs in a barrel; our continued veneration of the monuments and memories of the scoundrels who enslaved us; our continued use of the the Queen’s visage on our currency; our use of the Queen’s New Years honours and the anachronistic conferring of British titles like ‘Sir’, and of course, our retention of the British monarch as our head of state, are indications that we still need emancipation from mental slavery. See Bob Marley’s REDEMPTION SONG. In it he exhorts us to “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, because none but ourselves can free our minds.” Our very ownLa Tumba echoes Brother Bob when he says, “Liberate your minds, my brethren; liberate your minds, I say!” [LIBERATE YOUR MIND]
A pox on the perfidious name, “Nelson’s Dockyard.” And “Clarence House.” And “Queen Victoria Park.” And “King George V Grounds.” The time has come and gone for all of these to be changed. According to King Obstinate in ANTIGUA’S TRUE HEROES, “These names our progress retard.” These people whose names still hold prominent places in our society were all part of the history of enslavement and the extraction of labour at the expense of our ancestors. We should grit our teeth and shiver every time that we call those horrible names. Good grief! The psychological trauma, the on-going health issues of people of colour, the impoverishment, the suffocating debt, the underdevelopment, are legacies of our enslavement. Takiyi sought to “take arm against this sea of trouble, and by opposing, end it,” [HAMLET]. We ought to be seeking to do the same, and joining with the various reparations support commissions in seeking reparations for the enormous; indeed, the untold damage done to us over centuries. It is the greatest crime against humanity!
Sadly, many of our political leaders flippantly give away the little that we have left. It’s open sesame! They willfully invite neo-colonialists to bring their money and come. And the many freedoms – from fear and dispossession and exploitation and victimisation that Kwaku fought for, are squandered. The martyrs of 1736 are turning in their sainted graves. Would to the Almighty that their spirits imbue us!
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